Senior wildlife conservation major Paige Crane of Blacksburg has a passion for wildlife matched only by her sense of adventure, taking her far beyond the classroom.

Crane received a $10,000 Townsend-Crews scholarship after applying to the Odyssey Fellowship, a program designed to help honors students design their own learning opportunities tailored to their specific interests. The rigorous application process included submitting a portfolio and completing several interviews.

The award enabled Crane to participate in the School for Field Studies, a month-long study abroad program with 35 other students from around the United States. The students, who lived in a camp in Tanzania roughly four hours from the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, took courses on wildlife policy, management, and research techniques. They also participated in Swahili classes, allowing them to greet locals in their native language. “It was so rewarding to see how happy and surprised people were,” Crane recalled.

Through visits to national parks and game areas, the students learned about the socioeconomic role that wildlife management plays in Tanzania. “It’s a very underdeveloped country right now, but wildlife management will help people improve their lives,” Crane explained.

The students also visited community wildlife management areas, which are operated under a concept that Crane described as cutting edge. Local residents are responsible for protecting and maintaining wildlife areas within their own communities and villages, empowering residents to take control over the natural resources that surround them.

Once Crane completed her studies in Tanzania, she used the remaining scholarship funds to travel to Madagascar to assist in research being conducted by Brandon Semel, a doctoral candidate in wildlife conservation. Crane spent several weeks assisting with Semel’s research on golden-crowned sifakas, a critically endangered species of lemur.

“I expected to learn about wildlife, but I learned more about people,” she said. “It was so rewarding to learn deeply about culture and gain insight into the importance of wildlife in people’s daily lives.