Joel Betts ’14 graduated from Calvin College with majors in biology and international development studies. He also minored in environmental studies and chemistry. Now, Betts is in the fisheries and wildlife graduate program at Michigan State University. He was recently awarded a U.S. Student Fulbright Award for Nicaragua, joining Calvin history professor Bruce Berglund and senior education major Micah Warners as recipients of scholarships through the Fulbright program this year.
“When I started at Calvin, I came in with interests in environmental biology and faith-based missions. My experience in both the international development and biology programs at Calvin helped me realize that my desire to make a difference in the world could be very compatible with my love for nature,” said Betts.
Betts will be working on rivers in the biological reserves of the southeast Nicaragua rainforest, investigating the effects of a rapidly advancing agricultural frontier and a recent hurricane on river resources in the Rama-Kriol indigenous territory.
Betts’ goal is to assess the extent of agricultural and hurricane-induced forest loss in the Rama-Kriol territory via satellite imagery and document the responses of stream macroinvertebrate, shrimp and fish populations to these disturbances via sampling in the field.
According to Betts, this region is one of the most well preserved rainforests in Central America. “The people who live there are facing injustice as their forests are being cut down and settled illegally and their natural resources depleted,” he said. Betts hopes his research will serve as evidence for how these injustices are affecting their livelihoods.