Friday, February 25, 2011

I'm Back! (Maybe)

You want to know what I've been working on over the past week and consistently for the past 12 hours? Oh, you do? OK! here it is in rough draft form and no graphs (but trust me they are gorgeous)

The Galapagos Islands are home to a variety of flora and fauna, whose actions are magnified by the partial isolation of the islands. Lytechinus semituberculatus is a green sea urchin that is very common in large numbers located in the intertidal zones and shallow coastal waters with low wave action around the Galapagos. The urchins belonging to this species are considered browsers, nibbling on plants and debris with five, sharp, chisel-like teeth. Another species of urchin Eucidaris thouarsii, is located in similar habitats and often found intermixed with the green urchins. These urchins graze on encrusting algae and are considered predators on both pocillipora and pavona corals.
There are three prominent algaes located in the intertidal and shallow water zone in the area of the Galapagos in which the survey was performed. Ulva lactuca is a type of green algae that is two cell layers thick. It is not limited in length or width and will continue to grow if cut or torn due to grazing or wave action. It is found in the intertidal zone at depths up to 20 meters. Padina pavonica is a type of brown algae that grows on rocky or hard substrates also to a depth of 20 meters. The plants can grow up to 15 centimeters and are often calcified with calcium carbonate giving them their distinctive fan shape. Turf algae grow on the hard substrates and are often guarded by damselfish that maintain “algal lawns”. The turf at the sample site was brown in color and usually around 3-5 centimeters long.
All of these species interact with each other in Loberia Grande, a lagoon that is partly sheltered from the wave action of the ocean. The lava rock in the lagoon is covered with a combination of algae and urchins. According to Glynn et al. (1979), grazing by sea urchins can alter the distribution, relative abundance, and species composition of marine plants which may also indirectly affect animal populations. After noticing the large numbers of green sea urchins, I wondered if the high density had an impact on the ecosystem. The goal of the study was to determine whether the density of urchins had an impact on the abundance and type of algae. I hypothesized that a higher density of green urchins would correspond with a lower percentage of algae coverage due to the grazing pressure of the green urchins. I formed the same null hypothesis for both green urchins and slate pencil urchins. One of the goals of this experiment was to determine what kind of algae the urchins eat. This would be determined by the type of algae that has the lowest percent cover when numerous amounts of urchins are present. I also predicted that the slate pencil urchins would have no correlation with the abundance or type of algae because it does not prey on the types of algae present in Loberia Grande.
Null Hypothesis A: There is no relationship between density of green sea urchins and algal percent cover
Null Hypothesis B: There is no relationship between density of slate pencil urchins and algal percent cover.
Methods: Samplings were taken on February 17th and 23rd, 2011 at Loberia Grande on the island of Isabela in the Galapagos. The times of the survey were not relevant to the outcome of the experiment. A 0.25 m2 quadrat was used to estimate percent cover of the substrate along with the number and species of urchins in each quadrat. The quadrats were placed relatively randomly over the shallow, rocky regions of the lagoon.  Some quadrats were purposefully placed to collect data for a certain amount of urchins in one area to gather a wider spread of data. This included intentionally collecting data from locations with no urchins present inside the area of the quadrat. A total of 40 quadrats were analyzed.
Results: A range of 0-13 green urchins and 0-5 slate pencil urchins were counted in the quadrats. Three different types of algae were most prominent in the sampled quadrats; ulva, padina, and turf. Other substrates found were cyanobacteria, sand, and rock.
Figure 1. Substrate composition and percentages of the 40 quadrats sampled during the study.
When the percentages for all types of algae were totaled, it was apparent that quadrats which contained more green urchins had less total percentage of algae. The R2 value of 0.6388 and the p value of less than 0.0001 show that this correlation is statistically significant.
Figure 2. The correlation between the number of green sea urchins and total percentage of algal cover in the 40 quadrats sampled. All three major types and “other” algae percentages were added together. The R2 value was 0.6388 and the p value was less than 0.0001.
