Friday, April 11, 2014

Paul Rosolie: From College Student to Inspiration

By Kristen Andrada

“I couldn’t come to class because I had a fever from the jungle.”

These were the words that Professor Wayne Hayes told me when he talked about the student who came to class two weeks after the semester started. I was doing an internship with Professor Hayes last semester and at the time I wasn’t sure what career aspirations I had and he inspired me with Paul Rosolie’s dream to work in the Amazon. Ever since, I’ve been waiting for his book to come out and I follow all of his updates and videos on the Amazon. I was excited to hear that he was coming back to Ramapo College to talk about his journey in the Amazon and that his visit marked one of his first book launches.

Mother of God is a title that you wouldn’t think would be fit for a book on the Amazon, but Paul chose that title because the phrase comes from the Peruvians who call the Peruvian Amazon “Mother of God.” In the West Amazon, the forest starts in the Andes and the snowmelt provides the rainforest a great supply of water. In this region, he wrote, “the diversity of earth that starts here is the Mother of God.”

It was most certainly interesting to hear Paul’s story on the professor who was the only person who let him in class after two weeks of absence—because I immediately knew who and what the story was about. What I didn’t know was what the disease was that he contracted and it was in fact a disease that he got from one of the cities in the Amazon, and he chose to stay in the Amazon longer to care for a young anteater.

While I was also with Hayes, he had me do a little research on Paul’s work and his work area as well. Paul works within the Madre de Dios region in a spot along the Las Piedras river in Peru. He explores the jungle and conducts studies with the local Peruvians and volunteers from across the globe to keep track of the species in that region and promote ecotourism to raise awareness of the illegal activities including logging, mining, and poaching. He also wants to raise awareness of the unsustainable farm activities that cut down forests that could never re-grow as rainforest canopy because the soils wash away from short-term agriculture.

Paul and the Tamandua Expeditions team hope to have the Madre de Dios region be recognized and protected by the Peruvian government like the other regions that are national parks surrounding it.

Toward the question period at the end of his lecture, Professor Hayes congratulated Paul and thanked him for coming back to Ramapo. He then turned to the audience and spoke to the students who were unsure of their passions and encouraged them to use Paul as an inspiration. It reminded me of his talk to me about my uncertainties and after hearing his comments, I wondered if he used Paul’s example to inspire other students too.

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