Rachel Irons says her Introduction to Marine Biology class was an experience of a lifetime. She and her classmates traveled to Belize during the winter session to study marine ecosystems and oceanography.

She was excited to learn more about the Belizean culture, visit the jungle, and get up close and personal with myriad sea creatures — including the Blue Tang, famously known as Dory in Disney’s “Finding Nemo” movie.

“You usually just see these sea creatures in documentaries and in aquariums. My favorite was seeing them in the wild and studying how they behave,” she said. “I work in the biology lab at school, and we have a big reef tank with a blue tang. It’s really aggressive to the other fish we have. When I saw the blue tang in Belize, I discovered they actually are very friendly creatures, and they like to be in big schools with each other.”

Rachel plans to study botany and work in wildlife conservation. After her graduation from Moraine Valley, she hopes to transfer to a university in Colorado known for having an exemplary wildlife biology program.

“This class was such an inspiration for me. I saw some pretty incredible things. Now, I want to have more experiences like that where I can go to other countries and see their ecosystems.”