Aaron Appleton

Quest to Learn, New York NY

Join primatological researchers evaluating the impact of forest fragmentation on orangutan habitats in Indonesia to engage students in studying and saving of orangutans, a species that may vanish from the wild within two decades.

Where I've Been

  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Sabah, Malaysia
  • Sandakan, Malaysia
  • Tawau, Malaysia

My Fellowship in Images

In the middle of an Indonesian rainforest constructing a shelter to spend the night in after an exhausting three hour hike through ankle deep mud.
Steam cooking rice and eggs in bamboo
Dirty data
Giant Indonesian toads caught during a night hike
Our awesome local research assistants
Recently discovered spieces of frog that has yet to be described by science

Your Personal and Professional Growth

How have your knowledge, skills and capabilities grown?

I never thought I would grow so much...both mentally and physically...as I did on this expedition. These were the most rugged conditions I have ever experienced, and it gave me a whole new appreciation of the work of field scientists. I now feel equipped to do real field research, and make a greater impact in science.

As a result, in what ways will your instructional practice change?

I now have fully experienced how scientific field research is done, how tedious it can be, how heartbreaking and difficult it can be, but also how powerful it is! I will now be able to convey to my students how science is done, not just from a theoretical point of view, but from one of a practitioner.

What is the greatest personal accomplishment of your fellowship?

Contributing in this valuable research that hopefully will be used to ensure that the rainforests of the Sulawesi region of Indonesia will be protected for years to come.

Impact on Your Classroom, School and Community

How will your experiences positively impact student learning in new ways?

I now hope to incorporate a much stronger element of field research into my classes. I would especially love to go to Central Park to study different aspects of the ecosystem that exists there, to help bring the science to life.

What are your plans for working collaboratively with colleagues?

I hope to work much more closely with our Biology/Living Environment teacher to figure out ways we can bring our students together for collaborative life/physical science research projects.

Imagining the Future

How do you envision celebrating of your students’ new learning?

I would love to start organizing annual trips to do citizen science in various international locations, with students that are interested in research.

Are there issues or challenges in your school, community or the greater world about which you and your students might try to make a difference?

Definitely the accelerated rate of extinction that many ecosystems (and especially the rainforests of Indonesia) are experiencing. And the important role that field research can play in shaping policies to protect that biodiversity.

How would you describe to a friend or a grant funder the most fundamental ways in which your fellowship has changed your personal and/or professional perspective?

I now see the whole field of science very differently than before the fellowship. I have developed a deep sense of awe and respect for how incredibly difficult, time consuming, and tedious the whole process of scientific research can be. Accordingly I have a newfound respect for those scientists that endeavor their whole lives to contributing to the enhancement of our collective understanding of the natural world.