Days before their Fall Break trip to the Galapagos Islands as part of a course in the Department of Biological Sciences, 14 Notre Dame undergraduates introduced the Darwin-inspiring islands to youngsters at the Robinson Community Learning Center who will be “virtual explorers” with them through the adventure. They urged eager students in 1st through 12th grades to hypothesize about how tortoises reached the islands (maybe they got carried by currents?), how penguins evolved to flourish at the Equator (among other things, they shade their tender feet with their flippers), why finches developed different beak styles (check the seeds they eat), and more. Students examining images wondered why some iguanas were drab and others bright-colored (mating display exceptions to the heat-absorbing dark shades), and learned that marine iguanas sneeze excess salt from their noses after a swim.
The undergraduates will keep in touch with the students through blogs and social media during their visit to six different locations in the islands, where they will conduct observations for their own research projects. Professors Gary Lamberti and Mac Fraser organized the course, a trip embedded in a semester of on-campus study, with support from Notre Dame’s Study Abroad experts.
A grant from the Center for Social Concerns, funded by ND GAIN, enabled the outreach to the students at the Robinson Community Learning Center. The undergraduates will report back to the students when they return from the trip.