The number of slate pencil urchins showed almost no correlation to the total percent of algae in each quadrat. In fact, the quadrat that contained 5 slate pencil urchins also had 95% algae cover. The trendline for the data also showed no steady correlation and produced a R2 value of 0.0006 and a p value of 0.883496, both of which indicated no statistical correlation.
Figure 3. The correlation between the number of pencil urchins and total percentage of algal cover in the 40 quadrats sampled. The R2 value was 0.0006 and the p value was 0.883496.
When comparing the number of green urchins to the percentage of different algal species, there is an inverse relationship with algal cover. As the amount of green urchins increases, the amount of algae decreases. This stands true for all 3 types of algae. The ulva and padina had downward trends, but the R2 values were 0.0771 and 0.0235 respectively, leading to no significant correlations. The relationship between the number of green urchins and the percentage of turf was much more pronounced and yielded an R2 value of 0.4566 and a p value of less than 0.0001 leading to statistical significance.
Figure 4. The relationship between the density of green urchins and the percentage of turf in the quadrat yielded an R2 value of 0.4566 and a p value of less than 0.0001.
Graphs and R2 values were calculated for each type of urchin-algae relationship, but only the green urchin vs. turf relationship was statistically significant.
Discussion: Null Hypothesis A stating that the density of green urchins had no correlation with algal cover percent cover was disproved. There is a relationship between the density and algal cover shown by the R2 value and p value. Both of these statistically lead to the conclusion that higher densities of green urchins will lead to lower percentages of algal cover. Since green urchins are known to feed on algae in the intertidal and shallow rocky zones, it is logical to assume that the lower algal cover is due to the grazing pressure of the green urchin.
Statistics also shows that the green urchins are eating turf more than any other type of algae. All algae show a decline in percent cover as the density of green urchins increases, but only the values for turf show that the correlation is statistically significant. This shows that the urchins may be grazing on all the types of algae, but turf is their preferred food source and they eat more of it than the other types of algae. This also shows that if there is a higher density of urchins in one area, the chances of turf growing in that same area are diminished. This could be a reason why the damselfish diligently remove urchins from their algal lawns and the area surrounding the algal lawns. Since damselfish like to maintain an intermediate amount of grazing, they are likely to remove urchins because urchins decimate the algae instead of maintaining it.
Null Hypothesis B was not able to be disproved. The slate pencil urchin density did not show any relationship to the percentage of algal cover. Comparing the density of the urchins to both total percent algae and individual species of algae yielded no significant correlation data. This is an expected result when incorporated with the information that this species of urchin does not eat algae, but mostly feeds on coralline algae and corals. The study by Glynn et al. (1979) reported that the slate pencil urchin had a significant (P<.05) inverse correlation with live coral cover which is similar to the correlation found in my own study between green urchins and algae.
Glynn et al. (1979) determined that removal of algae by sea urchins provides space for coral settlements on reefs. If green urchins are removing a significant amount of algae from a reef system, hard corals can settle which provides food for the slate pencil urchins. Although much of the coral was eliminated on Isabela by the 1982-1983 El NiƱo, it is still present in smaller populations. If it were completely eliminated, then there would be no slate pencil urchins present because they would have no food to sustain their populations.  My study shows that the green urchins are effective in removing considerable amounts of algae from the reef. This information combined with the study by Glynn et al.(1979) shows a cycle of algae, corals, and urchins. The grazing by green urchins removes algae leaving room for corals to grow. The corals are eaten by the slate pencil urchins leaving room for algae to grow once again. When this cycle is in effect and in equilibrium across a reef system then populations of both green and slate pencil urchins will be sustained as they are in Loberia Grande.

