Science Students Travel To Biodiverse Galapagos Islands
Students from Liberty University’s Department of Biology and Chemistry traveled to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands in January to study biodiversity and observe the many marvels of God’s creation unique to this part of the world.
The trip, which took place Jan. 9-19, was the third annual expedition of its kind. The 17 students who took part in this academic adventure earned three credit hours to go towards either their natural science elective, or for another science course towards completion of their major.
Additionally, because it was an LU Send course, the trip included a half-day service project where students partnered with the animal enrichment organization Amazoonaco to help improve conditions for wildlife being researched in captivity.
While studying and exploring these islands in South America, the team of students led by professors Dr. Kyle Harris and Sherrie Welfel lodged at a research center located in the jungle. The students partnered with Tropical Herping, a local biodiversity organization that plays a vital role in preserving the area’s vast and diverse wild life species, participating in tours and studies with local researchers.
Morgan Lowe, a junior studying environmental biology, participated in last month’s venture.
“We mostly observed the wildlife in the Galapagos and in the Amazon rain forest. Some students who are working with professors in their research swabbed amphibians found in the jungle for the research,” Lowe said. “We learned about God’s creation in that area and how humans were impacting the jungle. We also learned about field research.”
Members of the research team observed other locations, including Santa Fe Island and Tortuga Bay where they were able to snorkel, swim, and enjoy beautiful beaches.
The students also spent time in places like Jatun Sacha, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, where they conducted various field studies and research projects with local scientists.
Harris said that the purpose of these study abroad biology courses is to explore the richness of biodiversity in different areas of God’s creation. Through these trips, students are also able to consider the role of Christians in the conservation, restoration, and research of the created order, according to Harris.
“For myself and the students, one of my goals was to network with the global scientific community which has a similar passion for conservation biology and to encourage students to put their faith in the Triune God of the Bible into practice within the context of scientific research and biodiversity conservation,” Harris said.
According to Harris, this trip was an opportunity to answer the question of “why do we see so much diversity in the living world?” with students.
“For students, I think they are often overwhelmed by the biodiversity that they encounter,” Harris said. “The opportunity to live in the jungle for several days emboldens the need for Christians to not simply be involved with biodiversity conservations, but to raise up leaders within this field, leaders that are unashamed and who declare the glories of God’s created order.”
Harris also said that the students and faculty took the gospel with them on their journey. He said that the group set aside time each day to study God’s word together and have devotions. He recalled being able to have discussions about his faith with individuals he met in Ecuador.
The Department of Biology and Chemistry has plans to take students on this trip again next January, exploring two different forests and a new island. According to Harris, trips of this kind to places such as Panama, Madagascar, Australia and Borneo are in the works.
The professors involved encourage students of all majors to consider completing some of their general science requirements on these trips to learn more about God’s vast and diverse creation.
Allen Moro is a News Reporter.