Tarleton State University students and faculty took a nine-day study abroad trip to Ecuador to experience the culture in Quito and unique flora and fauna of three Galapagos Islands — San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabela.

The activities included a visit to the equatorial line and Intinan Museum; snorkeling with sea lions, sea turtles and fish; observations of blue-footed boobies, pelicans, Sally Lightfoot crabs, marine iguanas and tortoises on the islands; hiking up a volcano; a visit to the Charles Darwin research station; a tour of the Otavalo indigenous market; and a visit to Jardin Botanico Garden.

“Studying abroad this summer was an adventure I will always hold close to my heart. The sights, culture and different types of species I got to see were all so unique,” said biology undergrad student Kelsey Graf. “Growing up in Texas my whole life, getting to explore Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands was quite a different scene. It’s not every day that you get to swim with sea lions, be touching distance from a 500-pound tortoise or hike up a volcano. Turns out you don’t get to do those kind of things in Texas. The memories and the friends made will last a lifetime and I’m fortunate to have gotten this opportunity of a lifetime!”

Tarleton students who went on the journey were psychological sciences undergrads Kyle Knust, Linzi Montgomery, Jay Helmer, Jacob Beaver, Mikayla Garcia and Sophia Stice; psychological sciences grad students Savannah Hines, Sophie Mullen and Taylor Smith; psychological sciences faculty Dr. Amber Harris Bozer and Dr. Jamie Borchardt; biology undergrad students Stephanie Aguallo, Trenton Baggett, Kelsey Graf, Dylan Oates, Sidney Parker, Chandler Quilchez, Kyra Schmidt, Madison Thibodeaux and Keely Wilson; biology grad student Jaynelle Nowell; and biology faculty Callie Price and Dr. Jesse Meik.

“It’s surreal to say our Tarleton students and faculty have actually visited the Galapagos. This is a place that biology faculty teach about, but never have I thought we would have the opportunity to visit there with students and be face-to-face with endemic wildlife,” said Callie Price. “I think the moment this all really sunk in was when we visited the (preserved) world famous conservation icon, ‘Lonesome George,’ (the last individual of the Chelonoidis abingdonii tortoise species). The biology-psychology collaboration on this study abroad was effectual at bringing different areas of expertise together, offering a robust experience for our students.”

Price added that it’s important for Tarleton to offer these types of learning experiences to students.

“Tarleton is growing to new heights never seen before,” Price said. “It is important that we are offering diverse educational opportunities in order to adapt to our ever-changing students.”