What do you think? I think that Peter Glynn is my not so new hero. I'm so lucky that I got to learn from him- the Galapagos are his turf when it comes to scientific studies. Truly. Look up any published scientific papers about the Galapagos and I guarantee his name will pop up on at least 50% of them and he is probably referenced in the other half. Along with Peter Glynn I'd like to thank the Academy and also my sister Meredith for helping me through her amazing scientific librarian ninja genius powers. Basically she downloaded PDFs and emailed them to me since there's not enough bandwith? here and the connection times out before PDFs can be downloaded of of UM's server, but somehow it doesn't time out when downloading from email. Make sense to you? It doesn't make sense to me either. Anyways thank you Merry and go check out her Etsy business. It's pretty awesome and there is a link on the right side of my blog. Over there-----> You might have to scroll down a little.
The parents arrive on Saturday afternoon and we are going on a cruise (my first!) from Sunday to Wednesday. I have mixed feelings about this that I will explain in another post, but I am not sure if I will have internet on the boat. It makes sense that I won't, right? But I promise tales of adventure from the hotel in Santa Cruz towards the end of next week and maybe some pictures from my rental computer that my parents are bringing me. Is that enough to get you to stick around? Oh man am I going to need coffee in the morning!

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Have you ever seen anything more beautiful than this octopus? Ryan and I found it while snorkeling in La Concha yesterday and I cannot stop looking at this picture. National Geographic: You will be getting this in the mail in a few months.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A New Garden

I wrote this a while ago, but I just found that it never published so you can enjoy this while waiting for updated news:
Last week before I left for the overnight trip to Santa Cruz, my host family planted some plants in the backyard. The tree is called a ciruella and produces small fruits about the size of plums. They turn red when they are ripe and they are pretty yummy.
 The grass type thing is used to make tea which is also pretty delicious. It is very sweet.
I don't want to be a Negative Nancy, but I don't see much hope for these plants. These islands are purely volcanic and you can see from the pictures that the backyard is a lava field and not very conducive to growing plants. Oh well. Maythe and I got to play in the lava pit while Lorena and Junior planted and we made a lava rock tower. It's actually a lot easier to make rock towers out of these rocks compared to the ones on the coast of New England because these are much more porous and can easily grip to one another- just like Legos.
Maythe began to dance with the clothing that was drying on the line and we began a game of show off for Hannah's camera. It's one of her favorite games and she is very good at it.
 Dear new tree and plant- I wish the best luck growing on the most harsh environment ever. Happy Valentines Day. Sincerely, Hannah

Thursday, February 17, 2011


One thing that is different with the Spanish in the Galapagos compared to the Spanish I learned in high school is that they don't say adios to say goodbye, only ciao. This is because adios is final, there is no going back so they only use it when someone is moving away for an extended period of time like I will be in April. But today I say adios, because I'm not sure how many people actually read this blog and I don't want to leave you all hanging. My 1.5 year old macbook pro has suffered a painful death and is completely out of commission.  Thankfully my friend Ryan has two computers with him so I am using his tiny netbook until my parents can bring me a computer when they arrive next weekend. Hopefully they can get my computer fixed so it will be ready when I get home. Hopefully.
In the meantime we are now studying marine ecology which involves snorkeling every single day, plus lots of reading scientific papers, writing lab reports based on the data we collected when snorkeling (I'm getting good at holding a clipboard, pencil, fish ID, camera, and quadrat while snorkeling in some rough swells. We are also starting to collect data for individual projects. My point is between my lack of a computer and the amount of time consumed with this course, the blog is going on the back burner for a while. So as long as you don't hear from me, assume I am still alive, healthy, happy, and learning more than I ever thought I would about yellowtail damselfish and all the other species of fish in the Galapagos. We have an overnight field trip next week to Floreana which I am very excited for. Besides that, life is life. 
And so I say adios to you all. The next time I will blog will probably be with my parents or when this class ends next Saturday. Maybe I'll make my parents do a guest post about our adventures as tourists on a cruise boat. Until then, I will continue to take pictures and mental memories to share with you all when I get back!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Santa Cruz/Seymour Norte Field Trip

