Letters from the Galapagos Islands

Virtually join middle-schooler Nora Clayton's journey as she embeds herself with a U research team.

Middle-schooler Sonora “Nora” Clayton turns correspondent as she embeds herself with a University of Utah research team in the Galapagos Islands off the coast of mainland Ecuador. She will report weekly on what it’s like to do scientific research on the islands made famous by the father of evolutionary biology. You can experience the journey along with her.

Sonora Clayton, a 14-year-old, lounges in a rock with her sketch pad in a forest.
Sonora Clayton with her sketchpad.

In the 1830s, naturalist Charles Darwin sailed to an archipelago off the coast of South America where he was astonished by the variety of animals and plants, some of which had never been viewed by Europeans. His voyage and the specimens he brought back to England changed the way the world looked at biology, and our modern notions of evolution as a scientific concept were born.

Clayton returns to the Galapagos with a U research team for 10 weeks. She will send the School of Biological Sciences a weekly update with photos geared toward her fellow schoolmates at Clayton Middle School in Salt Lake City…and enquiring scientific minds everywhere.

A budding scientist, Clayton joins her parents, professors Sarah Bush and Dale Clayton at the School of Biological Sciences, and their team as an artist and illustrator as well.

Every week, read about Clayton’s adventures, view her photos and drawings, and learn about doing research on the islands. You can also send questions to this eyewitness to biological discovery.

“I am very excited,” said Clayton’s teacher Kate Bodey, “to see what Nora will be doing and for the journey ahead (of course I am jealous too and wish I could go with!)!  She is so talented, and I have loved working with her and getting to know her over the course of this year!”

This online project is free and available to the public here.

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