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Date: Jan 04, 2008
Hofstra Students Trace Darwin's Footsteps
Exploring Galapagos Islands, Ecuador during January sessionHofstra University, Hempstead, NY – A group of 14 students and two professors tomorrow will begin a journey to one of the most geologically exciting and biologically diverse places on Earth - the Galápagos Islands and Ecuador. Sponsored by the biology and geology departments at Hofstra, this January session program allows students to earn college credit (either undergraduate or graduate) while studying in one of the world’s greatest natural laboratories.
Located on the equator 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands are home to a wide variety of animal and plant species, many of them unique to the islands. There are 17 unique species of reptile, including the plentiful marine iguanas and the Galápagos tortoise. Unique birds include the flightless cormorant and the many species of Darwin’s finches. Of the 500 species of higher plants found on the islands, 40 percent are unique. Created from a volcanic hot spot, the islands also offer a wide range of volcanic landforms.
It was the unique biodiversity of the Galápagos Islands that inspired Charles Darwin, a visitor to the islands in 1835, to develop his famous theory of evolution. “There’s no place quite like it on Earth,” says J Bret Bennington, associate professor of geology and a program instructor. “If you’re interested in evolution, the Galápagos is the mecca. It’s where it all started. It’s also an amazing laboratory for learning about ecology, geology, plate tectonics and volcanoes.”
The group will take a seven-day guided boat trip around the islands, with stops to explore the islands on foot and the rich marine life by snorkeling. Following their stay in the Galápagos Islands, the group will return by plane to Quito, on mainland Ecuador. From Quito, students will take a day trip to the Cotopaxi stratovolcano to learn about Andean geology, ecology and volcanism. They will then travel by plane and boat into the Amazon jungle, where they will spend two days studying the complex ecology of the rainforest in Yasuni National Park.
Throughout the trip, the group will be accompanied by guides knowledgeable about the region’s biology, geology and evolutionary history. The students will also be blogging about their studies. Visit http://www.hofstra.edu/Galapagos to read their blogs and see their photographs of the trip.
About The Faculty
Bret Bennington, Ph.D., (Associate Professor of Geology) is a paleontologist with a strong interest in evolution and geology. Dr. Bennington is a frequent public lecturer on geology and evolution and is actively involved in the IDEAS Institute (Institute for the Development of Education in the Advanced Sciences). Students may know him for his performance as Charles Darwin in Hofstra’s annual celebration of Darwin’s birthday. A three-year veteran of the Galápagos Islands and Ecuador January trip, Professor Bennington calls the program “the experience of a lifetime for students.”
Russell Burke, Ph.D., (Associate Professor of Biology) is a field ecologist who specializes in the ecology of reptiles and amphibians. Dr. Burke teaches the Biology Department courses in ecology and evolution. He has led two previous trips to the Galápagos. “I’ve been reading and dreaming about the Galápagos since I was a little kid,” he says. “Not only is it great to get there myself, it’s fantastic to share it with students. The lessons learned when seeing the organisms or the rocks in the field are remembered forever.”
About Hofstra University
Hofstra University is a dynamic private institution offering about 145 undergraduate and 155 graduate programs in liberal arts and sciences, business, communication, education and allied human services, and honors studies, as well as a School of Law. With a student-faculty ratio of 14-to-1, professors teach small classes averaging 22 students that emphasize interaction, critical thinking and analysis. The Hofstra community is driven, dynamic and energetic, helping students find and focus their strengths to prepare them for a successful future.
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