 On Friday we ventured to Santa Cruz and Seymour Norte for a field trip. I woke up at 4:45 AM to get to IOI at 5:15 where the class, professors, Lauren, and the English teachers got on the chiva and went down to the port. It took us 1.5 hours to get to Santa Cruz and we checked into Hotel Verde Azul, put our stuff down, ate breakfast and departed for Seymour Norte. Seymour Norte is the island north of Baltra which is north of Santa Cruz. We rode a bus across Santa Cruz where we got on a beautiful boat that took us to Seymour Norte. We laid on the front "basking deck" and sang "I'm on a Boat". That is how amazing this boat was. I forgot my camera for the Seymour Norte part of the trip, but we saw so many amazing things. Frigate birds EVERYWHERE with babies, blue footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls with eggs, colorful land iguanas, sea lions. If you have an image of what you think the Galapagos looks like (I did before I came here), this island looks exactly like what you think it will. Cacti, rolling waves, baby sea lions playing, thousands of birds nesting.
After our tour of Seymour Norte, our yacht took us to a snorkeling site which was rather lame. We saw the same kind of fish that we normally see in places like Concha de Perla or Tintoreras. The dingy associated with the yacht picked us up and we fit all 17 people in a very small inflatable boat including many many fins. It was a little crowded and Marina has some awesome pictures of us all. The dingy took us to the edge of Seymour Norte and that site was so much better. We found a school of around 10 white tip sharks and we watched them for a while swimming all around each other. It was pretty awesome. Back on the yacht, they served us lunch on real china with real silverware as we motored back to Santa Cruz. We rode the bus back to Puerto Ayora (the town on Santa Cruz) and Marina, Hilary, and I went shopping. (Mom, I didn't buy anything, but I saw some stuff I liked. We will have to go shopping when you are here.) Rene, our guide from when we were with Sarah, stopped by to pick the 5 divers up from the hotel and we went to his shop to get briefed on the dive for the next day. We met the dive master, who thankfully spoke English, got all the equipment set, and then headed off to dinner. We met up with the rest of the group at the only good pizza place in all of the Galapagos.
Next morning was dive day. Only 5 of us chose to go since it was so expensive ($165), but those who went definitely enjoyed it. We had to wake up for the second early morning in a row at 5:15. We got breakfast and made it to the port by 6 for boat boarding and a beautiful sunrise.
 We motored over to Gordon Rocks, which is a pretty advanced dive site. We actually snorkeled at this location. I talk about it here! There is a ton of current and I found the dive pretty challenging. I got low on air pretty quick since I was nervous and moving around more than I needed to so Marina let me use some of her air so we could extend the dive for a while. What I learned is I need to dive some more shallow dives (<50ft) and become a better diver before I try more advanced dives again. Thank you Marina for being patient with me. We saw hammerheads!!!! and a lot of other pretty fish.
We went down to around 75-80 ft. That was my first deep dive, and although I survived, I have to say I didn't like deepish diving that much. When we came up from that dive my ears started killing me and I had a bloody nose when I reached the surface. No fun. The ear pain gave me a headache which in turn made me nauseous from being on the boat. All of these made me want to cry and I decided to skip the tank in fear of worse pain or actually damaging my ears. I handed off my camera to Ryan and he recorded the following pictures from the second tank dive:

We made it back in time to go to lunch with the rest of the group who had stayed in Puerto Ayora for the day, but I was in no mood to eat. I've never experienced such bad ear pain. The strange thing was that I was fine during the dive, my ears cleared well going down and coming up, but as soon as I hit the surface there was massive amounts of pain and of course the bloody nose, so something in my sinuses was not right. At 3 we took the ferry back to Puerto Villamil (the only town and our home on Isabela) and for some reason the captain decided to drive like a tortoise. It took us 3 hours and I attempted to sleep for most of it since I had two very early mornings and didn't sleep well either of those nights. Something very, very sad happened during the trip. The boat hit a manta ray. It woke me and everyone else up because it sounded like the boat had run aground or hit an iceberg. That bad. The boat immediately stopped and Johann pointed out the flapping and dying manta ray behind the boat. So sad. Now there is one less beautiful ocean creature out there to observe.
So now we are back in Villamil and my ear is feeling a lot better. Not 100% yet, but I don't need to go to a doctor which is a very good thing. I take back what I said about wanting to punch a baby sea lion that was barking on shore while I was laying on the dive boat feeling awful. We have to write our final bird paper and that will sum up the entirety of terrestrial biology. Marine ecology starts tomorrow and it will be the hardest class while we are here. We are snorkeling all day everyday with lectures and projects mixed in. Hopefully we will get a chance to eat/sleep once in a while. Also, my parents will be here in less than 2 weeks for spring break! I am super excited to see them and get a chance to relax and be a bit of a tourist.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

