Yifan with other members of the Galapagos Study Abroad group.

The Honors Study Abroad Grant supported my trip to the Galapagos Islands as a part of an abroad program led by Professors Julia Czerniak and Ted Brown. I worked on two design probes with other students, proposing infrastructure to mitigate the relationship between humans and non-human animals. The course was also co-taught by Nina-Marie Lister from TMU and Jaime Lopez from USFQ. Apart from designing, we also went on multiple hikes and urban walks on the Island with local guides, understanding the conflict between expanding human inhabitants and preserving wildlife habitats.

The first thing that surprised me was the scale of human settlements on the Islands. I previously thought that there might be only a few buildings accommodating tourists. In actuality, there is a city of 18,000 people with a unique set of urban problems waiting to be resolved. I was also pleasantly surprised by the range of expertise possessed by the four faculty members on the trip. There was Jaime, a local professor specializing in urban Galapagos; Nina-Marie Lister, an important scholar in ecological design; Julia Czerniak, a renowned Landscape critic; and Ted Brown, one of the most experienced architecture professors at the Syracuse University School of Architecture.

Professor Julia Czerniak, now the Dean of the UB School of Architecture, played a crucial role throughout the study abroad process. She introduced me to the opportunity, generously provided me with readings and information before the trip, and offered to guide me in my future endeavors. This study abroad course opportunity deepened my interest in design and ecology. I will carry on the concepts and strategies covered in this course to future design studios and potentially apply for graduate school related to landscape architecture and design ecology.

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