by Amy Corrall
Travelers tired of the same old crowded tourist traps can once again break away from the pack by spending their next vacation on the "wild side" with the campus-based University Research Expedition Program.
For the 19th year, the program is inviting the public to do field research at destinations around the globe.
Anyone with an adventurous spirit can join scientists and educators as they unlock the mysteries of nature and the secrets of the past.
Projects for 1995 include digging for fossils of America's first dinosaurs in Montana and tracking monkeys in Costa Rica as the primates turn tropical plants into medicines.
People who prefer a tamer version of the great outdoors can embark on a project to explore the garden architecture of Northern Italy's great villas or the archaeology of Ireland's medieval castles.
No special experience or scientific background is required to join these expeditions -- all that's required is a sense of adventure, a good amount of curiosity and some team spirit.
Participants receive a detailed orientation package, as well as on-site training in field techniques.
Team members have ranged in age from 16 to 76, and have come from all walks of life, including students and teachers, computer designers and doctors.
Differences are put aside as people work and discover together, whether they are all slogging through the mud in the wetlands of Belize or excavating an Inca fortress in Ecuador.
The research trips typically last two to three weeks and cost from $790 to $1,995, with volunteers paying their own way to their research destination.
Fees, which help subsidize the research and cover costs for food, lodging and transport while on the expedition, are considered donations to the University of California and normally are tax-deductible.
But expedition director Jean Colvin says team members aren't just contributing to a worthy cause. "You will have a unique opportunity to learn new skills, make new friends and gain insight into other cultures in a way that ordinary travelers rarely experience." Last year, one group researching the traditional musical instruments of Africa was granted an audience with a Ugandan king.
"It's adventure with a purpose," says Colvin.
The 1995 expeditions offer a chance to:
o Replant tropical forests in Costa Rica.
o Help conserve rock art on Easter Island or the wetlands of Belize.
o Study the California white pelican along its migration route.
o Assist with archaeological excavations of an Inca fort in Ecuador.
o Study marriage traditions on Mauritius and women's health in the Bolivian Andes.
To request an application and free catalog, contact University Research Expeditions Program, 642-6586.