Want to study a tropical island? French Polynesia beckons

(UC Berkeley video by Roxanne Makasdjian and Stephen McNally; Moorea footage courtesy Yoon Lee, Frank Murphy, Jonathon Stillman)

The beautiful island of Moorea in French Polynesia is beckoning Berkeley undergrads — but not for long. Students of all majors can apply to spend the fall semester doing field research from UC Berkeley’s Gump Research Station on the island.

The deadline for applications to the course is April 15. Interviews with candidates will take place from April 15 through May 1. Twenty-two students will be chosen and applicants will be notified in mid-May.

(Photo by Nicolas Locatelli, locatelliphotography.com)

The 13-unit course offers students a rare opportunity to learn about biology, geology, evolution and the people of the South Pacific, as well as the fundamentals of field research. They work with faculty members to develop an independent project on an island topic like marine or terrestrial ecology, volcanic geomorphology, biodiversity, invasion biology, animal behavior or oceanography of reefs and islands.

A former student, Nicolas Locatelli said, “To me, the course began as just a unique opportunity to learn about island ecosystems. It delivered that — and so much more. Because of the Moorea course and how it shaped my interests, I’m on my way to graduate school to study coral reefs.

“Laden with friendships that will last a lifetime, sunsets of unparalleled beauty, unimaginably vibrant coral reefs, and the sweetest of K9 companions, Moorea was nothing short of the most influential and happiest experience of my time at Berkeley — and I won’t soon forget it,” he added.

(Photo by Nicolas Locatelli, locatelliphotography.com)

“The Moorea course was unforgettable,” said Jacey Van Wert, who took the course in 2016. “Not only did I gain the experience in independent research, but I learned how to conquer the challenges that come with it. I felt some of my happiest moments on this island, surrounded by beautiful mountains, recovering corals, and an awakening culture.

The course begins with three weeks of lectures and training at the Berkeley campus, after which students depart for approximately nine weeks on the island. Undergrads design and carry out their own independent research projects. The final weeks of the semester are spent back at Berkeley, where students write up their findings and prepare a seminar on their projects. Students pay their regular tuition, in addition to fees for lodging, food and research expenses. Financial assistance is available for qualified students.