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Story in the College of Arts & Sciences

Bezanson photo

Michelle Bezanson

Assistant Professor, Anthropology
At a glance:

Anthropology professor's classroom is in the Costa Rican rainforests where students are encouraged to get their hands dirty.

For Michelle Bezanson, being outside in the humidity and heat of Costa Rica amidst insects is a treat. 

"I was interested in evolution and locomotion, but when I took my first field course, it cemented my interest in studying arboreal creatures that live in a forest," says the assistant professor of anthropology. For Bezanson, it all fit perfectly. 

"I learned that there could be a career that allowed me to be outside, stare at animals for long periods of time, achieve strong neck muscles (looking up and carrying binoculars), and then share this information with students," she says.

Bezanson specializes in the study of primate locomotion, particularly howler, spider, and capuchin monkeys from Central America. She studies how they walk, climb trees, and navigate the forest canopy.

She teaches a field research course every summer in the Limon province of Costa Rica. She says allowing students to conduct hands-on research deepens their understanding of science and can often open their eyes to new possibilities for their own careers.  So far, 23 students have traveled with Bezanson in helping her conduct field work in Costa Rica.

"It's a life-changing experience," she says of the summer program, both the fieldwork students conduct as well as the details of living on-site in rustic facilities. "And it's really neat to see all students gain such a wonderful, amazing experience--but for each student, it's also unique."

Watch a video of Professor Bezanson and students talk about their experiences doing fieldwork.

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