TERRE HAUTE -- Just as the Galapagos Islands served to inspire Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, the Pacific Ocean paradise has motivated Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology applied biology student Johanna Moore toward a career in studying animal behavior.
Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands to study the many species of the tortoise during his five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle, which established him as an eminent biologist.
Moore, a junior from Brazil, and Northview High School graduate, spent an internship on the same islands during the summer, working at the Tortoise Breeding Center in the Galapagos National Park's Charles Darwin Research Station.
She helped feed and study more than 1,000 young tortoises, which are being raised until their shells become strong and they can withstand the threat of the introduced predators. She also assisted with research data collection.
"The Galapagos Islands are like Disney World for biology majors," Moore said. "I felt as though visiting the islands was a rite of passage every biologist should experience at some point in their life."
Rose-Hulman Applied Biology and Biomedical Professor Ella Ingram refers to Moore's trip as an "amazing" journey and added that the Rose-Hulman student will have firsthand images about many important observations in ecology and evolution.
"Visiting the Galapagos Islands tortoises played an important role in Darwin's experiences in the 1800s. Can you imagine seeing with your own eyes one of the biological settings that was so important to him?" Ingram said. "This journey will provide a baseline for her development as a biologist."
It is believed that the islands' tortoises played an important role in Darwin's theory of evolution. Naturalists assert tortoises arrived in the islands clinging to a piece of driftwood from a river mouth along the Pacific Coast.
The islands were once home to 15 sub-species of which 11 sub-species still exist. The smallest tortoises are known as "saddle backs," for their shell shape, while larger species with "dome backs" are among the largest on earth, weighing more than 500 pounds with shells measuring 59-inches.
During her four-week journey, Moore also had the opportunity to observe rare wildlife species, such as blue-footed booby birds, lava lizards, frigate birds, sea lions, marine and land iguanas, penguins and flamingos.
"The amount of wildlife contained within that small islands chain was incredible. There was something to see around every corner," she said.
Moore, the daughter of Dan and Jenny Moore, Brazil, is no stranger of animals. The veteran 4-H member earned grand champion blue ribbons for raising dairy goats at county fairs during the past 10 years. She is hoping to have an internship in zoological research, studying large mammals, before attending graduate school for animal science or animal behavior.
At Rose-Hulman, Moore is a resident assistant for the Baur-Sames-Bogart residence hall and a member of the Student Alumni Association, Residence Hall Association and Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity. She was named Rose-Hulman's homecoming queen earlier this fall.