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O'Connor Creates Documentary about Study Abroad Experience

Instead of collecting water beetles during the 2016 Suriname entomology field expedition, Gabriel O’Connor collected video footage. The film studies major chronicled the 10-day journey to the jungle of the northeastern South America country and turned his footage of the spring break program into a 20-minute documentary and a video for the Natural History Museum on the research accomplished during the trip.

O’Connor did not know where Suriname was until he was offered the opportunity to go on the trip. Professor Andrew Short was looking for a non-science major to enhance the group’s experience and had the funds to support his trip. Alumni Tom and Jann Rudkin of Los Gatos, Calif., have provided scholarships for students pursing degrees such as journalism, illustration, photography and textile arts to experience research expeditions alongside scientific staff and students who are pursing degrees in biology. 

Associate Professor Andrew Short and his fellow travelers had no qualms about being filmed so O’Connor tried to “capture everything.” From setting up traps to night hikes and boat rides, O’Connor was part of all of the group’s activities.

His gear had to work in the humidity of a rain forest, so he took waterproof bags. For his “guerilla film making,” O’Connor shot with a Canon DSLR and used a GoPro, a monopod and a shotgun microphone.

When asked what he learned from this experience that he will take to his next project, O’Connor said he would plan more and do more research about the people and culture he is examining to help build the story.

Before this expedition O’Connor had not thought about being a documentarian, now he’s considering branching out into documentary film making. He is working on a grant proposal to document life on Japan’s Tashirojima (Cat Island) where stray cats outnumber humans.


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