My name is Claire Griffin, and I’m a student in the University of Miami Fall 2019 UGalapagos program! I’m so excited to be running IOI’s blog this semester to show the world what adventures await in the beautiful town of Puerto Villamil, Isla Isabela!
Some background on me: I’m a senior at the University of Miami majoring in marine science, biology, and political science. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and while that’s about as isolated from the ocean as one can be in the US, irony demanded that a love of the sea be a defining feature of my life.
I knew from the beginning of my college search that marine science had to be a huge component of my higher education, so the University of Miami was naturally a huge contender: the perfect size, the gorgeous location, the renowned Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, etc. But it wasn’t until after my first tour of the school, sitting in the student lounge with one Dr. William Drennan and listening to him talk about their one-of-a-kind abroad program in the Galapagos, that I was really sold on becoming a Hurricane.
Fast-forward four years and I’ve finally made it to Isabela! We’re just reaching the two week mark, yet it already feels as if we’ve spent years in this unique little oasis. We’ve explored three different highland farms, called “fincas,” and gotten a small taste of the laborious yet satisfying work people here have made a living off of for generations. The juicy oranges, sweet pineapples, rich coffee, and giant avocados that spread across the highlands make it clear why the islands have attracted so many to their shores.
For our first class of the semester, political ecology with Sarah Meltzoff, students were tasked with interviewing residents all over the island to collect insight and knowledge on local culture and history, and how it all ties in with their specific research topics: plastic usage, lobster fishing, water quality, and local coffee production. The class wraps up this weekend as students hand in mock research proposals, based on the host of knowledge gleaned from these interviews.
I’m most looking forward to all of the days of snorkeling that await us; the single morning I spent in the water so far was easily one of the best I’ve ever had. I twirled through the water with a playful sea lion pup, leisurely drifted alongside a couple stunning sea turtles, and had a staring contest with the largest ray I’ve ever seen. If the rest of my underwater experiences here are half as amazing as that, I may never leave!
Until the next blog, CG