An Attempt at Being Philosophical

Many people come to the Galapagos to visit and experience the wonder of it all. I see tourists walking around town every day. They search around and find the perfect photos to bring back home and show off. Yes, they were here, but were they really here? Right now, my body is in the Galapagos. I am learning and experiencing it all, but after I leave, how will I remind myself that I was actually here? I can take all the photos that I want. I can take pictures of the propaganda signs that the government puts up, but do I actually understand the implications of that sign? I can take a picture of our beer bottles on the table at the bar, but do I know the exchange that was made to get the beer to this island, into the bar, and onto our table? That involves a lot of money exchange. 
In a couple months when I am sitting wherever life brings me I am not going to remember exactly what the sunrise looked like this morning when I sleepily rode my bike at 5:45 AM to IOI to go on a field trip. I am not going to remember what the sand feels like in between my toes when I go to the beach on a Sunday afternoon with my host family. When people ask me “How was your time in the Galapagos?” what I hope is going to come to mind is not the pictures of myself in front of a 150 year-old tortoise, the beautiful sunsets, wasting time with my friends, late nights studying, but the feelings I have had and continue to experience here. When I get home from a long day of class and there is my host sister wanting to give me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. When I go snorkeling at Concha and there is a sea lion that wants to play with me. When I go to the store across the street to buy ice cream and there is a little girl in my English class who calls me Tia Hannah and waves to me shyly. These are the feelings that I want to remember and these are the things that you can’t achieve with a week and a camera. 
I can take pictures of the marine iguanas at Playa Del Amor or the flamingos on the way to Centro de Crianza, but what I can’t take a picture of is the satisfaction of sitting quietly next to the marine iguanas and watching them do mating displays and dig burrows to lay eggs in when they think you aren’t watching or walking that extra distance to the water tower to watch the unique feeding behavior of the flamingos that only occurs in this one pond. These are the things that I am terrified I am going to forget. I can take pictures of the superficial with my camera-no problem. But how will I ever record what goes deeper than the superficial?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Week 4

