2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 13
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM


WIRTH, Karl R., Geology Department, Macalester College, 1600 Grand Ave, St. Paul, MN 55105, CRADDOCK, John, Macalester College, 1600 Grand Ave, St. Paul, MN 55105 and WATKINS, Timothy, Biology Department, Macalester College, 1600 Grand Ave, St. Paul, MN 55105, wirth@macalester.edu

The Macalester Geology Department conducts annual field excursions to international destinations (e.g., Bahamas, Costa Rica, Crete, Hawaii) during the January intersession. The rich history, fascinating biology, and active geology of the Galapagos Islands make them an ideal classroom. Objectives of the intersession trips include: 1) providing science students with international experiences, 2) providing opportunities for students to observe geologic features and processes in the field, and 3) detailed examination of different geographic regions and tectonic provinces. The Galapagos excursion has the added objectives of learning about the geology of ocean islands, island biogeography, and the history of science (evolution hypothesis).

Prior to the excursion, students and faculty (geology and biology) participate in a weekly seminar to develop background knowledge and for logistical planning. Seminar participants learn about the geography and culture of the region; and read selections from classic works (e.g., Voyage of the Beagle, Origin of Species), popular literature (e.g., Beak of the Finch), and scientific publications on biology and geology. Each student leads one seminar discussion.

Because the Galapagos are a popular tourist destination, a boat must be chartered at least 6-9 months in advance. One advantage is that relatively few other logistical arrangements need to be made because transportation, lodging, and meals are all provided on a boat. One disadvantage of conducting an excursion in the Galapagos is decreased flexibility to conduct individual or group projects in the field. A second disadvantage of travel in the Galapagos is cost. A two-week excursion, including nine-day boat charter and two 2-day land-based stays in the Galapagos and in Quito costs $2500-3,000 per student.

Student learning on the excursion is assessed using field notebooks and a final paper. Students make daily entries in a notebook that include field observations and reflections on their learning. Each student is also required to develop a short-format (6-10 pages) research proposal. Development of project ideas is facilitated by readings, discussions with naturalists, and group discussions during evenings while in the field. For many students and faculty, the Galapagos excursion is a transforming experience.