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Student Spotlight: Melissa Rudie ’17 and Steven Taylor ’17

Eager for a new challenge and seeking a learning adventure, Melissa Rudie ’17 and Steven Taylor ’17 ventured to Kauai, Hawaii for their third co-op, where they joined the hardworking team at the Makauwahi Cave Reserve. “Visitors come to Hawaii seeking paradise. But the truth is, these islands have become a kind of living hell for nature. The place is a microcosm of the world condition, where the role of humans in transforming nature stands out in high relief.” This quote, taken from the book titled “Back to the Future in the Caves of Kauai” by one of the cave reserve founders, David Burney, clarified for Steven and Melissa the true mission behind their co-op adventure. The Makauwahi Cave Reserve sits on 17 acres of land. The limestone cave, now turned shallow lake, is filled with an abundance of history, preserving “all types of artifacts: human, animal, plant, spores, pollen, and even wood in its oxygen deprived mud.” Thousands of years ago, the introduction of invasive species allowed for foreign plants to kill off the native species, eventually leading to endangerment and ultimately, extinction. The hopes of all those that work at the Makauwahi Cave Reserve is to restore the Cave and its surrounding landscape to its original beauty. Steven and Melissa took an active role in the restoration and conservation efforts. As interns, they wore many hats; days were spent accomplishing a wide variety of tasks, from giving tours educating visitors on the state of the beautiful nature around them, excavating, maintaining hiking trails, and removing invasive species to make room for the planting of native species in an effort to restore the land to its pre-human invasion state. Steven and Melissa were able to witness first hand how discovering things of the past can lead to saving the future. Great work, Steven and Melissa!

*Excerpts taken from Steven and Melissa’s blog assignments

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Beth Bridgeman joined the Cooperative Education faculty in 2013. Her work focuses on sustainability, place-based learning, mindfulness, reskilling, and "thrivalism" in the Anthropocene; exploring the many ways that individuals and communities are bringing new (and ancient) ideas to the challenge of how we will feed ourselves, save our water and soil, and farm sustainably in a changing climate.Her professional practice areas, informed by community engagement and student-centered experiential learning pedagogy includecological agriculture, reskilling and resiliency, commensality, seed-saving and stewardship, and field-based education. Beth has designed courses in co-constructed learning, agrarian systems, reskilling and resilience, plant medicine and herbalism, seed-saving, and harvest preservation, utilizing the Antioch Farm and campus as a learning laboratory.

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