Swimming with the Friendliest Animals in the World

The Galapagos Islands

Ms. Jam Giubardo

galapagosowl

CVU Galapagos trip, students got to observe hundreds of new animals, including this friendly little Galapagos Barn Owl. Photo taken by CVU student, William Braun.

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, Ecuador — Imagine you are snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Your tight mask sticks to your face as you clench onto the salty rubber tube and breath in. You dunk your head down into the glass clear water and immediately see a whole new world of unique creatures. Millions of colors flashing from a thousand different fish. The coral reefs are swaying with intense serenity and the starfish are bathing in the sun. You turn your head and see a giant sea turtle gliding through the blue sea and a white tipped reef shark swims past your leg. You aren’t afraid because they aren’t afraid. The animals don’t even seem to notice you.

The Galapagos Islands are very special. Most people know them for the discovery of the theory of evolution, developed by Charles Darwin. And yes, research done there has fueled thousands of scientific research projects and discoveries, but from a non-scientist perspective, the islands allow for the most unique experiences and drive curiosity.

In February, 2017, Champlain Valley Union High School took a group of 18 students and 2 teachers to the Galapagos Islands. While they were there they got the opportunity to observe thousands of species unique to the climate and to the islands. During a survey at the end of their trip, the students were asked to state something that amazed them the most about the islands. William Braun, a CVU Junior, responded saying, “Being in a place like the Galapagos, where the wildlife and land is almost completely untouched really redefined what it meant to be one with nature. It was amazing to get so close to the animals and still watch them behave naturally as if you weren’t even there.” This not only illustrates the beauty and experiences people have there, but also shows how 17-year-olds, with little to no knowledge about animals and ecology, notice the magic there too.

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Evolutional Irony: On Humans, Big Brains, and Wanderlust

Mr. Adrian Walther

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilisation, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.”  –Robert Louis Stevenson

In a chair, a human being sits, flying through the air 35,000 feet above the ground, the shadow of the mechanical bird he temporarily inhabits skimming across the choppy waters of the Atlantic like a water borne wraith.  He is surrounded by dozens of other members of his species, none of them known to him, all of them in various states of boredom, excitement or repose.  For as much time as humans have sought the gift of flight, no one, particularly, seemed to be very impressed.

When this homo sapien can’t see through the skein of clouds outside his window, he reads about the very current catastrophic global failures in terms of biodiversity and the permanent disappearance of countless species in Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction.  All factors highlighted by this female human through years of research and interviews add up to one grotesque conclusion: their species (both the author’s and the reader’s) is causing, or at least massively accelerating, the sixth mass extinction in the half billion years of this beautiful planet’s existence.  The numbers of species, the man read, that have disappeared or are close to blinking out due directly to human interference with the natural status quo are staggering.  What have humans done to warrant such a dubious distinction?  Primarily things like burning fossil fuels egregiously, developing land, and bringing species of plants and animals across oceans and other geographical barriers they never otherwise would have crossed, importing and exporting organisms both purposefully and inadvertently, leading to invasive plant and animal takeovers of entire continents.

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