Into the Amazon

It has been five years since Science Teacher Michael McAloon first traveled to the Peruvian Amazon. McAloon, along with Science Department Head Dr. Amanda Benedict, made the journey in 2018 as part of a pilot program for science educators. For 10 days, McAloon and Benedict were students in a hands-on, experiential classroom without walls, learning from the Maijuna people, a group indigenous to Peru’s forest region along the Sucusari River, who shared what they had learned about conservation by living in one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world. 

This summer, McAloon returned to the Peruvian Amazon with fellow Taft Science Teacher Maddie Beitler. McAloon and Beitler participated in two of the primary research projects currently being led by the Amazon Research Initiative for Educators program. The program, conducted by The Morpho Institute, an international nonprofit dedicated to protecting the Amazon— its forests, rivers, biodiversity, and people—as a vital global resource through education and conservation. McAloon served as the primary investigator for a molecular study on pollen collected by native stingless bees. 

Beitler and McAloon also conducted fieldwork with Dr. Robert Naczi, a longtime Taft education partner and Arthur J. Cronquist Curator of North American Botany, Institute of Systematic Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. They share details of their work through words and images in the following photo essay. 

This extraordinary opportunity was made possible by the generous support of dedicated Taft donors. On behalf of Mike, Maddie, and the entire Taft community, we are deeply grateful to those who made this program possible. Their generosity benefits Taft students and faculty, the greater science community, and the Maijuna people of Peru.