We're back!

By Claire Griffin, Study Abroad Student Fall 2019

Welcome back to IOI’s blog!

Pardon the hiatus in posts; our group is just coming back from a jam-packed fall break, during which my internet connection went from abysmal to nonexistent. But we’re back and better than ever!

Picking up from where we left off, our class with Dr. Drennan ended with some amazing field trips and a number of interesting projects. We spent several days surveying the popular snorkel spot Concha de Perla, using waterproof data tables to document species diversity within the estuary.

We later embarked on a day long boat ride to the remote and beautiful western side of Isabela, where the wildlife was like nothing we had ever seen. Right off the bat, we had the rare and fantastic chance to see Galapagos’ wild orcas. The duo gave us a fantastic show, hunting and breaching amidst a huge flock of birds, and to our delight even came right under the boat to check out the 16 squealing humans on its bow. While topping orcas is near impossible, the day progressed with a number of other magical encounters: Galapagos penguins, flightless cormorants, pelicans, blue footed boobies, frigates, albatross, sea turtles, sea lions, iguanas, and even an elusive Bryde’s Whale!

Also within these past two weeks: the 10th anniversary of IOI’s inception! We celebrated with an all-day fiesta in the highlands, inviting the whole community out to enjoy all varieties of food, artisan goods, games, competitions, farmers markets, live music, and tournaments in soccer and volleyball. Most exciting, however, was the launch of a novel local agricultural program called “Maria Rosa.” This groundbreaking program creates a network for local farmers, referred to as “Red de Producción y Consumo Local,” to market their goods to local restaurants and businesses, and in addition provides courses on sustainable farming practices. Maria Rosa thus aims to be an emblem of local production and sustainability paving a bright future for Isabela and the community.

The course finished with individual presentations on 16 endemic species here in the Galapagos. Each student conducted extensive research on their chosen species and presented on its geographic and ancestral origins, its speciation within the Galapagos, and its potential adaptations to and/or risks faced during periodic El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events. I chose the Galapagos sea lion, and despite a heavy workload I genuinely enjoyed learning about the history and ecology of this charismatic species. Other project topics included everything from ferns to owls to iguanas, and everyone had a great time presenting on their chosen species!

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After a tear-filled farewell to Dr. Drennan, we all set out on our various adventures. 12 of us stuck together to explore the other two main islands (San Cristobal and Santa Cruz), while the other 4 reunited with family members visiting from the US to then set off on their own expeditions, several embarking on weeklong cruises that explored the entire archipelago. Check out my next post (that’s right, you’ll be getting TWO in ONE WEEK!) to read student testimonials from both the 12-person trip and each of the individual trips. We’ll explore the myriad of adventures that Galapagos has to offer, and hopefully provide some insight for future Miami students and IOI participants planning their own excursions!

 Until next time,

Claire Griffin