Going to Galapagos:

The Biology Student Association (BSA) is getting ready to select a new group of students to send on their 2008 Concordia Galapagos Project (CGP).
Since 2006, the BSA has organized this trip intended to teach first and second year biology students about conserving the islands made famous by Charles Darwin. In collaboration with a non-government organization (NGO)
The Global Volunteer Network, the selected students will be staying on the island of San Cristobal at the Jatun Sacha Reserve. The reserve is without running water and electricity; something that BSA president Clemence Larroche says isn’t a problem.
“You work from 8-4 chopping down trees, planting native species, collecting seeds, and you’re running around the forest everywhere and by the time night falls you’re dead.”
The students work to help restore the natural habitat of the Galapagos and rid the island of invasive species that are harming the archipelago.
These species include bacteria, seeds of plants not found on the Galapagos, and animals such as goats and wild pigs. With the lack of sustainable agriculture, boatloads of food are imported from the mainland and tend to carry the invasive species.
To ameliorate the situation, students also work with local landowners to find ways to create agricultural alternatives.
Former BSA president Lawrence Tsang founded CGP. Now in Harvard, doing a Masters in Environmental Studies, he says during his time at Concordia he wanted to find a way to apply the knowledge he learned inside the classroom outside of school.
“My inspiration was brought on by the peril of the Galapagos Islands and the challenges of bringing theory to real life for biologists at Concordia.”
He also says he wanted to bring attention to the problems facing this Ecuadorian archipelago.
“I believe in the conservation of the Galapagos and the need for others to become aware of the ongoing issues such as invasive species and development on the islands.”
But getting the project realized wasn’t easy. Tsang wanted CGP to be an annual trip, and had to look for the right NGO to associate the project. To attain funds, candidates took part in fundraising events, and appeals were made to Concordia associations like the Concordia Student Union (CSU).
Their hard work was rewarded and in February 2006, Tsang, along with six other students, went to the Galapagos, and spent almost three weeks there. He says the experience yielded educational results for the Concordia group.
“[CGP] was no vacation by any means. The work we did was tough but rewarding. I made sure the school’s money was purely for an academic experience. A lot of the conversations we had on the trip were discussing and debating theory from what we learned in class.”
Larroche says it was a gratifying experience.
“It’s very inspiring.when you go to the Galapagos.it gives you a different idea of what you’re doing when you come back.”
Tsang had similar sentiments when describing his time there.
“Words cannot express the beauty of the Galapagos. Helping the natives with sustainable agriculture, ridding invasive species, collecting endangered plants’ seeds to bring back to the nursery, swimming with turtles and sharks was just a small part. We taught little children who come from the mainland the importance of conservation and the steps of making compost.”
There were some lighter moments on the trip as well such as a failed attempt by one of the volunteers to catch a pig.
“One of our guys.saw a pig running in the forest.and if you catch it you can eat it. So he ran into a berry bush, they’re everywhere and they have thorns.and he just dove into the forest to catch the pig and missed it!” said Larroche.
But he didn’t miss the thorns. Last year’s group was more fortunate.
“Yes, last year the people caught the pig and ate it,” said Larroche.
Only biology students in their first or second year can take part in CGP. Tsang wanted this rule to be enforced “to ensure that students can share their experience for at least another year with their peers at Concordia.”
He hopes that one day, CGP will become part of the biology curriculum. But for now, he recommends the trip to other biology students.
“CGP brings a lot of what we’re studying into perspective and [allows students to] experience the unparalleled beauty of the Galapagos Islands.”


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