Madison Tewey - Live An Amazing Life Grant Recipient 2017



How did you discover or plan the adventure you will be taking?

My high school, Notre Dame Prep, hosts multiple service delegations every year, one of which is the trip to Costa Rica. There is a sloth sanctuary there near Cahuita, and Notre Dame has had a longstanding relationship with the coordinators there. Though the general volunteer program at the sanctuary has ended, they made a special exception for Notre Dame and have graciously allowed about 4 girls to visit each year. 

Explain why this project is an adventure for you, and why you want to do it. Be as detailed as possible.

Growing up, my ultimate goal was to become a marine biologist. Until I was about eight years old, my dad used to take me on “adventures” every weekend to places like the Science Center and Cunningham Falls, but out of every place we visited, my absolute favorite was the National Aquarium. Every time I visited, I discovered new animals and new wonders, and I wanted to learn as much as I could about each one. Since then, I have taken steps to pursue this passion for nature, even volunteering at the Aquarium itself. When I heard the chance to work with sloths in Costa Rica, I just had to jump on the opportunity. 

What do you hope to accomplish on your adventure?

I hope to gain hands-on experience working with animals (animals as cute as sloths at that!), as well as make a series of videos to raise awareness for the threat that monoculture and other dangerous agricultural practices pose for the inhabitants of the delicate rainforest ecosystem. 


Describe the time frame for your adventure. How long will it take? If it is an internship or fellowship, will it be full-time or part-time? If you will be traveling, for how long, and how do you plan to get where you are going? Again, be as detailed as possible. Adventures should be self-contained (e.g. a plan to backpack in Italy for 2 months rather than a plan to move to Italy permanently).

The Costa Rica delegation volunteers for 1 week, from April 8th to April 15th. 

Describe in detail how you will carry out your project, including (as applicable) steps, process, itinerary, where you are traveling to/from and how, who you will be meeting/working with, etc.

Research- I will collect information on companies like Dole and Chiquita, including their agricultural practices, workers’ rights histories, political influence in Costa Rica, and the effects on the well-being of Costa Rican ecosystems. 

I will be working with four other Notre Dame students, Autumn Arvig, Emily Cooper, Sarah Hannon, and Colleen Newman, throughout this project. We will each be working on specific focus issues separately, but will combine all of our work to present the situation in Costa Rica and its possible solutions to our school and our local community. 

I will edit the footage from this trip to make a series of video blogs. By showing the wonderfulness of sloths and all Costa Rica wildlife, I hope to bring attention to the threat of monoculture and how it affects the already struggling rainforests. 

Risks and Safety Nets

Are there any risks to your plan? Define them in detail. Describe how you will minimize or mitigate any risk on your project. (For example, if traveling, what if you get lost or miss a flight? If working on a creative project, how will you hold yourself accountable to finishing your work? If completing scientific research, what if your results are not as expected?)

Since I am travelling, if I were to miss a flight, I would schedule a new one for as soon as is possible. If I were to get lost, I would contact the nearest authorities, or, in a more serious case, find my way to the US Embassy. I speak enough Spanish to hold basic conversations, and would carry enough money on me to be able to obtain transportation to San Jose. 

I will receive all necessary vaccinations and any other preventative treatments to avoid illness while in Costa Rica, but if I were to get sick I will do my best to complete what activities I can while taking precautions.

I could lose some of my video footage during this trip, so I will be saving multiple copies of footage on different drives, including an online drop box, at the end of each day to avoid this situation as much as possible. 

I could run out of money on this trip, so I will have a designated sum back home that could be wired to me in this case. 

Future Plans

Describe how your project fits into your future plans - whether for your career, creative development, personal enrichment, etc.

I plan to do field research like this in the future, particularly in the area of environmental science. I would like to do research similar to this in the future – working closely with animals, studying and offering solutions to environmental problems, so this trip would be great learning experience for the future. 

What do you expect to learn during the process?

I expect to learn how to conduct a pointed and thorough research project and how to communicate my findings effectively to a wider audience, hopefully leading to an increased empathy for our damaged Earth.  

How will you integrate it into your day-to-day life when you complete it or return?

Through this trip, I will have gained a greater appreciation for sloths as well as the rainforest as a whole. As I plan to study Marine Biology and Environmental Science, it will allow me to experience animals and ecosystems that I will study in the future firsthand. 

How will you share your project with others? Tell us about any plans to publish articles, write a blog, have a gallery show, etc.

I plan to create daily video blogs through which I will share the events of that day. I will also create a series of shorter videos highlighting the effects of agriculture on the Costa Rican wilderness to draw particular attention to this pressing issue. 

What will your next steps be when your adventure is complete? How will you use what you learned?

After this adventure, I plan to continue working in the fields of Environmental Science and Marine Biology. I would like to do more research projects like these, bringing attention to issues like the overuse of monoculture and learning new information about the world around us. I will use skills I gain through this research trip, such as organizing research procedure and communicating findings to a larger audience, to assist me in my future career path.