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Thomas Hardy
Visitor Services Coordinator
Visitor Services
Biodiversity Institute

Contact Information

Office Phone: 
785.864.4621
Building: 
Dyche Hall

I am the Visitor Services Coordinator and a graduate student studying journalism.

Recent Blog Posts

June 8, 2011
Writing blog posts by flashlight isn’t ideal, but I’d better start...
June 7, 2011
By Jeff Miller This was my first experience outside of the United States. Upon...
June 7, 2011
By Kelsey Murrell "Que es?" I asked as I held up a bright orange bead...
June 7, 2011
By Reed Niemack The flora in Lima was immediately different from what I have...
June 7, 2011
By Riley Wertenberger Human interaction has always been fascinating to me...
June 27, 2011

By Bethany Christiansen

I am convinced that traveling is just as important to becoming a well-informed member of society as attending a university. I think that some of us believe this almost instinctively: we say to ourselves that of course travel is educational. Of course it’s worth the time, effort, and even the great expense necessary to accomplish significant travel time. Some people, however, are not convinced.

The impetus for this blog proceeds from an interaction I had a few days ago. I was boarding the plane that would take me from Atlanta to Dublin, and since it was a very long flight and I would likely be snoring and/or drooling on the poor fellow next to me, I decided to make friends with the older gent in seat D. I hadn’t slept but a few hours in the nights preceding and I was likely running a fever. As such, I believe I was slightly hyperactive and possibly a bit delusional. I’m sure I said a number of foolish things to this man, but I convinced myself that it mattered very little for I would never see him again. At the end of our flight, this man, Donald Something Something III, asked me how I was funding this expensive Europe trip. I paused. Trying hard not to sound flippant, I replied, “My dad is paying for it.” Donald III stiffened up and, board-like, and began to tell me about how he never had those opportunities when he was a kid and how poor his family was and how ungrateful young people are today. I tried to convince him that I realize how fortunate I am, and how significant my summer travels have been to me, but it was like putting suntan lotion on a hot stone (that is, completely pointless).

When I thought later about Donald III’s response, I felt annoyed. Here, I told myself, is a man who has obviously worked hard to make a good living for himself, who succeeded despite many setbacks. While I understand his indignation at my “good fortune,” as he calls it, I think he reacted poorly.

Dr. Donald doesn’t understand the value of studying abroad or traveling outside a person’s home country. He had mentioned once in the course of our conversation that he couldn’t understand why anyone would want to explore Europe when there was so much of the US to see. Well, Donald III, it’s because I already live in the States. I already understand the language, the culture, the mentality, the mode of living. Why would I want to see more of that? Traveling isn’t about just about seeing new features of land, it’s about broadening your understanding of the world. 

I don’t think you can understand yourself until you can do so outside of your comfortable context. When you change your environment dramatically, how much of you is still there? How much of you is the people and places around you, and how much of it is you? The weeks preceding this conversation with Donald III, I had been in Peru – first the rainforest, then in Lima. These two places are about as different as cheese and dirt. That trip helped me to see that my identity resides in what I say, how I react, and how I work within a group, for instance, rather than the labels on my clothes.

Secondly, how are you supposed to understand the U.S. if you don’t understand how it’s different from other countries? Surely you can’t be so arrogant as to assume that American life style is the only kind worth knowing about. Surely not, as that would demonstrate a particularly ugly egotism, the kind that the rest of the world so often accuses us of.

When I was staying at CICRA we had a chance to head fifteen minutes downriver to visit Boca Amigo, a “town” of blue tarps over broken roofs and grim wooden box-houses on stilts, of barefoot mothers and dirty children. I saw my life with new clarity. To understand, abstractly, that you are rich and fortunate is one thing. To encounter the kind of poverty where pigs sleep under the houses is another thing entirely.

I was sent to Peru at the expense of private donors. These donors had never met me but they had a belief in the life-changing and world-changing effects of traveling abroad. For these donors, for various people in my university, and for me, the expense of traveling is comparable to the expense of attending a university. Sure, you’d be “saving” thousands of dollars a year if you didn’t go to college, but how is that actually a “savings”? Education is an investment, one that pays off in the future. Often enough, it pays off in ways that can’t be measured in dollars and cents. Does that mean it’s not worth it?

Travel, like education, changes who you are and how you see the world. It makes you a better member of the human race: more compassionate, more broad-minded, more content with life and its hardships but also more passionate about easing the hardships of others. How, Dr. Donald III, is this a waste of money? How is this elitist or “unfair”?
 

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June 6, 2011
By Bethany Christiansen We were standing at the top of what looked like a pyramid made of mud blocks, about thirty...
June 5, 2011
  The courtyard   Our trip to Lima went swimmingly, and we arrived at our hostel around midnight last...
June 3, 2011
  We sat in a classroom that smelled of mothballs. Drawers upon drawers of dead bugs lined the room, their...
May 30, 2011
Caroline Chaboo   Caroline Chaboo, curator, focuses on the biology, behavior and systematics of chrysomelid...
March 30, 2011
Daphne Fautin, Curator of Invertebrate Zoology, recently helped generate a paper that plans a Biodiversity Observing...
November 19, 2010
      Usually, your close relatives resemble you.  Or at least they have the same number of limbs...
October 7, 2010
Taro Eldredge, a graduate student studying entomology at the Biodiversity Institute, was on a routine collecting trip...
September 22, 2010
Last week's NYTimes article about roadkill got us thinking about how roads change the way scientists do research....
August 25, 2010
Caiman latirostris - a crocodile Some of our specimens, recently discussed in our post about specimens as snapshots...
August 19, 2010
    Last week, The New York Times put out an article on animal ugliness - how it affects which animals we...

From the Biodiversity Insitute blog

March 13, 2014
One of the most challenging aspects of working inside the museum’s Panorama exhibit is its fragility. In fact, Ron Harvey has described it as “working inside a painting.” But...
March 11, 2014
Today we welcomed the first members of the our conservation assessment team to the museum. There have been meetings about safety, protocols and troubleshooting. The team will be led by Ronald...
April 26, 2013
  Sofia Muñoz (MA student, mentor Chaboo), is one of 20 students in the U.S. selected to participate (fully funded) in a NSF-funded Thematic Collections Network Short Course on Biological...
February 27, 2013
Timo Förster, an undergraduate from the University of Greiswald, Germany, is conducting a research internship with me, funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). We developed a...
February 13, 2013
Parasites may make us squeamish, but in diverse numbers, they indicate a healthy ecosystem. Now a new exhibit features these specimens and the work of Dr. Kirsten Jensen, who studies marine...
January 30, 2013
In my academic calendar, January is usually preoccupied with completing annual evaluations and submitting reports, and grant applications to the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). Our Entomology...
November 20, 2012
Two M.Sc. students in the Chaboo lab presented posters on their research at the annual meeting of the the Entomological Society of America, Knoxville, TN, 11-14 November 2012. The ESA is the largest...
November 10, 2012
Members of the Chaboo lab made presentations at the 54th Peruvian Congress of Entomology, organized by the Peruvian Entomological Society (SEP), during November 5-8, 2012, in Cusco, Peru. ...
October 9, 2012
When a chief of police contacts you about insects and dead bodies, a good entomologist hopes that her skills are badly needed to solve the crime of the century…that the insects found on the body are...
October 5, 2012
From small towns in Kansas to Chicago to New York, Lewis Lindsay Dyche thrilled audiences with his skill in natural history displays and later with lectures about his adventures. Many of the glass...