Ask a random teenager what they've done on summer vacation, and (unless you're an Olympics athlete) you'll probably hear about camp, surfing or shopping.
But if you asked a group of six teenagers from the , you would hear remarkable stories about the two extraordinary weeks they spent in late July conducting research in Peru as part of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association's Duttenhaver Animal Conservation Field Study program.
1) Brandon Honjio, who developed his love of nature from family trips, and he volunteers for the Tree People and Heal the Bay.
2) Anna Suskin, who held an internship at the National Zoo and hopes to become an environmental scientist and wildlife conservationist. She's headed to Boston University in the fall.
3) Flor Duran, who volunteers at the Aquarium of the Pacific and dreams of working with and researching animals.
4) Cian Hettrick, who plans to study marine biology at UC Santa Cruz in the fall and hopes to start a club there focused on the Amazon to motivate fellow students to get involved in conservation efforts.
5) Ana Kirk, who has participated in the QuikScience Challenge and is considering a career in ecological research.
6) Ari Marangakis, captain of the North Hollywood High School dance team, volunteers at an animal clinic and at the Los Angeles Zoo. She plans to pursue study in conservation and environment at Purdue University and dreams of opening an animal shelter and clinic.
These students, along with three adult mentors from the Los Angeles Zoo and the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, enjoyed a variety of unusual experiences on an Amazon riverboat in the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve working alongside scientists in an Earthwatch expedition whose goal is to find solutions to save the Amazon rainforest.
Based aboard the Ayapua, a restored and remodeled vessel from the Rubber Boom era, the youngsters helped survey river dolphins, macaws, caimans, monkeys, other mammals, large forest birds and fish to determine the success of conservation and the impact of global climate change in the Amazon basin.
Using a motorized canoe, they rotated tasks like conducting surveys, searching for caimans at night with a spotlight and meeting local people to talk about their fishing, hunting and conservation efforts.
The data they helped collect will be used in the continued development of field-based courses to help demonstrate the need for community-based conservation and wildlife research.
The Duttenhaver Animal Conservation Field Study is a hands-on scientific research program series funded for the last five years through the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association by Linda Duttenhaver, whose philanthropy focuses on opportunities for students.
Duttenhaver's inspiration for the program came from her travels as a college exchange student, which had a pivotal and profound impact on her life. Four previous expeditions took place in Brazil, Ecuador, Peru (twice before) and South Africa.
The Duttenhaver Animal Conservation Field Study is among many programs presented by the private, non-profit Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA), founded in 1963.