Students exploring the ecosystems that once fascinated Charles Darwin
The University of Miami’s UGalapagos Program
May 10, 2011
MIAMI — May 10, 2011 — From the sandy beaches and beautiful snorkeling locations, to hiking trails alongside some of the Galapagos Islands’ active volcanoes, college students can experience first-hand what helped Charles Darwin develop his theory of evolution in the 1830’s. The UGalapagos Program is a semester long experience taught by world-renowned University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science professors. This unique educational encounter is paired with a mission to strengthen sustainable industries in this remote community.
With the help of the Isabela Oceanographic Institute (IOI), students are matched with local host families who open their homes each semester to UGalapagos students. The IOI is a non-profit center for education and research that provides classrooms and laboratory facilities, as well as acting as the permanent liaison between UM personnel/students and the local community. “From the first introduction to the people of ‘Las Islas Encantadas,’ (translation: The Enchanted Islands) through our class in conservation and fisheries, we’ve all gained a greater perspective of not only how to do the science, but why we do it,” said Ryan McMinds from his laptop in the Galapagos earlier this year.
According to Marine Knize, another student on the trip, “UGalapagos is challenging because the semester is field-intensive and hands-on which provides a stimulating and unique learning experience.”
UM professors arrived in two-week increments to teach their respective courses. Not only did students engage in scientific studies, research and excursions, but also an intensive intercultural Spanish/English language exchange occurred that they will remember for the rest of their lives. “The students are very appreciated by the locals. Everyone waves hello when they pass by in the street, and thanks them for their hard work. It’s really great walking through the town and seeing everyone,” said Dr. Lynne Fieber, an associate professor at UM’s Rosenstiel School.
The local villages embrace the program as a way to help spread the word about marine and terrestrial conservation, in which they are all heavily invested. With new and knowledgeable advocates of this pristine, yet highly threatened ecosystem, the residents want the students to have the most enjoyable and memorable experience while they are on the islands.
“We were seeing the animals, plants, and people who rely on the conservation firsthand, while practicing techniques in fieldwork and observation, which is the only real way to understand what’s really going on. Not only that, but we got to spend three months with a small group of excellent people, from peers to professors, who all shared similar interests and got to experience these beautiful isolated islands,” McMinds continued.
The UGalapagos program continues to grow and progress as an influential and permanent fixture on the islands. The more students and the IOI are able to accomplish, the more possibilities wait for the spirited individuals who make the journey.
For more information on UGalapagos, a part of the University of Miami’s UGlobal program, which offers a portal to international scholarly activities available to faculty and students, please visit www.miami.edu/uglobal.
About the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School
The University of Miami’s mission is to educate and nurture students, to create knowledge, and to provide service to our community and beyond. Committed to excellence and proud of the diversity of our University family, we strive to develop future leaders of our nation and the world. Founded in the 1940’s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, please visit www.rsmas.miami.edu.