Klaus DeBoer ’16 spent part of the summer of 2015 in Ethiopia, conducting research into the cultural, economic, and ecological significance of church forests. It was a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program.

The ecology of Ethiopia is currently degrading at an alarming rate, except for the sacred landscapes surrounding churches. These hotspots are of both significant cultural and ecological interest. In his blog post on his time with the program, Klaus writes about the rigorous training in research ethics and methods, and Ethiopian language and culture before setting out to the field. Once in Ethiopia, Klaus was part of a team that studied the forests surrounding Ethiopian Orthodox churches and marveling at the twelfth century structures. “Ancient baptismal pools are still used,” he wrote. “Skeletons of pious pilgrims rest within the hewn cliffs as well as sleeping alcoves for monks and nuns.”

Ethiopia panonsf-logo-150x150The REU Site Undergraduate Research into the Cultural, Economic and Ecological Significance of Church Forests is a collaborative effort by the Colby College Environmental Studies Program, the Colby Biology Department, the California Academy of Sciences, the TREE Foundation, and Ethiopia’s Debre Tabor University. Each summer the program provides eight undergraduate students from diverse academic backgrounds an opportunity to conduct path-breaking interdisciplinary research on the cultural, economic and ecological roles of church forests in Ethiopia.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. SMA-1359367. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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