Hands-On Experiences vs a Lifetime of Classrooms

Rachel Seyler
November 5, 2021
a woman and a sea lion underwater

One of the common themes of this study abroad program is the hands-on aspect of every class. I feel like in my entire science career (and honestly most of my schooling in general) I’ve never had this many hands-on experiences where you’re actually doing elements of research. In Techniques of Marine Research I and II we were at the beach looking at sea turtles and taking data underwater on our scuba dives, and in Marine Ecology we also dove and analyzed the differences and importance of marine invertebrates in certain locations amongst other things like group research projects. Since going to college, I have had other friends who have gotten to experiment with different learning techniques but to tends to be more focused around programs more centered in the arts like film, dance, drawing, etc. I feel like many STEM classes don’t get to experience this until the internship or career level.

The most surreal moment of this was when some friends and I were working on one of our group research projects observing these crabs interact from the pier when someone noticed that a baby sea lion had a fishing hook stuck on his fin. We texted one of our professors who is able to deal with these types of things and walked down the beach to show him which one it was when he arrived. He attempted to hold the sea lion down to get the hook out, but they are surprisingly stronger than they look and it was more of a two hand job for him to hold the baby down. That’s when he looked at me and was like “Go get it!” and in my head I was like “What me??” But I didn’t have much more time to think about it because the sea lion started to squirm more and I went over and pulled the hook out. Immediately the baby stopped squirming. It was like “Oh that was a bit of an over-reaction… thanks!” and it off it went.

This definitely isn’t a regular occurrence, but I feel like in my environmental classes we always see the pictures of sea gulls with plastic around their necks and want to help but that day I actually got the chance and I feel like that was a really special experience.

When I’m not saving baby sea lions, I do have class in the mornings and usually not too much homework which is really nice. Right now, we are on our fourth class out of five (here you can insert me talking about time flying by once again) and it’s called Marine Ecosystem Based Management. We aren’t super far along so it’s hard to say how it’s going or how it will be, but it’s our first class that’ll be more environmentally-based rather than ecology-based (which is my other major at Boulder) so the switch up should be interesting—especially in a Galápagos islands context. After this class we head back to the mainland—Quito specifically—for a few days and then into the rainforest! Not sure how I feel about leaving quite yet but nevertheless still excited for the future; until next time blog!

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Rachel Seyler

<p>Hello! My name is Rachel Seyler and I'm going into my junior year and I am studying ecology and evolutionary biology &amp; environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I'm studying abroad in Quito and the Galapagos Islands via direct enrollment during fall 2021. During my free time I enjoy snowboarding, hanging out with friends, and hiking. During my time abroad I'm very excited to expand my Spanish skills, learn about the local culture, and explore in depth the unique flora and fauna that the Galapagos and rainforest entails.</p>

Home University:
University of Colorado - Boulder
Southlake, TX
Biological Sciences
Environmental Studies
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