RIT Professor Introduces Students—and Soon Alumni—to Galapagos Islands

RIT professor Bob Rothman has gone to the Galapagos Islands 28 times, but each time he steps off the plane in Ecuador he’s never quite sure what he’ll see during his trip.

“I have never come back from the Galapagos and not seen something new,” said Rothman.

The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean that are a part of the Republic of Ecuador. A protected national park, the islands are home to a large swath of wildlife that has made it the world’s preeminent nature tourism destination.

Rothman, who is a biology professor in RIT’s College of Science, fell in love with the islands during his first trip in 1989 and began sharing his passion with RIT students in 1990, through his course Galapagos: Evolution and Ecology. The class, which attracts students from disciplines as diverse as the islands themselves, has been incredibly popular. Throughout the semester, students meet once a week and learn about the history of the Galapagos, its ecology, and present-day conservation efforts, culminating in a trip to Galapagos for their open-ended final exam.

“Students come away just blown away from this,” said Rothman. “It’s nature as you’ve never experienced.”

Students typically live on a boat during the week, which enables them to travel easily from island to island, accessing remote parts of the Galapagos. Traveling this way allows them to get up close and personal to many more animals via land and sea, including lava lizards, marine iguanas, giant tortoises, and sea lions, just to name a few. And, according Rothman, so close that students need to remember to keep their shoes tied.

“On my last trip a tortoise started chew on the shoelace of one of my students. Another time while snorkeling, a student’s bracelet was mistaken by a flightless cormorant as seaweed, which they use for nesting, who started pecking at it. It really is an experience like no other.”

For the first time, the Office of Alumni Relations is now opening up this once-in-a-lifetime trip to alumni. In order to best gauge interest in a trip to the Galapagos, please email Ron Goldberg, Director of Reunion and Affinity Programs, at rjgrar@rit.edu letting him know if this trip appeals to you.