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Eastside students travel to Galapagos

Although school is out for the summer, Newton County students are still busy learning. Such a group recently had the ultimate in science and ecological learning experience, heading to Ecuador and the Galapagos islands.

The tour, put together by EF Educational Tours and led by Eastside science teacher Leo Mallard, brought 13 Eastside High School students and eight adults on an eight day trip.

After spending most of the first day flying from Atlanta to Quito Ecuador, the group toured Quito, visiting Independence Plaza, the Government Plaza, the San Francisco Monastery and the Intinan Museum on their second day in-country. Later in the afternoon the group took and excursion to the equatorial line where they actually got to see the difference in how the Coriolis effect worked on the equator as well as in the Northern and Southern hemisphere. They also got the opportunity to try and balance an unboiled egg on a nail head on the equatorial line, with Luke Gayler, Mackenzie Mallard, Betsy Proffitt and Miranda Hopper accomplishing this feat.

The next day the group of 21 students and adults, travelled to Baltra Island where they were transferred by ferry to Santa Cruz Island, staying at the Ninfa Hotel. After arriving they visited Rancho Manzanillo to see wild tortoises that come up from the lowlands to breed. After visiting the ranch the group went to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to see one of the breeding programs for the tortoises and learn about some of the native flora and fauna. Everyone especially enjoyed seeing the sea lions, marine iguanas, land iguanas, crabs and the various other plants and animals on our excursion to and from the research station.

Even more wildlife was studied on the fourth day, after a two hour boat ride to San Cristobal Island, where the group hiked through the clouds of the highlands to the only freshwater lake of the islands. After the hike the group snorkeled in a bay where they were able to get up close to the various species of colorful fish, sea urchins, and sea lions in their natural environment.

For the sixth day, the natural wonder of note was Wolf Volcano, an actively erupting volcano on San Isabella Island. While there, the group viewed wild Flamingos and learned a little about their ecology (coloration, behaviors, etc.) Students also learned a little bit about the new desalination plant which will be used by the island to convert salt water into fresh water. Students were also informed about local agricultural crops as well as native plant life, particularly the poison apple tree which is toxic to the touch just like our poison ivy here in the US. After that the group visited the Arnaldo Tupiza-Chamaidan “Giant Tortoise Breeding Center where they had thousands of tortoises of different species, sizes, and ages. Here we had to opportunities to see how the different species of tortoises where bred and raised to be later released into the wild on the different islands. Students also learned more about their ecology, habits and behaviors.

The students really enjoyed seeing the different species of fish and were quite surprised at how close the sea lions would get to them in the water as they explored. Snorkeling was one of the favorite activities by far.

After exploring the twin craters on Day 6, the group interacted with the local population on their seventh and final full day on the trip.