SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 15, August 2016 - Page 33

One of my favorite stories from my semester in the Galápagos happened during the third class of term, the marine biology portion. We each had a research project to conduct and I had set up a transect in a small lagoon on the edge of town. I was snorkeling along, counting the density of juvenile bicolor damselfish through changing benthic habitat, when all of a sudden, my transect tape started to pull away! As it turns out, a large green sea turtle had mistaken it for a tasty morsel and tried (unsuccessfully) to get away with the whole thing! My time on the islands was filled with

amazing encounters such as that one. From sea lion pups coming nose to nose with me, to witnessing the mating dance of the Blue-footed Booby, I have never felt more connected with nature.

The connections I made with the natural side of the islands were only half the story. The people I met, through my host family, my coursework, and simply friends I made while exploring around; those people truly changed my outlook. Before studying abroad, I knew that I loved marine science, I loved everything about it but I could not have told you what I wanted to do with it. Through the interactions I had with families and fishermen, I began to get a better sense of the place and of the importance of communication between park managers, scientists, and the community. It was there that I realized that understanding the human component of an ecosystem is just as important as understanding the “natural” component, for they are always linked.

Photos: Page 26 Marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) in breeding colors, Isabela, Galápagos; Page 27 The tortoise whisperer, Santa Cruz, Galápagos. Page 28 Palo Santo trees, North Seymour Island, Galápagos. Page 31 Blue-footed booby (Sula nebouxii), North Seymour Island, Galápagos. Playful Galápagos sea lion (Zalophus wollebaeki), Isabela, Galápagos; Pink flamingo (Phenicopterus ruber), Isabela, Galápagos.

Left: Sleeping juvenile Galápagos sea lion (Zalophus wollebaeki), North Seymour Island, Galápagos ; Part of my host family (L to R: Jhon, Carlota, me, Sebas, Isaac, and Katty), Isabela, Galápagos; Sunrise over Concha de Perla lagoon, Isabela, Galápagos