It is the start of week 4. I can hardly believe it! Finally it has been sunny for the 2nd straight day in a row! It has been much welcomed and now we can successfully bike down the road without either walking our bikes down the sidewalk or slowly pedaling through the foot or two deep sewage mixed mud puddles. The ceiling in my room has been fixed and the water is slowly drying out of the walls. Good stuff.
We just rapped up our section on reptiles with a test. Our big research projects were due last night. And several other smaller projects have been turned in. For our research project Megan and I were going to research the amount of body lengths that a marine iguana could travel before resting. Since they cannot breathe while they are moving, they must stop and rest periodically. We were wondering if the amount of body lengths that they could travel before resting had something to do with their body size. Unfortunately the rain made them be stationary and hide. We rode our bikes down to Casa Rosada on Saturday and it started pouring as soon as they go there. Needless to say the iguanas were not feeling like running across the beach to forage- they were asleep. Sunday we tried again and found more sleeping iguanas. After talking to Kathryn, our professor, we changed our project to incorporate the crappy weather. We studied the amount that an iguana could raise its body temperature above that of the substrate it is on on a cloudy day. Thank you weather. Through many trips to get ice cream and to the pasteleria, we finished that scientific paper.
The next topic up is birds, which I am very excited for. Lynn is teaching this one and I am really starting to like her as a professor. I am also looking forward to our fieldtrip to Seymour Norte on Friday. We are taking the 6AM boat to Santa Cruz, doing a day tour, snorkeling, and staying overnight at Verde Azul (the hotel that we stayed at for the 4 days we were on Santa Cruz with Sarah). The next day we have the option of going scuba diving! Woohoo! Scuba here is so expensive ($150 per dive), but it may be my only chance to dive while I am in the Galapagos since the others are going during spring break while I am with my family. We are hoping to have Rene(our guide in Santa Cruz while we were with Sarah) take us on his boat to Gordon's Rocks where we are hoping to see hammerheads. That is the goal.
Right now I am actually kind of skyping with my dad. No video, crackly audio, but this is a big improvement from the past couple of days with the clouds and rain. Since I know you will read this- Dad- the internet died and I have to go to class. We will try again later.
I hope to get some pictures up soon- I have some from snorkeling on Friday and yesterday morning when I biked down to Playa Del Amor with Ryan and Amy. They had to do some project research and since I was done, I decided to just enjoy the Galapagos. Not bad for a Monday morning.
In other news, there is a stomach bug going around. All 13 of us have had some form of diarrhea while we were adjusting to the food, but every once in a while someone will get sick and start throwing up. I am really trying to avoid it and using mass amounts of hand sanitizer. Dear immune system- please please please! I want to go diving on Saturday. Sincerely, Hannah.
So, not much Galapagos exploring has happened in the past couple days because of the rain and the massive amount of work, studying, and projects that we have been doing, but it is still a lot of fun. I am learning a lot and gaining an appreciation not only for the Galapagos, but for the people here. This is technically a third world country, but the people here are the same as they are in the U.S. For example, one on my host family's cousins just left to go live in Quito with her mother since her parents are divorced. Lorena is worried about her making friends, going to school, and starting a new life. She keeps asking me if my parents ask about how I am liking it here. A few days ago she says that if her own daughter went to go live with a different family that she would be worried sick. It was funny. She told me that my parents didn't know if she was a good person or a bad person, yet they trust her to take care of their daughter. Which to let you know, she is a very good person and she takes care of me very well. I am never hungry and she understands that I need time to study and sleep and understands that I go out with my friends some nights. "No hay un problema" Things with the family are going great. This place is definitely starting to feel like home. I was worried about not eating while I was here and losing weight and just the opposite is happening. The food is so amazing and everyday I either go and get an ice cream bar from one of the local stores or chocolate croissants, pineapple bread, or amazing donals from the bakery. Donals are the most amazing things ever. They are kind of like donuts, but they have more bread and in the middle is a creme like filling and there is powdered sugar on top. So amazing.
So now I am rambling and making myself hungry so I am going to go downstairs and socialize before class. Hopefully I will try to get pictures up soon and maybe some from our bird field trip this afternoon which I am more than excited for. Yippee!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Lluvia, lluvia, lluvia

Hi people! Que paso? It's been raining non stop here so the internet has been epic amounts of slow. I can barely load my email some days. That's why you haven't heard from me. No, I haven't died...yet. That will come next weekend when I go diving with hammer heads hehe. There is flooding all over town and my bike is permanently stationed at IOI because there are too many puddles around town. Between the puddles that span the road that are knee deep and the mud roads, it is impossible to ride a bike. There are leaks in the roof! There is one by my door that keeps dripping and evidence of water coming through the walls next to my bed and in my bathroom and this morning I woke up and there is an inch of standing water next to my bed. It looks like it is coming through the border between the wall and the floor. My host dad is out hunting cows in the highlands, but when he gets back he is going to fix everything. Hopefully.

Class wise we have moved past botany and onto lizards and iguanas. During the two hours that it wasn't raining yesterday we took a field trip on the salt marsh trail to see the lava lizards and their burrows. Today we are going to watch iguanas at the tintoreras and then we get to go snorkeling! I hope it is semi-decent weather.
male lava lizard
Last night I took a taxi home from school with JR since it was pouring rain and I had my computer. It only costs $1 to go anywhere in town. I think we should implement this in Miami. Anyways, when I got home Maythe and her cousin Pamela greeted me at the door with big hugs. We ate dinner, which was chicken lasagna, with Pamela and her mom, which is ironic because a few of us requested chicken lasagna from a restaurant for lunch today. After dinner the girls played and watched Hercules and I got to talk to my host mom and her sister in law for a long time. We talked about everything. Our families, school, boys that have no futures, pregnancy(the sister in law is two months pregnant but already has a huge stomach. Lorena says there are probably 2 in there, I say at least 4.), jobs. Everything. It was a lot of fun and just 24 hours before that I was commenting to a friend that I wasn't getting a chance to speak in Spanish much this week since we had so much class time.
So this is life in Villamil. Constantly battling the rain, floods, and roof leaks, studying lizards in the rain, and learning Spanish. Enough about Australia flooding, Puerto Villamil is underwater! Clearly CNN has never been here haha!
P.S.-Merry, I didn't have your address so your postcard didn't go out with the ones on Monday and I just pulled it out of the flood that is on my floor. I will rewrite it and send it if you can give me your address. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Double the Field Trip, Double the Fun

