Summer Centered: Nicholas Munves ’18 Promotes Conservation in Trinidad and Tobago
The biology major is interning at the Asa Wright Nature Center this summer before embarking on a career in forestry.
New York native Nicholas Munves ’18, who chose not to do a junior-year semester abroad, is finally getting the chance to spend months in a foreign country. Thanks to funding from the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, he’s interning with the Trinidad-based Asa Wright Nature Center, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the natural ecology of the island.
"This internship was recommended to me by my Haverford senior thesis advisor, Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Jonathan Wilson,” says the biology major and environmental studies minor. “He and I had previously gone on a study tour to Trinidad and Asa Wright as part of a class. While I was at Asa Wright, I was amazed by the great diversity of life the Trinidadian rainforest contained. I wanted to study the forest in greater depth, and this internship gave me the opportunity to do so.”
Though Asa Wright, which is situated on a 2,000-acre nature preserve complete with a hotel where tourists can lodge overnight, boasts a broad variety of animal species, it’s the local flora that most interest Munves. An avid amateur botanist, he wrote his senior thesis on the plants of the tropics, but it’s only now that he gets to see his subjects face-to-face on a daily basis.
"Starting with ‘Economic Botany,’ a 300-level biology course with Jon Wilson, much of my advanced coursework at Haverford focused on tropical botany, which is what I'm focusing on here as well,” he says. “On a typical day, I will go into the forest after lunch to collect data for the projects I am working on, mostly population surveys of certain tree species.”
When not out in the field, however, Munves does a lot of conservation work—something that he describes as a “natural continuation of my environmental studies minor,” and which can take the form of community outreach, trail tours, night hikes, and more.
"I want to learn about the logistics and challenges of promoting conservation,” he says. “Asa Wright Nature Center faces many obstacles to preserving Trinidad's natural heritage, many of which—like economic development, pollution, public apathy, and poaching— are universal.”
It’s these obstacles that Munves hopes to confront one day—hopefully in the form of a career in forestry.
"My time here has made me appreciate the importance of pristine forests for environmental and economic health,” he says, “and I'd like to help preserve America's for future generations.”
"Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.