Darwin’s cotton, Cacti, and soccer – oh my! Plants of the Galapagos and my first soccer game.Galapagos, Fall 2011

“Look deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein

The past few weeks I have been busy in my class learning all about the incredible plants of the Galapagos. The class is really interesting! Our professor, Hugo, is from Chile. He is so knowledgeable of all the native, endemic, and introduced plant species of the islands, and loves sharing his knowledge with us. The class is cut short a bit, because we are going to Santa Cruz next week. We will still be learning about the plants while we are there, but he didn’t want us to have to take any tests there, so we have our final this Monday! It is going by so fast, but I guess it has been similar to all of the other fast-passed classes on the island. So far we have gone on three field trips.

Our first was a biking trip to the highlands. We were dropped off at El Junco (the lake in the highlands) in taxis and rode down the hill into town on bikes the University rented. Along the way Hugo would stop us and tell us all about the plant species on the sides of the road. We got to see (touch and smell) all the species we had been learning about in class – from the endemic Miconia, to the introduced Mora (blackberry) that is taking over the land. It was a great way to spend our class time, and I think we all really learned a lot (including how to stop while going down-hill on a bike with breaks that don’t work too well).

Our second field trip wasn’t as thrilling (but probably more safe, because it didn’t involve bikes with faulty breaks). After our course midterm, we walked to Frigate bird trial from the University. It is only a 30-minute walk from the university to the end of the trail, and we stopped along the way to talk about each of the plants. By the end of the walk we were all able to identify at least 8 of the endemic plant species we saw. This area, because it is more arid, has the most endemic plants in all the regions of the islands – and it was very apparent, because very few of the species we saw were listed as being introduced.

Our third field trip was to Hacienda Tranquila (in the highlands again, the same place as the wedding!). This week in class we are focusing on conservation of native species and the elimination of introduced plants. At the Hacienda we helped the volunteers cut down the invasive Mora. We all used machetes, which was really fun! We had to go through and chop down the Mora growing in the area, so that they would not out compete the native species for resources. It was similar to what I did at El Junco Lake a few weeks ago with the Ecology Club students. We got to pick and eat delicious oranges in our break, and there was a beautiful view of the island from above.

Last weekend I also completed one of my goals while in South America – I went to a soccer game! It was really great, because after leaving Quito I didn’t think I would have the opportunity to go to a game – but luckily one came to me! We heard that the team Barcelona, from Guayaquil, would be coming to the island to play a game against Emelec, another team from Guayaquil. So Sunday morning we went to the stadium on the island to buy tickets – and then we went to the Jersey store to make sure we fit in while we were in the stands! Most of us bought jerseys for Barcelona, but a few decided to join the other side and get the blue Emelec jerseys. It was quite the experience at the game, when all of the locals were asking us to join their cheering sections. Sadly the game was only the “B” teams – because the usual players were busy playing for the national team. It was still really great to see, and Barcelona won – so my section of the stands was very happy! It was definitely an experience I will remember – but I guess most of my experiences on this island fall into the “I will remember that” category.

I am looking forward to our trip to Santa Cruz next week. We are going to see more native plant species, and we are scheduled to meet Lonesome George, the giant land tortoise! It will be a unique Thanksgiving – and it will definitely be the first time I have ever gone snorkeling on turkey-day!

Until next time,
Samantha

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