By Staff Reports
(Victorville)– This year’s expedition by Victor Valley College students to Timor-Leste has received a rare and high honor: it will be an official Flag Expedition of the venerable Explorers Club of New York. Under the leadership of Drs. Hinrich Kaiser (VVC) and Mark O’Shea (University of Wolverhampton, United Kingdom) students will conduct amphibian and reptile surveys to assess the biodiversity of the Oecusse District, the most remote part of Asia’s newest country.
A Flag Expedition must further the cause of exploration and field science. There are currently 202 Explorers Club flags, many over 50 years old, and each has its own story, having been carried by several previous expeditions. This is the first time a research team from a community college has been so honored.
“At Victor Valley College, we take pride in providing a unique and positive academic experience to our diverse student body. Being recognized as a Flag Expedition by the Explorers Club, the world’s most eminent association focused on exploration, shows that the Tropical Research Initiative I conceived is being formally recognized as the signature opportunity we, at VVC, have long known it to be,” Dr. Kaiser stated upon receiving notice of the honor.
Since its formation in 1904 the Explorers Club has been dedicated to the exploration and documentation of natural environments, to conservation, and education. Although its base is in New York, the Club has chapters all over the United States and around the world. The Explorers Club has been sending out its flags with expeditions since 1918, to all corners of the world. Explorers Club members were the first to reach the North and South Poles, summit Mount Everest, dive to the deepest depths of the ocean, and set foot on the Moon.
O’Shea, a venomous snake expert, an International Fellow of the Explorers Club since 1999, and a recipient of the prestigious Millennium Award for Services to Exploration in Zoology, carried an Explorers Club Flag on a 2006 expedition to Papua New Guinea in search of medically important venomous snakes for snakebite research. He is an accomplished author, a well-regarded TV presenter, headed up four seasons of O’Shea’s Big Adventure on Animal Planet, Consultant Curator of Reptiles at O’Shea’s Reptile World at the West Midland Safari Park, and a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London and the Royal Geographical Society.
Kaiser conceived the Tropical Research Initiative in 2009 after a decade of leading student experiences in Honduras, Malaysia, and Cambodia, in order to provide an opportunity for his community college students. He has now led eight trips to Southeast Asia from VVC. He is a Research Collaborator of the Smithsonian Institution, a Fellow of the Linnean Society, and has authored over 80 peer-reviewed publications, many with his students.
The VVC students selected for this expedition are Kimberly Antekeier, Jose Huerta, Ruby Resendez, Kaitlin Rickerl, and Justin Steeno.