You are currently browsing Karen James’s articles.

In October 2010, the four winners of the Survival Rivals competition (Jessica Woodfield, Charlotte Woodfield, Becky Hill and Eleri Morgan from St Cyres School in Penarth, Wales) together with two of their teachers (Nicholas Alford and Sue Benjamin), two of the competition’s organizers (Amy Sanders of the Wellcome Trust and Amy Turner of Ignite!) and I (Karen James, then a postdoctoral scientist at the Natural History Museum in London) traveled to the Galapagos archipelago for two weeks.

Our aim was not only to enjoy the unique natural environment that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, but also to capture our experience the way Darwin did. That is, we would record our experiences, ‘specimens’, thoughts, connections and speculations – not using a pen and a red notebook, but Twitter, Flickr and YouTube.

At the end of each day or few days, we would raid our tweets, photos, videos and memory banks and write a short, illustrated blog post (using WordPress). And, at the end of the trip, all of this would serve as our source material for our own version(s) of Darwin’s Journal of Researches (better known now as Voyage of the Beagle), an e-Book to be written and published approximately six months after the trip.

Darwin used layers of increasingly formal writing tools — field notebooks & specimens ➙ diary ➙ book — and so will we, except that our technology will be a little different: Twitter, Flickr and YouTube ➙ Blog ➙ e-Book.

By the end of the trip, we had published a very large volume of primary material: 62 blog posts, 514 Flickr photos and 17 YouTube videos. Concerned about how to represent the strong multimedia component, and inspired by an interactive timeline I had seen in one of Ed Yong’s Not Exactly Rocket Science blog posts, I decided to use Dipity to create an interactive timeline to complement the e-Book.

The e-Book will be available shortly as a downloadable PDF (when it is, I will update this blog post) but the Interactive Timline is ready for your browsing pleasure now:

Note: This is not embedded; it’s just a screenshot. Clicking it will link you away to the timeline on Dipity’s website.

On his first visit to the Brazilian rainforest, Darwin wrote:

“The delight one experiences in such times bewilders the mind, — if the eye attempts to follow the flight of a gaudy butter-fly, it is arrested by some strange tree or fruit; if watching an insect one forgets it in the stranger flower it is crawling over, — if turning to admire the splendour of the scenery, the individual character of the foreground fixes the attention. The mind is a chaos of delight, out of which a world of future & more quiet pleasure will arise.”

I’ve had this experience several times already here in Galapagos – notably on our first landing on Floreana, when, just off the boat, marine iguanas vied against sea lions and crabs for our immediate attention. I didn’t know where to point my lens, and I’m pretty sure I was grinning like an idiot.

I thought of the passage again yesterday, but in a very different environment: 20 metres underwater on an edge of lava just off Mosquero, a small island just north of Baltra.

While the rest of our group were doing their part for the islands’ delicate environment by volunteering at the recycling center, Amy and I fulfilled a dream by going scuba diving. These islands are so famous for their diversity of plants and animals on land, but the marine environment here boasts even more abundant and unique life forms. It’s just that most people never see it. Read the rest of this entry »

This is just a quick update on the wifi situation in Isabela. There´s a single, slow (we´re talking tortoise speed) internet terminal at our hotel from which I´m posting now, but no wifi. Some of us are tweeting by text, and there might be an occasional blog post from this terminal (I have a couple of drafts waiting to be shared with the world), but that´s going to be about it until we get back to London… or in my case Cocoa Beach, Florida.

For now, I urge you to read the posts below and watch Nick´s underwater video footage of swimming with sea lions and turtles on San Cristobal – it was an amazing day for all of us as I´m sure you´ll see.

A quick post to show a pair of pictures of me with giant tortoises in 1979 and 2010:

As I noted in my inaugural post here, our little band of Darwin wannabes isn’t just visiting Galapagos… we’re going to try capture our experience the way Darwin did – through notes, ‘specimens’ and prose. Unlike Darwin (and of course this isn’t the only way we’re unlike him), we’re doing this in public and online for all to follow along live.

My proposal — ‘Galapagos 2.0’ — is why I was selected to accompany the four lucky deserving 17-year-old Survival Rivals winners (Becky Hill, Eleri Morgan, Charlotte Woodfield and Jess Woodfield), their teachers (Sue Benjamin and Nicholas Alford) and representatives from the Wellcome Trust (Amy Sanders) and Ignite! (Amy Turner). I guess I’m a kind of guide, if not to Galapagos (as I’ve never been before) then to Darwin, evolution, and the voyage of HMS Beagle.

The proposal’s full title is ‘Galápagos 2.0 Creative science learning and communication in evolution’s spectacular living laboratory’ and the gist is that our little band of Darwin wannabes will be doing what Darwin did in Galapagos. That is, we will capture our experiences, ‘specimens’, thoughts, connections and speculations – not using a pen and a red notebook, but Twitter, Flickr and YouTube.

At the end of each day or few days, we will raid our tweets, photos, videos and memory banks and write a short, illustrated blog post (using WordPress). And at the end of the trip, all of this will serve as our source material for our own version(s) of Darwin’s Journal of Researches (better known now as Voyage of the Beagle), an e-Book to be written and published approximately six months after the trip.

Darwin used layers of increasingly formal writing tools — field notebooks & specimens ➙ diary ➙ book — and so will we, except that our technology will be a little different: Twitter, Flickr and YouTube ➙ Blog ➙ e-Book.

So follow us here on Galapagos Live but also on Twitter, Flickr and YouTube for the full immersion experience!

For the full proposal (which begins with the sentence, ‘Charles Darwin would have been a blogger.’) in its original PDF format glory, click here.

In five days I will get on an airplane and fly to Madrid, then Guayaquil, Ecuador, and then on to the Galápagos archipelago.

I think I might need to sit down and take a deep breath after typing that. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get to visit the Enchanted Islands, evolution’s spectacular living laboratory and Darwin’s inspiration. It’s truly the opportunity of a lifetime.

…and the opportunity of my lifetime.

You see, I’ve spent the last twenty years studying biology, the last fifteen focusing on genetics, the last ten on evolutionary biology, the last seven on the genetic underpinnings of systematics and biodiversity at the Natural History Museum in London, the last four as the HMS Beagle Project‘s science director and the last three as the science coordinator of the Museum’s Darwin200 campaign.

I’ve even extracted DNA from Galápagos mockingbird specimens Charles Darwin and HMS Beagle’s captain Robert Fitzroy themselves collected in 1835.

My truly heartfelt thanks to the Wellcome Trust for this opportunity. They picked me to accompany the winners of their Survival Rivals school competition on the basis of my proposal to capture our experience in increasingly reflective and refined layers of writing, much the way Darwin did, but using the tools of Web 2.0.

More on the particulars of my proposal — “Galapagos 2.0” — coming soon!

August 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 17 other followers

Flickr Photos

RSS Tweets from the travellers

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.