SOJC Study Abroad in Uruguay

Eight SOJC students traveled to Uruguay this summer on a new Study Abroad Program to document the migration route of the Southern Atlantic right whale. For four intensive weeks, they immersed themselves in the field, gathering and developing multimedia materials and working on post-production at host university, Universidad de Montevideo.

The new international program “Nature & Culture: Multimedia Storytelling in Uruguay” was created by Professor Carol Ann Bassett, Program Director. Joining her were SOJC students Julia Reihs, Brandy Dominguez, Christina Belasco, Carolina Reid, Michael Buisan, Kelsey Bradshaw, Meredith St. Clair and Casey Minter. On several occasions, team members embarked in Zodiacs to document 60-ton right whales, some of them mating and raising their calves. The team also conducted research into Uruguay’s efforts to protect its coastline from the looming threats of mega-development, such as a vast open pit iron mine and a deep sea port along the nation’s most pristine beaches.

“It was delightful to witness was how hard they worked and how well they worked as a team,” said Bassett. “They were just troopers in the field and worked 24/7, did most of their interviews in Spanish and even translated them. In each student I observed a complete transformation. In only four weeks, they’d gained the confidence to become better international journalists covering complex environmental issues.”

The program was done in cooperation with the Organización para la Conservación de Cetáceos, dedicated to the protection and conservation of marine mammals along the Uruguayan coast. The students’ work resulted in the documentary “The Route of the Whale,” and several other videos focused on conservation issues in several towns along the route.

A highlight for Bassett came when the students a session of the Uruguayan Parliament, sitting in the press box as invited members of the media. On the agenda that day was a proposal to create a whale sanctuary in Uruguay’s waters.

“We were watching as the vote was cast, 62-0 unanimous, to establish a protected whale sanctuary,” she said. “It’s not often that a nation shows this kind of foresight and commitment in conserving its natural treasures. It gave me hope that such victories are indeed possible.”

The students are now preparing a website for their collective multimedia work. A trailer, produced by student team member, Casey Minter, is available at:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqPhNoO7uNw.