Biology Field Studies: Mexico

March 9-16, 2002

Biology 4340-01

McMurry University

Abilene, Texas




NATURE OF COURSE.--McMurry University will offer a biology class, Biology Field Studies: Mexico, during the March 2002 Spring Break. This class will introduce students to the plants, animals, and landforms of Mexico. You will have opportunities to see and photograph many of these sights.

ELIGIBILITY.--Qualified college students, public school teachers, and others who wish to earn upper-level college credit can enroll in Biology 4340. This class can serve as 1) an upper-level elective for a Biology major; 2) an upper-level elective for an Environmental Science major; 3) an upper-level elective for a Natural Science major; and 4) an upper-level course for full time teachers and others interested in natural history.

Enrollment limit: twelve students.

Prerequisites: 8 hours of Biology and written permission of the instructor.

FACULTY.--The instructor for the class will be Dr. Robert Martin. McMurry alumnus Mr. Brett Baldwin of the San Diego Zoo will assist with the course. Both have extensive field experience, including numerous trips to Mexico.

ON CAMPUS INSTRUCTION.--Prior to the trip, students will learn about Mexico, plants and animals, and work with field equipment. Classes are scheduled for Wednesdays, 11:00-11:55 a.m. on Jan. 16, 23, 30, Feb. 6, 13, 20, 27, Mar. 6, 13, 20, 27, April 3 and 10. First class meeting is January 16 for orientation and distribution of the syllabus and schedule.

FIELD TRIP: WHEN DO WE DEPART AND RETURN?--We assemble in the parking lot of the Science Building on the McMurry campus at 5:30 AM, March 16th and return to Abilene late in the evening of March 23rd.

WHAT WILL WE DO?--Students enrolled in the course will visit different habitats, representing distinctive ecosystems, and examine the flora and fauna. You will also have an opportunity to explore caves and learn climbing techniques. The areas visited support unusual plants and animals and you will have an opportunity to see many of these.


Moderately strenuous walking (2-4hours per day) is required on two of the eight days of the trip. On other days, short walks are conducted to view markets, cultural sites, or scenery. Technical rope climbing is offered as an opportunity, not a requirement, in the course. On visits to caves, you may get wet and/or muddy and a hard hat with a battery-powered light must be worn for protection.

HOW WILL I BE GRADED?--Grading for the course will be determined by participation (20%), evaluation of written field notes(40%), and two exams (40%). The field notes will include information on the different ecosystems visited and animal and plant life observed. The final exam will permit you to synthesize your observations with information contained in the assigned readings and lectures.


MEALS?--Housing and meals will be at clean, medium-priced hotels and restaurants.

WHAT ABOUT HEALTH? Persons with any health condition that might require special medication and/or treatment must consult with the instructor prior to the trip. Medical services are available in the towns and cities we will be visiting in Mexico. Consult with your personal physician for his/her advice on medications that you might need. On previous trips, we have had few health problems other than some cases of traveler's diarrhea. Most of these cases can be avoided by common sense in eating and drinking. Check with the instructor for special precautions if you have never been around any places where livestock or birds are housed.

WHAT WILL THE TRIP COST?--The cost of the trip will be tuition and fees for a 3-hour course plus $450 for expenses. All financial arrangements with McMurry University must be completed prior to departure on the trip. The student is also expected to provide some personal gear (canteen, flashlight, leather gloves) at an estimated cost (if purchased locally) of $25-30.

HOW DO I GET MORE INFORMATION?-- Two orientation sessions will be held at 5:00 p.m., Wednesday, October 31, and 12:00 noon, Thursday, November 1, in Room 108, Science Building, McMurry campus. Persons interested in the trip or those who need more information should attend one of these sessions. You will be able to discuss health and safety considerations, see slides of the area, ask questions, view equipment, and get information on procedures for enrollment. Contact Dr. Martin (793-3870) if you have specific questions.

HOW DO I ENROLL?--At McMurry University, preregistration will be held November 5-16, 2001. Registration for the Spring semester will be held on January 11, 2001, for those who have not preregistered. Enrollment is limited to 12 students. Should enrollment demand exceed the number of available slots then preference will be given to those students that have the greatest number of hours in Biology or Environmental Science. Registration requires written permission of the instructor.

FINANCIAL AID.--Contact the Financial Aid office of the University for determination of availability for your individual situation.

WHAT ABOUT TRIP CANCELLATION?-- Any cancellation of the trip by the University will be fully refundable.


March 9.--Assemble 5:30 AM in parking lot south of Science Bldg. Depart campus by 6:00 AM with lunch on road. Arrive in McAllen area by late afternoon. Visit Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.

March 10.--In early morning, cross border at Reynosa and drive south to Cd. Victoria, state of Tamaulipas. Drive south of Cd. Victoria to observe lowland tropical vegetation, spectacular mountains, and fruit growing areas. On way, visit large cave with bats.

March 11.--Early morning walk through tropical lowlands to Los Sabinos Cave. View cave formations and discuss cave ecology. Lunch in field. Drive north for lunch at spring-fed river, swim, and view wildlife and scenery.

March 12.--Visit market in Valles then travel to tropical lowlands. Visit cave with unusual arachnids and observe plants and other animals. Tour museum and see ancient pyramids near Tamuin.

March 13.--Travel into mountains near Xilitla and see botanical garden. View culture of coffee trees and processing of beans. Return to Valles to prepare for trip to wet cave that has blind fish and a large bat colony.

March 14.--Drive north of Valles to cave and use technical gear to rappel into a sotono (pit). On the morning walk to this cave, you will see unusual plants, birds, and other animals.

March 15.--Up early to pack gear and eat breakfast. Drive north of Valles to Antiguo Morelos then west over Sierra Madre to Cd. Maiz. View Chihuahuan Desert then drive northeast to Cd. Victoria.

March 16.--Depart Cd. Victoria early morning for Reynosa where we cross the border and return to the U.S. After clearing customs, head north and arrive in Abilene late evening.