• Freshman Lissa Riley, who traveled to the Galapagos Islands as part of MIT's Terrascope program, works on a knot displayed in the lobby of Building 13 as a metaphor for the complexity of pleasing all of the stakeholders in the Galapagos, from residents to tourists and from the government to the ecosystem.

    Photo / Donna Coveney

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Freshmen exhibit Galapagos lessons

A cluster of interactive exhibits on the ecology, history and cultural life of the Galapagos Islands, 600 miles west of Ecuador, has transformed the lobby of Building 13 into a vivid portrait of the land Charles Darwin never forgot.

Designed and developed by freshmen in the Terrascope course called Communicating Complex Environmental Issues: Designing and Building Interactive Exhibits (1.016), the interactive exhibits collectively offer visitors a sense of immersion in the students' March trip to the Galapagos, a part of their yearlong project developing a conservation strategy for the islands.

Freshman Garrett Marino described the students' trip to the Galapagos as an "amazing and rewarding experience because we were able to see the place that has been the focus of our studies since September, to speak to scientists from the Charles Darwin Research Station and see the absolute beauty of (places like) Tortuga Bay."

Individual exhibits in Lobby 13 include a simulated lava tunnel, appropriately dark, twisty and suggestive of volcanic power; a try-it-on model of a giant tortoise shell; a wooden playground slide that illustrates precipitous species population decline; an artistic and thorough timeline of the archipelago's life from the days of pirates through Darwin's visit to the present; and a giant interactive sea cucumber, which you really have to see for yourself.

The exhibit will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until May 24.

A second event related to this year's Terrascope trip to the islands Darwin made famous was the first-ever broadcast of a radio program written and produced entirely by freshmen. The students recorded ambient sounds and interviews on location in the Galapagos. The program in Comparative Media Studies (CMS) collaborated on the development of the subject, Terrascope Radio (SP 360), which led to the radio documentary.

Marino, one of four students who participated in the radio subject, came home with sound clips from a "close encounter with a sea lion," he said. Listen for the grunts.

The 20-minute radio program on the Galapagos aired on Wednesday, May 11, on WMBR-FM. There is an mp3 of the program now on the Terrascope main site: web.mit.edu/terrascope/www/

Terrascope faculty include Rafael Bras, the Edward A. Abdun-Nur Professor in the Schools of Engineering and Science; Kip Hodges, professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences; and Ari Epstein, lecturer, Earth Systems Initiative. Terrascope is a component of the Earth System Initiative.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 18, 2005 (download PDF).

Topics: Earth and atmospheric sciences, Environment, Students



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