The course: GEOL 170 | Geological and Paleobiological Evolution of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

The experience: Twenty students from a variety of majors explored the coupled evolution of life and land in Ecuador. Led by David Sunderlin, associate professor and department head of geology, and Lawrence Malinconico, associate professor of geology and director of the Tech Clinic, this experience allowed students to study complex geological processes, witness atmospheric and oceanographic phenomena and patterns, and to see the results of biological evolution in diverse ecosystem settings—all directly in the field. 

“There is nothing quite like feeling the warmth of the ground in a volcanically active area, getting windblown by the tropical easterly winds, and standing face to face with an iconic Galapagos tortoise,” shares Sunderlin. “For me, the most impactful moments on these field courses are in witnessing how students experience these amazing places, and how it all helps them see the world differently. Hiking up a volcano in orographic precipitation is humbling and empowering all at once. Swimming with sea lions reminds us of our unique humanity, but also our common ancestry with other life forms on Earth. And the shared experience of doing this all with great people is bonding, lasting, and where some lifelong memories are made,” Sunderlin continues. 

“The combined physical and intellectual nature of this course really challenges students. It is exciting to see them mature when they overcome both types of encounters,” adds Malinconico.

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