Following in Darwin's Footsteps

Students meet a Galápagos giant turtle

Daniel Veronese and a short-eared owl in the highlands of Genovesa IslandI have always been interested in traveling and exploring new cultures.

Once I learned that financial aid was available at Cornell, I decided to incorporate an abroad experience into my undergraduate studies. The financial aid I received made study abroad possible and affordable for me.

During the spring of 2014, I enrolled in BioEE1780, an Introduction to Evolutionary Biology and Diversity. I chose the curriculum of this particular course to study the significance to biology of the Galápagos Archipelago. The theory of evolution has changed our understanding of biology.

Through the Biology Scholars Program, a diversity-based honors program at Cornell, I was able to enroll in a Galápagos-focused curriculum that included both a science class and a First-Year Writing Seminar. I received eight academic credits for taking part in this course. Dr. Irby J. Lovette supervised the program and our 10-day visit to the Galápagos Islands.

My spring break was filled with fieldwork, note-taking on animal behavior, hiking, and snorkeling. I loved seeing firsthand examples of what I had learned about in class. The instructors were very welcoming and considerate of my level of knowledge. I felt comfortable throughout the course.

I wanted to learn about evolution by experiencing the Galápagos—the way that Charles Darwin had. 

The writing seminar focused on conservation issues and the history of the archipelago. Students were required to keep journals throughout the trip so that we could sketch observations and record reflections of our daily experiences, such as meeting a Galápagos giant turtle. The coursework and my experiences in the Galápagos helped me learn more about the issues—and understand the passion that many members of the scientific community have for conservation.

As a freshman, I had been a pre-med student. The Galápagos trip helped me realize how much the field of biology has to offer beyond medicine. I am now planning on continuing my studies to obtain a PhD in evolutionary biology.

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