Scene from a past study abroad program in the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador.

Walk in Darwin's footsteps

Applications accepted for study abroad program in Galapagos Islands

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8:21 a.m., April 28, 2011--A once-in-a lifetime academic adventure is in store for students participating in the January, 2012, study-abroad program in the Galápagos Islands and Ecuador. Applications are being accepted until June 30.

The program, set for Jan. 3-25, 2012, will be led by Thomas Evans, professor of plant and soil sciences, and Rebekah Helton, research associate with the Delaware Biotechnology Institute Bio-Imaging Center and the Center for Translational Cancer Research Core Facility.

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“This three-week academic journey will offer students the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin and study evolution and endemism in one of the most unique places on the planet,” Helton said.

For the first 12 days in the Galápagos Islands, students will live and learn aboard the 131-foot motor yacht Coral I, owned and operated by Kleintours. Evans and Helton will lead field trips on land each morning and afternoon, moving through the Galápagos Archipelago, hiking on the trails of each island and studying the plants, animals and ecosystems. 

In the Andean region of Ecuador, the group will study the ecology of the highlands at Cotopaxi National Park, following the path of Alexander von Humboldt, the German naturalist who in the early 1800s traveled the mountainous region studying its natural history and volcanoes while mapping the equator.

All students will take two courses during the program — “Plants of Ecuador” (PLSC340) and “Tropical Ecology” (PLSC367) — and will work together learning about Ecuador’s diversity of plants, native species of plants, local use and applications. Students will learn field techniques for observation or actual hands-on study in Cotopaxi National Park, as well as in the Galápagos Islands.

“On this trip, students will gain a perspective on preservation of unique and fragile ecosystems in a developing country,” Evans said. “Students will learn about tropical ecology at the extremes, on islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and on volcanic peaks at elevations between 12,000 and 15,000 feet. And through cultural events, they will learn about the people of this wonderful country.”

All majors are accepted for the program, which is offered by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Students from animal science, plant science, exercise science, environmental sciences and entomology have been accepted into the program so far. A blog will showcase student activities and adventures when the program is under way.

Evans, a botanist and plant pathologist, has been working in Ecuador since 1989, and launched UD’s first study abroad program in South America when he took a group to Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands in 1998. Since then, Evans has led or co-led nine study-abroad trips to these locations. 

Helton is a microbial ecologist and previously worked in Ecuador in 2005 studying the microbial ecology and diversity of the benthic environment. She has experience conducting research in marine environments, from the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays aboard UD’s research vessel, to the depths of the Pacific Ocean exploring hydrothermal vents in the submersible Alvin.

See the website for grade point average requirements, program costs and application guidelines. For more information, contact Thomas Evans at tomevans@udel.edu, 831-1066, or Rebekah Helton at rrhelton@udel.edu, 831-6100.

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