Following Darwin’s trail
RIT groups flock to the Galapagos
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Robert Rothman has built a bridge from RIT to the Galapagos Islands.
Rothman, professor of biology, first visited the islands in 1989. He has returned 19 times to the Pacific archipelago 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, leading a total of about 200 RIT students, parents, faculty, alumni and friends to the islands where Charles Darwin began to develop his theory of natural selection.
Usually, the group sets out in June, as they did this year. He has special plans for 2009. That year marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work, Origin of Species.
“I’m planning a trip for February 2009, in addition to the June trip,” says Rothman. “It will give us the opportunity to see the islands in a different season, and, of course, it’s a chance for more people to go.”
Rothman’s groups are small – no more than 15, a size that he feels allows a richer experience for participants. They have a comfortable vessel to themselves and choose their own itinerary.
Each trip is different, but Rothman’s groups have snorkeled with penguins and marine iguanas, observed flightless cormorants tending to their chicks, and ridden horses to the top of an active volcano. Few visitors go home without close-ups of giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies, but some of the islands’ unique residents reveal themselves only to the patient observers. For example, there are 13 distinct Darwin finches, and they are difficult to identify. After 19 visits, Rothman has seen 11.
“We like to go slowly,” says Rothman. “It’s about watching.”
To find out more about the trips, contact Rothman at 585-475-5215 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his Web site at: Galapagos.rit.edu. He’ll also be giving a slide presentation and talk at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, during Brick City Homecoming.