Friars Abroad: Fenwick Students Travel to Galápagos Islands

Ten Fenwick students and four teachers traveled to the Galápagos Islands over Easter Break! The group visited four islands, exploring and learning about the place where the modern theory of evolution was developed. Activities included snorkeling, kayaking, swimming and even hiking a volcano! The Friars also visited Quito, Ecuador and learned about its rich history.

AP Environmental Science student Declan O’Rourke ‘24 reflects on his trip in the guest blog below:

When looking throughout my experience at the Galápagos Islands, there are a variety of reasons as to why I wished to attend, including my deep love for science and the general opportunity to attend the trip. I would say the main reason I went is to witness the unique biodiversity of plants and animals – the opportunity to immerse yourself in the vast ranges of nature and experience similar wonders inspired by Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Unlike anywhere else on Earth, the Galápagos Islands contain a plethora of varying species that can’t be seen anywhere else. Animals like the large tortoise, marine iguana, or even the blue-footed boobies are a foundation for what the island truly represents.

I have a great love for nature, and to experience snorkeling alongside sea turtles – or even sharks – is something that not many can say they’ve done before. Coinciding with the trip, I am taking AP Environmental Science, which has piqued my interest even more when looking at the evolutionary and geological concepts of the Galápagos Islands. To have first-hand experience with what I have learned during my freshman Biology class and my senior science class has allowed me to advance my knowledge of evolution.

What I learned from our trip to the Galápagos Islands comes down to several points that I felt resonated best with me. First, the unique adaptation of species within the island is quite impressive and outstanding, especially during the time of El Nino. To witness the vast amount of endemic species adjust to their isolated environment over hundreds of years gave me a better understanding of how amazing these animals are. Looking into their genetic diversity and how the species deal with different circumstances showed me what Charles Darwin witnessed when he was there nearly 200 years ago.

Second, many may overlook this aspect, but for myself, I gained a great deal of cultural insight when in both the Galápagos Islands and Ecuador. During my time, I was able to practice my Spanish-speaking abilities and experience a variety of cultural traditions that I was unaware of. The Ecuadorian culture was evident within the Galápagos Islands which included the food, music and diverse cultural heritage that is present within Ecuador. Our tour guide, Bolo, was born in the Galápagos Islands and was an exemplary teacher for our group. He was someone who helped me understand the culture within the Galápagos Islands and what his life was like when living there.

Lastly, the environmental awareness of maintaining a sustainable island became something I started noting for myself when on the trip. Looking at the sustainability practices that the island goes through to ensure the environment is kept secure gave me something to keep in the back of my mind during the trip. The actions of controlling the invasive species on the island interested me a great deal, especially when it came to protecting the native species on the island.

Many students may wonder why they should go on a trip to the Galápagos Islands. I have two reasons why you should consider going on a fantastic trip. First, you will more than likely never have an opportunity to go on a trip to witness nature like no other and see what this island has to offer. The adventure itself is once in a lifetime and you will be able to experience moments like no other. Second, you get the chance to undergo personal growth within yourself. I was able to witness the most glorious churches in Quito, Ecuador which was an experience that I will never be able to forget. You will have the chance to create a memorable experience that you will never forget. I can assure you that during your time in the Galápagos Islands, you will be able to have that everlasting experience.

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