Lausanne Students Travel to Galápagos Islands
Last to See a Pinta Tortoise Before Its Extinction
Eleven students from Lausanne Collegiate School and their chaperones (Dr. Annette Teepe, Wayne Kelley and Mavis Negroni-Foosaner) traveled to the Galápagos Islands this summer during the east Memphis school’s summer science course series “Ecology, Ecosystems and the Environment.” The Lausanne educational team trekked in the footsteps of Charles Darwin as they made their way around several of the same islands explored on the historic voyage of The Beagle. No cell phones, laptops, iPads or any other form of technology were used on the islands. (View pictures of their adventures.)
Students were required to journal daily and complete a rigorous science course developed by EPI (Ecology Project International), a student educational travel non-profit dedicated to developing field science partnerships between local experts and high school students to address critical conservation issues worldwide. Part of the course included an extensive study of the islands, their habitat, the geography, geology, flora and fauna, as well as development of a field science research project and a service opportunity designed to protect threatened species and habitats on one of the islands.
One of the highlights of the trip was an excursion to Chato to tag tortoises in the wild. “Generally speaking,” shared Madison Tallant ’15, “the park has a rule of not touching the tortoise but…that rule was lifted for research purposes.” Students measured the tortoises, checked for the P (a form of ID), and flipped these giant animals on their backs to measure and brand the untagged ones.
Another stellar moment came when they visited the Charles Darwin Research Station and had the opportunity to work with the juvenile tortoises. Rachel Elfezouaty ‘15, wrote, “We collected information, such as weight, length and under shell measurements. They would be used for our EPI project. Next we tackled cleaning the small water pools. We were lucky enough to get a peek at Lonesome George.”
This tortoise from Pinta Island was a miracle to find. Zach Jeorg ’14 added, “It was thought that the Pinta tortoises were all extinct, but in 1971, Lonesome George was found by park rangers.” Lausanne Galápagos travelers had no idea they would be one of the last groups ever to see him alive, for ten days after the visit, Lonesome George passed away.
In addition to their studies on land there were lots of opportunities to explore aquatic life including sharks, sea lions, parrotfish, starfish and penguins. Zach Jeorg ’14 shared, “it was beautiful…hundreds of different varieties of fish…rocks that looked like they could be from an alien planet.”
Schyler Cole ’14 had been looking forward to the Student Exchange Day since she first heard about the trip. In her words, it was “an example of the life I want to live as a global citizen. I relished the mutual effort for understanding and connection. This moment was truly priceless and irrevocably amazing.”
Sam Thomas ‘14 remarked, “I will miss Heidi and Juanse (the EPI instructors) and the Galápagos very much. Our time here has helped me to realize just how important conservation really is to nature. We all play a key role in helping preserve the Earth’s wildlife.”
Rachel Elfezuoaty ’15 and John Leake ’14 both helped sum up the trip in their final journal pieces. John mused, “I can’t believe this is our last day in the Galápagos and tomorrow we fly to Quito. Deep down I don’t want to go home. I want to stay longer.”
Rachel wrote, “Looking back on this trip as I sit on my final plane ride home, I think about how hard the hikes were, about the long, bumpy boat rides and the cold showers. I wouldn’t change any of that.”
Surely this was an experience these students will reflect on throughout their lives.
Other travel opportunities for Lausanne students have included various European trips as well as studies in Costa Rica. A spring break trip to Ghana is planned for 2013.
By Dr. Annette Teepe & Mavis Negroni-Foosaner, teachers at Lausanne Collegiate School