14 May 2020

Galapagos comes to students in virtual field class

Our virtual field class to the Galapagos gave students an insight into the current situation on Isabela Island.

Students take photos on Galapagos beach to investigate coastal processes

Few people can claim to have visited the Galapagos Islands, located about 1,000 km of the Coast of Ecuador in South America.

For the past 3 years, we have been taking our International Development Masters students there, so you can imagine the disappointment from students and staff when we had to cancel the trip due to the Covid-19 pandemic. To cope, we worked closely with our local partner Intercultural Outreach Initiative (IOI) to rapidly design a virtual field class. Students conducted in-depth interviews with Kathryn Metzker, IOI’s Director of Projects and International Programs whose experience living and working in the Islands provided students with background information and guidance of how to approach other interviews.

Kathryn helped us to contact and recruit residents as key informants which students interviewed, taking care to avoid overwhelming anyone who was already struggling due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. For example, one of the student groups researched ocean plastic pollution in the Island. This group interviewed (with the help of an interpreter) a representative from the Galapagos National Park (GNP) and a representative from the tourist sector, who is deeply involved with beach clean-up initiatives in the Island. The GNP also shared with students a variety of studies and data related to GNP plastic initiatives, and the tourist representative shared some photographs taken by after a clean-up. 

While this experience is far from visiting the Galapagos, students’ feedback says they learned a lot about the current situation in Isabela and enjoyed greatly chatting with local residents.

The virtual field class provided an opportunity to experience the challenges of international fieldwork, and allowed us to develop skills in adapting research to changing circumstances and using video interviews for data collection, which will be useful skills for the future! It was a great way to gain an understanding and insight into the situation around plastics in the Galapagos, despite not being able to visit!

Elle Nash, Masters student

We are deeply grateful to all our key informants and Kathryn from IOI, for supporting this learning and teaching experience, which occurred while being in lockdown, both in Ecuador and the UK!

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