Galapagos Islands WHSPO summer study

Since I began teaching Biology more than thirty years ago, I have longed to see the Galapagos Islands, famous for their association with Charles Darwin and the development of his theory of evolution. This summer I was given the incredible opportunity to visit the Galapagos as a recipient of a WHS Faculty Summer Study Grant given by WHSPO and the Parents of the Class of 2008.

The Galapagos Archipelago consists of more than 13 volcanic islands found 600 miles west off the coast of Ecuador. When Darwin visited the Galapagos in 1835 he called them “the origin of all my views.” As part of a land-based group tour, which toured three of these amazing islands, I witnessed first hand the extraordinary biodiversity and adaptations that influenced Darwin’s thinking about evolution. Our international group was led by local guides, expert naturalists who are also knowledgeable in the history and geology of the Galapagos.

My tour of the Galapagos began on the island of San Cristobal. One of the highlights of visiting this island was the sight of hundreds of sea lions. Some swam playfully with us as we snorkeled and others lay on the beach as we walked by and photographed them. They seemed to be as curious about us as we were about them and appeared to be fearless of humans. Less curious but also abundant were the marine iguanas, sometimes hard to see because of their exquisite camouflage in the volcanic rock.

Our next destination was the island of Santa Cruz where the Charles Darwin Research Station is located. Here we toured the giant tortoises breeding center, which collects the eggs, raises the young tortoises and releases the adults into the wild. This and other centers in the Archipelago have had enormous success in increasing the numbers of giant tortoises, which were once on the brink of extinction.

Other highlights of my trip included swimming with Pacific Greenback Turtles, seeing amazing birds such as blue-footed boobies, pink flamingos and brown pelicans, and visiting Lonesome George, a giant tortoise whose age is estimated to be 100 years old! Lonesome George is so called because he is the only surviving member of his sub-species.

I am extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to experience the magic of the Galapagos Islands. I learned so much about the many ways in which people can make a difference in preserving natural treasures such as those found in the Galapagos. My goal is to share my experiences with Wayland High School students.