Make The Connection

June 26, 2024 | By Cole Hatcher

Ohio Wesleyan students visit a lava tunnel in Santa Cruz during their Travel-Learning Course studying Island Biology in the Galapagos. (Photos courtesy of Ramon Carreno)

Evolving Education

Ohio Wesleyan Students Travel to Galapagos to Complete Semester-Long Study of Island Biology

Brian Harrington '25 (lower left) observes a lava heron while surveying the coastline during Ohio Wesleyan's Island Biology Travel-Learning Course in the Galapagos.

Name: Brian Harrington '25
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
High School: Dublin Scioto High School
Major: General Zoology
Minor: Music Performance (Trumpet)

Name: Shae Kline '25
Hometown: Troy, Ohio
High School: Troy High School
Major: Biology

OWU Connection Experience: Island Biology Travel-Learning Course

Along with Harrington and Kline, students Brielle Decarolis '25 of Albrightsville, Pennsylvania; Brandon Edwards '24 of Milford, Ohio; Alyssa Head '24 of Houston, Texas; Sophia Holupka '24 of Hillsboro, Missouri; Katherine Korenge '24 of Lewis Center, Ohio; Ashley Krumlaw '24 of Mansfield, Ohio; Maya Moore '24 of Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania; Gabrielle Plunkett '25 of Cincinnati, Ohio; Zoie Pois '24 of Louisville, Kentucky; Zachary Ristau '25 of Stow, Ohio; and Jasmyn "Jazz" Zimmerman '25 of Vermilion, Ohio, traveled to Ecuador and the Galapagos from May 13-25 to explore one of the most important locations in the history of biology and natural selection.

Shae Kline '25 observes a Galapagos giant tortoise during her time studying Island Biology.

They traveled with OWU faculty members Ramon Carreno, Ph.D., and Danielle Hamill, Ph.D., both professors of Biological Sciences.

Carreno said the group's visit to multiple islands in the Galapagos enabled them to "discover firsthand the biodiversity, volcanic terrain, and geological history that make the island so compelling." In addition, the students explored the mainland to explore "one of the most biodiverse spots on the planet," the cloud forests of Ecuador.

Why This Experience?

Harrington: "I was told about this Travel-Learning Course on my first tour at OWU back in 2020, so I had known about this experience for a while. Biology students are frequently taught about the significance of the Galapagos Islands, so getting to actually visit them was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. I was particularly interested in studying the fish and other marine organisms, as well as the marine ecosystem as a whole."

Kline: "When I first visited Ohio Wesleyan, my tour guide told me about the Travel-Learning Courses and specifically the Island Biology course. I was so shocked and excited to learn that I could have the chance to get into this course and visit such an amazing place. Especially having learned about evolution and Darwin's finches, to have the opportunity to see these things firsthand is the experience of a lifetime."

[O]ur whole class was jumping with excitement and pointing and shouting calling out all of the animals we had learned about in class. A lot of people were looking at us funny, but it really gives you a whole new level of appreciation when you've studied the flora and fauna for a whole semester and then it comes to life.

Shae Kline '25

Favorite Moments

Harrington: "My favorite moment of this trip was definitely snorkeling at Pinnacle Rock. The water was absolutely beautiful, and I got to observe a multitude of different species including sea lions, sharks, and eagle rays. I even followed a Galapagos penguin as it hunted for fish along the seafloor."

Kline: "My favorite moment was when we first arrived at the port to get on our boat. We did not think we would be seeing so many animals so soon, and our whole class was jumping with excitement and pointing and shouting calling out all of the animals we had learned about in class. A lot of people were looking at us funny, but it really gives you a whole new level of appreciation when you've studied the flora and fauna for a whole semester and then it comes to life."

Lessons Learned

Harrington: "We spent the entire semester learning about the animals and plants that live on the islands and the evolutionary processes that allow them to survive, but actually getting to witness them firsthand solidified the knowledge I gained from this course. Experiences like these are important because they let students get out of the classroom and visit places they have never been while still learning and working toward their desired field of study."

Kline: "I learned so much from this experience. It was so fulfilling to learn about all of the plants and animals that inhabit the islands and then to actually see them in person. It really just came full circle for me. Not only did I learn about the plants and animals, but I learned a lot about the cultures, traditions, and people that live there. There are different social norms and expectations in Ecuador, and I tried to study up and be mindful of the differences in this new place.

"Experiences like this one are extremely important because not many students will have these travel opportunities after leaving OWU. The school helps tremendously … making this more accessible to many students including myself. These experiences open your eyes to all of the different cultures, places, and opportunities that exist across the world. These trips really enrich your mind and broaden your horizons, and this can lead to new ideas and opportunities."

Campus Involvements

Harrington: "I am very active in music and Greek life. I am currently a member of the OWU Marching Bishops, the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, and the Park Avenue Jazz Ensemble. I am also the vice president of the Chi Phi fraternity. I am also a member of the OWU Esports program."

Kline: "I am the president of the OWtsiders A Cappella group on campus."

Why Ohio Wesleyan?

Harrington: "I was looking for a small school close to home that had a good Zoology program, and OWU fit that description perfectly! When I took my first tour here, I immediately knew this was the school for me. I was also very intrigued by the opportunities provided by the OWU Connection such as this one."

Kline: "I chose to attend OWU because it seemed like a good fit for me. I liked the atmosphere and the close-knit community feel of the campus. I wanted a small school that felt like a community, and OWU fulfilled that. I also received a lot of scholarships and tuition aid from OWU that has been really helpful."

Plans After Graduation

Harrington: "I plan to go into animal care for at least a few years. I participated in an internship in the North American region at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium this past semester thanks to resume help from the Career Connection office. The students and faculty have also helped broaden my horizons, and I am considering graduate school and research further down the line."

Kline: "I plan to utilize my Biology degree in any way it may take me. I am hoping to do field sampling and research, or even laboratory work. I want to make contributions to the science community and work with other people who have a passion for science and its ever-growing and ever-changing nature. It is an extremely important and rewarding discipline, and I am excited to make more of an impact when I graduate."