How did you decide to travel with National Geographic, and why did you choose the Brazil trip?

I wanted an opportunity to learn about conservation from experts, explore an incredible country, and travel with a vibrant community of likeminded students and leaders. Articles in National Geographic magazine inspired me to explore throughout my childhood. Memories of Nat Geo-inspired adventures coupled with the organization’s sterling reputation made National Geographic the perfect choice. I selected Brazil because of the country’s unparalleled biodiversity and the allure of the Amazon.

Ty with fellow students, trip leaders and expert in Rio de Janeiro.

Where you especially proud of something you accomplished on the trip or a lesson you learned while in the field?

Before the trip I was something of a mammal chauvinist. I dreamed of glimpsing tigers, gazelles, or orangutans swinging through trees; birds didn’t make the cut. But with the guidance of our wise, joke-cracking leader, Christopher Montero, I learned to appreciate avifauna as well. Chris helped me out with binocular and identification techniques, which gave me the skills to enjoy observing birds’ remarkable diversity. The ubiquity of birds, compared to the scarcity of pesky nocturnal mammals, helped make bird-watching appealing too. I ended up writing my On Assignment project about my transition from mammal-watching to bird-watching.

Describe something you did on your program that you thought you would never do.

I never thought I would catch a piranha, let alone eat one! Turning the tides on that ravenous fish was a tasty, albeit bony, experience.

Ty fishing for piranha during his trip.

What did you take away from your National Geographic trip?

Traveling with National Geographic presented me with my first opportunity to study conservation in a focused setting. The emphasis on self-motivation, and the opportunity to choose a particular research interest, helped me to hone the discipline and curiosity that I’ve used to succeed in college.

This semester, Ty is back in Brazil studying abroad.

 What have you been up to since your trip?  Please include detail.  We’d love to learn more about your current passions, what your day-to-day is like, and your current goals.

I’m a Junior at Georgetown University, and am currently spending a semester studying biology, international affairs, and Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro. I like to start my days with mysterious Amazonian fruit (with exotic names like Graviola and Cupuaçu), and a run along Copacabana. I take the bus afterward to classes on ecology, conservation, and history, all taught in Portuguese. Backpacking and otherwise adventuring, whether in Shenandoah or the Mata Atlântica, keeps me inspired. Spending time in nature always reinforces my desire to work hard at building a knowledge and skill base for a career in wildlife and biodiversity conservation. In particular, I hope to use my major, Science Technology and International Affairs, to work as a sort of translator between the worlds of science and policy, helping scientists, governments and business to advance sustainability. In addition to taking classes, I’ve spent time interning in a congressional office on Capitol Hill and rock climbing on cliffs in the Appalachians.

Ty on a hike near Georgetown.