Overseas Research Center
Roatan Island

The Ethnographic Field School of the Overseas Research Center (ORC) was founded in 1967 at Wake Forest University. Designed for undergraduates, the focus was to take students out of the classroom and help them acquire ethnographic skills and hands-on experience in developing areas of the world. The first ORC facilities were located in a house on Dean Street in Belize City, the then Crown Colony of British Honduras in Central America. Since that early date the ORC has conducted research with hundreds of undergraduates and graduate students as well as faculty on the Limon Coast and the Talamanca Rain Forest of Costa Rica; Los Navados in the Andes mountains of Venezuela; the Outer Hebrides and Orkney Islands of north Scotland; Saba Island in the Dutch West Indies; as well as the long-term and continuing study and research on Roatan Island, Honduras.

In 1961, while conducting research on Roatan Island as a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Evans and his wife happened upon an isolated ridge in the center of the island. This ridge offered not only the promise of fresh water and continuing cool breezes of the NE trade winds, but spectacular views of both sides of the island. At that time Dr. Evans promised his then new bride that some day he would build her a house on that high island ridge, and in 1974 he acquired the ridge and some twenty acres around it with that goal in mind. The promised house was started in 1996 and completed in 1999, and is now known as "La Casa Promesa", and the estate is known as "Ruby Lee Ridge". This structure, along with a sizable bunkhouse, offered the opportunity to bring groups of students and faculty to the island for research and study at a greatly reduced cost, and the first students arrived in the summer of 1998. Before this date students and faculty of the ORC were housed in the small Harbour View Hotel in the nearby fishing village of French Harbour.

The island of Roatan, largest of the short-lived "British Crown Colony of The Bay Islands", founded during the reign of Queen Victoria in the mid-19th Century, offers perhaps the ideal setting for training students in anthropology in general and in ethnographic data collection and methodology in particular. While once inhabited by only three ethnic groups: white islanders of British extraction; descendants of black ex-slaves from the islands of Caymans and Jamaica; and the colorful Garifuna people, marooned on the island in 1797 from St. Vincent and Dominica islands in the western Caribbean, the island of Roatan today has many ethnic groups from the mainland of Central America, some speaking a number of native American Indian languages, as well as the "old island English" still spoken about the island. In addition to being an excellent location for linguistic study and research, Roatan is also ideal for other fields of study as well, such as: folklore, ethno botany, traditional medicine and health practices, cross-cultural and multi-lingual education, environmental impact studies, geologic research, and a wide array of biological micro-environments and flora and fauna exist, some of which are found only on Roatan and a nearby smaller island.

The way of life as well as the fragile tropical environment and ecological niches of the Bay Islands, like so much of the tropical world, is under great stress. Roatan has a section of the second largest barrier reef in the world, and this marine environment is also threatened from a number of quarters: over diving, runoff from on-shore construction, and the pumping of bilges of countless shrimp and lobster boats as well as cruise ships that regularly visit the island. Without doubt global warming is a factor in the "bleaching" now found among the beautiful and abundant corals that ring these islands, and thus there is also a great opportunity for research in reef ecology.

A major advantage the ORC can offer students and faculty is forty years of experience and collective knowledge and long-term friendships with native islanders enjoyed by Dr. Evans and his family on Roatan. Roatan has perhaps some of the most friendly people on earth, and hundreds of students in the past have enjoyed close and personal interactions with these out-going islanders. While life on Roatan is changing in many ways, as it is everywhere about the world, the one thing that has weathered the change is the enduring friendliness of the island people, and Roatan remains a wonderful place to live, work, and study. It is the goal of the ORC to make this possible for a modest and very affordable fee, and the Overseas Research Center invites any students, faculty, and individual researchers, not just from Wake Forest University, but anyone who might benefit from the facilities found at the Ruby Lee Ridge Estate. For additional information and details please contact Dr. Evans by any of the following means:

See LINKS below:

Dr. David K. Evans
The Overseas Research Center (ORC)
P.O. Box 7807
Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, NC 27109

Phone: 336-758-5276 (Office)
Fax : 336-758-3476
Phone: 336-759-2187 (Home)
Phone: 336-918-8336 (Mobile)


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