CHANCE of a lifetime: Abington student studies conservation in Australia

Penn State Abington science major Kortneay Logan traveled to Australia for a two-week Penn State conservation education abroad program. Logan said the CHANCE program opened up new career possibilities for her. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

ABINGTON, Pa. — Penn State Abington student Kortneay Logan traded textbooks for a wetsuit this summer, traveling to Australia for a two-week Penn State conservation education abroad program.

Thanks to a scholarship she secured from Abington, the science major enrolled in CHANCE (Connecting Humans And Nature through Conservation Experiences). It provides undergraduate students and high school teachers with hands-on environmental experiences around the globe.

With a variety of native animals and landscapes ranging from tropical rainforests to dry deserts to the Great Barrier Reef, Australia is a perfect environment to study biodiversity. And thanks to CHANCE, Logan had the opportunity to explore some of the continent’s most diverse species and locations.

“CHANCE allowed me to enroll in a course I never would have been able to take in a classroom or lab,” she said. “It has awakened my sense of adventure and made me rethink the possibilities of what is out there for me.”

Penn State Abington student Kortneay Logan (right) takes notes as other CHANCE participants measure a turtle in Australia. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Instructors including Kathleen Fadigan, assistant teaching professor in elementary and early childhood education at Abington, led Logan and 14 other Penn State students. Their packed schedule included researching sea turtles with the James Cook University Turtle Health Research Team, participating in the Eye on the Reef Rapid Monitoring Program at the Great Barrier Reef, and learning from indigenous educators on the history of the Nywaigi Aboriginal culture.

Logan, who plans on a career in marine biology, said CHANCE was invaluable. She had the opportunity to participate in an immersive program, performed hands-on tasks, and contributed to research.

“CHANCE definitely opened my mind, teaching me that conservation is an ongoing fight and an uphill battle that I plan on joining,” she said. “It brought me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to try harder. There were days where the activities felt really hard, but I gave it my all.”

Jacqueline McLaughlin, the founding director of CHANCE, explained that service is another component of the program.

“When we teach students that species diversity is declining, they understand the data but are missing the link to what they could do to better the situation,” she said. “So participants spend at least a week in the field remedying an environmental problem.”

For example, after participating in the Rapid Monitoring Program, they helped clean up the Great Barrier Reef by diving down and removing seaweed and algae that was blocking sunlight from reaching the coral.

The CHANCE experience doesn’t end once participants board the plane to return home — a post-program assignment encourages reflection on how the skills learned abroad can be applied in daily life.

The award-winning CHANCE program is open to Penn State students from every major and campus as well as teachers across the country. So far, more than 400 undergraduate students and 250 educators have participated in CHANCE field courses around the world.

Kortneay Logan studied with the Penn State conservation education program CHANCE in Australia. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

About Penn State Abington

Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With nearly 4,000 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 19 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics, and more.

Last Updated September 18, 2018