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Science teacher McLaren fulfills longtime dream in the Galapagos

Posted By Hye-Jung Yang On May 13, 2009 @ 12:50 pm In Global Education | Comments Disabled

South science teacher Jim McLaren had always wanted to travel to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, but had never gotten the chance due to his busy schedule as a teacher. McLaren taught biology at South for 38 years, but has since retired and now works part-time at Newton South. Earlier this year, he was able to visit both the Galapagos Islands and the part of the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador with his wife.

The Galapagos Islands are home to a colossal ecosystem of many species of animals, one of the most famous being the finch, of which there are about 13 species living on the islands.

McLaren had read up extensively on the Galapagos for a long time, and had become very familiar with their attributes. He was particularly excited “to see where Darwin had gotten major input in eventually developing his theory [of evolution].

Evolutionist Charles Darwin’s famous trip to the Galapagos was a key factor in shaping his theory of evolution by natural selection. Similar species of animals often differed on nearby islands, which Darwin thought was caused by a gradual evolution and dispersion of species.

McLaren was also excited to see the Galapagos’ famous diversity of plants and animals. “[It was exciting] being four feet from a tortoise [which] was probably 400 pounds, munching its way through the grass, he said.

“We also snorkeled’€that was great… because we saw a lot of the reef fish, he said. “There were [also] tortoises, sea lions, finches…I was fascinated by the birds.

According to McLaren, part of the reason that animals flourish on the Galapagos is that the interaction between animals and people is very carefully monitored. “There are no people, McLaren said. “There are towns on two of the islands…many of the islands are basically desolate, so the animals have no fear of human beings.

The Galapagos has a total population of about 40,000, while Puerto Rico, which has a similar land area, has a population of four million people.

Another difference between the Galapagos and the US, according to McLaren, is that the Galapagos is dry most of the year, except for a short rainy season, which he and his wife were able to catch.

McLaren was also able to visit part of the Amazon Rainforest, which was also shockingly diverse’€even more so than the Galapagos. “We saw insane diversity there, while the Galapagos are quite restrained in terms of diversity, he said. “You never know what you’re going to see [in the rainforest], whereas in the Galapagos, you always know what you’re going to see.

Nevertheless, McLaren highly enjoyed the trip he had been dreaming of taking for a long time. “Seeing stuff I’ve read about all my life, seeing it firsthand… it was the trip of a lifetime, he said.

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