November 05, 2018, BY Matt Hughes

Follow Emma Hundermark '17, M'19, Melissa Ocampo '20, Brianna Bjordahl '19 and Professor Mizuki Takahashi on a research expedition to Japan.

Bucknell Professor Mizuki Takahashi, biology, is an expert on amphibians, and for him, bigger is better. His two favorite species to study are the hellbender, a salamander native to Appalachia that grows up to 2.5 feet long, and its closely-related cousin from Takahashi's home country of Japan, which can reach twice that length.

To more deeply immerse his Bucknell students in his work, this summer Takahashi brought three research assistants, Emma Hundermark '17, M'19, Melissa Ocampo '20 and Brianna Bjordahl '19, on a field study of the Japanese giant salamander, known in colloquial Japanese as the 'hanzaki.' Their investigations included collecting water samples to search for the presence of salamander DNA and capturing and measuring the creatures — the world's second largest amphibians — in conjunction with the Japan Hanzaki Research Center.

But the expedition was more than a scientific survey — it included cultural lessons for the students, too. The students took a crash course in Japanese on campus and visited sites in Tokyo and Kyoto before plunging into the deep forests and mountain streams of one of Japan's most isolated regions. Follow their journey in the video above.