The summer of 2019 will see Drew’s first ShortTREC to Australia, titled “Environment, Behavior and the Brain,” directed by Associate Professor of Psychology Graham Cousens. With an interdisciplinary focus on psychology and neuroscience, but with no prerequisites, this program is a great opportunity for anyone to experience a new destination and reflect on our relationship with nature.
The trip is set for the last three weeks of May 2019. Participants will head to the cities of Sydney, Canberra and Cairns on the East coast of Australia. They will take weekend excursions to: “Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, Daintree Rainforest, Three Sisters and the Jamison Valley, and Green Island and the Great Barrier Reef,” according to the TREC’s syllabus. There will even be an overnight stay in the Daintree Rainforest for immersion in a new natural environment. Professor Cousens remarked, “I look forward to being in nature and hearing sounds that I have not heard before.” He thinks the complete sensory immersion in a new environment will be incredible. Even more so, Australia’s unique wildlife is different from anything here in the U.S., since Australian species have evolved separately from any other landmass. While in Daintree, participants will talk with a forest therapist about how spending time in nature can be used to reduce stress, then reflect on their own experience in the rainforest.
By exploring both the city and natural areas of Australia, students will learn about the impact on humans of living in built versus natural environments. They will even engage in research with the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, a branch of Western Sydney University. Through talking with various experts in health psychology, they will discover how we can encourage healthy behaviors through the design of our built environments, like building wide sidewalks to encourage walking. Jenny Joachim (’20), who plans to go on the trip, said, “After taking Advanced Topics last semester, I really developed an interest for the study of built environments, and the effect that environment has on the brain and behavior. I’m most excited to experience what we talked about in class in real time. I’m also really excited because of the location, given this will be my first study abroad experience.”
The program is not just for psychology and neuroscience students. It will also relate science to policy-making; according to Cousens, “Students can see concrete examples of how research contributes to policy and can be an important piece of the decision-making process.” Participants will discuss health and nutrition behaviors centering around knowing what food contains and where it comes from. To combine policy and health behaviors, they will learn about the First 1000 Days program, which focuses on improving nutrition health for Aboriginal and Islander women, and consequently brain development for their children.
Applications are due February 1 and can be found on the Drew Global Education webpage.