Galapagos Trip Offers SUNY Potsdam Students a Diverse Experience


The SUNY Potsdam students, faculty and alumni pose at a stone monument denoting the location of the equator at the ancient archeological site of Catequilla, high up in the Andes Mountains in Ecuador.

When packing for one of the many Winterim courses offered through The State University of New York at Potsdam each year, most students would gather items necessary for surviving the bitter cold of a Potsdam winter—snow boots, parka, mittens and a sturdy hat.

However, students participating in the new international travel course, “Voyage to the Galapagos and Amazon Rainforests,” required a slightly different packing list. Along with the parka, students also packed hiking boots, swim trunks, shorts, sandals and a snorkel for the two-week journey to the Galapagos Islands.

This past Winterim, 11 students and seven faculty members and chaperones traveled to the Galapagos Islands and Amazon rainforest in an interdisciplinary course over the College’s winter break.

The students included:
• John Armitage, a senior from Clifton Park, N.Y.
• Brendan Brady, a senior from Troy, N.Y.
• Mary Brunet, a senior from Parish, N.Y.
• Michelle Davis, a senior from Sherrill, N.Y.
• Jennifer Dawson, a junior from Oakdale, N.Y.
• James Flaherty, a senior from East Williston, N.Y.
• Kevin O’Neill, a senior from Guilderland, N.Y.
• Stephanie Scribner, a senior from Howes Cave, N.Y.
• Joseph Valenti, a sophomore from Clifton Park, N.Y.

Led by Dr. Steve Marqusee, interim dean of SUNY Potsdam’s School of Arts and Sciences, the students spent two weeks studying biology, geology, anthropology and environmental studies in the exotic locales of South America.

The other faculty members and chaperones for the trip included Dr. Glenn Johnson, chairman of the Department of Biology; Assistant Professor of Geology Dr. Christopher Kelson and his wife, Christa, an assistant professor of accounting at SUNY Canton. They also included friends of the College Eileen Marqusee, Greg Holland and Sheila Cerwonka.

During their travels in South America, the group explored the ancient city of Quito, Ecuador, and traveled to the Amazon rainforest for three days to study at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station.

They also visited a stone monument denoting the location of the equator at the ancient archeological site of Catequilla, high up in the Andes Mountains in Ecuador, as seen in the photo below. Seen posing, are, from left: Mary Brunet, Glenn Johnson, John Armitage (kneeling), James Flaherty, Angela Ross, Christa Kelson, Kevin O’Neill, Michelle Davis, Steven Marqusee, Eileen Marqusee, Greg Holland, Joseph Valenti, Jennifer Dawson, Sheila Cerwonka and Stephanie Scribner. At top are Christopher Kelson and Brendan Brady.

The group also visited the Bellavista Cloud Reserve, a tropical cloud forest that is located between 1,400 and 2,600 meters above sea level, and the Galápagos Islands, an ecological paradise known as the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species.”

SUNY Potsdam’s Winterim consists of a three-week session for online courses, and a two-week session for on campus and travel courses. The session attracts current SUNY Potsdam students and visiting students from other Associated Colleges of the St. Lawrence Valley—SUNY Canton, St. Lawrence University and Clarkson University—as well as students from other public and private colleges throughout New York State. “Voyage to the Galapagos and Amazon Rainforests” was one of two international travel courses offered through Winterim 2011 this year.

For more information about Winterim at SUNY Potsdam, visit

Founded in 1816, and located on the outskirts of the beautiful Adirondack Park, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 100 colleges. SUNY Potsdam currently enrolls approximately 4,350 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its handcrafted education, challenging liberal arts and sciences core, excellence in teacher training, and leadership in the performing and visual arts.