Students can travel the world as part of learning abroad and probably no place more exotic than the Galapagos Islands. One of the most requested places by students for a study abroad experience, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity comes under the leadership of associate professors Katy Chapman and Kristie Walker.

    The two bring expertise from different departments making this opportunity both interdisciplinary and varied. Chapman, who teaches environmental science in the Math, Science, and Technology Department and Walker, who teaches soils in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Department, conducted a site visit last summer in preparation to offer this exceptional trip.

    “We visited one of the oldest open markets in Ecuador, watched turtles and sharks swim the ocean, and explored farms in one of the most unique ecosystems in the world,” says Walker. “Our site visit confirmed our expectation that visiting these islands would be one of the most powerful learning experiences we could offer students and certainly one that Katy and I found life changing.

    The Galapagos, part of the Republic of Ecuador, are a volcanic island chain located on either side of the equator in the Pacific Ocean.  The islands are known for their pervasive number of species making them a center for scientific research. Charles Darwin studied the Galapagos Islands on his second voyage of HMS Beagle and his observations and collections contributed to the foundations of his theory of evolution by means of natural selection.

    “Students will explore the diverse land and marine habitats that shelter Galapagos species as well as consider the importance of the islands today in modeling management of wildlife habitats and sustainable development,” says Chapman. “This opportunity for this kind of first-hand learning experience for our students will deepen their appreciation for our fragile environment and allow them an ocean clean up opportunity.”

    Students interested in agriculture will find the islands’ rich volcanic soils growing avocado, cocoa, and custard apple farms, as well as roses. Marine life includes some of the most diverse and unique species on earth including the giant tortoise for which the islands are named.  

    Information sessions, offered through the end of October, will give students interested the chance to learn more about next summer’s trip and a course designed next spring will prepare for the experience. For more information, visit umcrookston.edu/learningabroad.