So I totally had gorgeous photos from today uploaded (it took 2 hours while I was working on my project and going to the bakery), but I am a doofus who closed my computer and rode my bike home for dinner before they finished processing. When I opened up my computer this evening NOTHING. I didn't want to leave you with nothing, but the pictures are 80% of todays adventure, so tomorrow I will upload them. Check back tomorrow and hopefully there will be gorgeous pictures of everything that is described below:

Now it is cloudy and the internet is super lame :(. I will get the pictures up eventually!
The pictures are officially up!
Today we had double the field trips. And it was a lot of fun and a lot of adventure. We had lecture this morning based on the plants of the highlands and then loaded up the chiva and drove up. On the way we spotted several Galapagos Hawks. They are an endemic species. It is super rare to have an endemic land bird species because the chance that two accidentally wind up on an island due to hurricanes or whatever and reproduce only happens once in a while. The Galapagos hawks have a female matriarch and several males follow her around. They are absolutely gorgeous.
The finca that we visited belongs to one of Lauren’s friends and they are starting to make an orderly farm instead of just having fruit trees in the middle of a natural forest like most of the fincas.
Lauren led us through the finca and down onto a path that runs between the national park and the fincas. She then led us along and under a barbed wire fence and through the forest to make our way back. She convinced us that she had gone that way before with the owner of the finca, but we ran into a lot more trouble. The brush and the trees were dense and a lot of them, like every plant in the Galapagos, had thorns and spines. We bushwhacked our way for a rather long time, diverting around stinging wasps and bee nests. My legs are rather scratched, but I was wearing my raincoat since it was raining so I just put on my hood and zipped it up and plowed through the forest. It’s time to invest in a machete.
After lunch at IOI we went to the Wall of Tears, which is basically a huge rock wall that convicts were forced to make when the Galapagos was a penal colony. All of the prisoners from mainland Ecuador were sent here and treated horribly. Just being next to the wall was eerie.
There were steps up to a lookout and what we thought was a path. There were a few of us way ahead of the pack so we took the path and it led to the top of a gorgeous lookout. We could see ocean in three directions and it had a great view of all of Isabela and Puerto Villamil.
We also saw our first non-captive tortoises since we got to Isabela. They all have numbers on them because they were raised for their first couple years in captivity and then released. This ensures their chances of survival because a lot of dogs can break through the shells of the younger tortoises with their teeth.
We visited a mangrove forest back down towards Playa Del Amor and there were black mangroves that were massive. One of the trees is said to give you good energy in life if you hugged it. Of course I did. I got ants crawling all over me and I’m tired. Oh well. Maybe it is long-term energy. My Uncle Jack is quite the mangrove expert so I took some pictures that I know he would like. A few of the mangroves are between 250-300 years old and 40 or 50 feet tall. It took 3 of us holding hands to hug its base. Don’t get that in southwest Florida do we Uncle Jack? Haha
 Since we are in Ecuador on volunteer visas, we are starting up our volunteering aspect of the trip. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I will be teaching English to the 4-year-old kiddos at a local day care/preschool type place from 8-9AM. Today I went to meet them and get a feel for the classroom and so far they seem like a lot of fun. I sat next to one girl who already knew English and was absolutely brilliant. All the other kids were picking their noses and smashing puzzle pieces in random spots on the board, but she was matching colors on the pieces to each other, making sure she put heads on all her animals, absolute genius. I’m going to have to pull out some SAT vocab for that one. The rest are learning colors. Tomorrow I am starting at red (the very beginning. A very nice place to start). I made them a cute little coloring worksheet. Tomorrow is also the due date for our botany projects and botany test! Ahhhh!