CCAC biology students, faculty visit Galapagos Islands

March 15, 2018 GMT

A group of Community College if Allegheny County biology students had an opportunity to explore the Galapagos Islands in January.

Two faculty members and 11 students from the biology department traveled to the area to study animals only found in that part of the world, which is located about 600 miles off the cost of Ecuador.

The group also retraced some of the steps of Charles Darwin, whose observation of the islands’ species in 1835 inspired his theory of evolution.

Students got to observe endangered tortoises, sea lions, Galapagos penguins, blue-footed boobies, multiple species of finches and marine iguanas. The group snorkeled among tropical fish, sea turtles, coral and reef sharks.

Adam Davis, CCAC associate professor of Biology, organized and led the trip, along with Heather Klenovich, CCAC associate professor of Biology, so the students could broaden their understanding of the discipline.

“There’s a kind of learning you can only do in the field where you get to see all of the parts of an ecosystem interacting with each other,” Davis said. “They came away with a better understanding of how delicate our ecosystem is, how endangered these animals are and how vital it is for us to protect ecosystems like this.”

The group also got to view a field of cooled lava and walk around the crater of Sierra Negra, an active volcano that last erupted in 2005. Upon returning to the mainland, the students experienced Latin American culture in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, where they stood on the equator, visited historic sites and shopped for souvenirs in the marketplace. The trip was a transformative experience for all.

“I think I learned as much as they did,” said Davis, who is planning another excursion for the winter of 2020. “I feel very privileged I got to realize my dream of visiting the Galapagos while also introducing students to this extraordinary environment. None of us wanted to come home.”

Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4680, emilybalser@tribweb.com or on Twitter @emilybalser.