The "Lehigh Launch" series highlights first-semester students' experiences learning about the literature, earth and environment, and peoples of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands in Fall 2022. Olivia Lundquist ‘26 shares their experience.
Hometown: Pennington, NJ
What drew you to Lehigh Launch?: I was drawn to Lehigh Launch by the incredible experiences it offers and the idea of experiential learning. I was fascinated by the opportunity to learn about the environment and different people by actually interacting with both. Also, going to the Amazon and the Galapagos islands is an opportunity that few college freshmen have and I knew I wanted to experience two distinct examples of pristine ecosystems that I can reflect back on for the rest of my studies.
What did you like most about Lehigh Launch?: So far, my favorite aspect of Lehigh Launch has been the way our field trips connect back to our courses. For example, after discussing the cloud forest and its current environmental issues, we traveled to Maquipucuna and had the chance to speak to the owners of that biosphere reserve about their actions to decrease their carbon footprint. Additionally, before going to the Amazon, we thoroughly discussed oil drilling and the decrease of biocultural diversity and then we had the chance to see firsthand how a Kichwa village was impacted by and dealing with both.
What was the best thing you learned?: In the Amazon, we got to eat lemon ants, and learn about the symbiosis they have with the tree and how they are used by indigenous people. The lemon ants live in little capsules in the tree and they eat part of the tree leaves, turning it into acid in their stomachs. They then drop citric acid around the tree so that no other plants can grow in the same area. Indigenous people will eat lemon ants when they have nothing to drink because the acid quenches their thirst.
What is a fun fact from the trip?: We have seen so many fascinating animals so far, including a jaguar, pink dolphin, and Andean spectacled bear!
What is something you wish you knew before you packed your bags?: I wish I was more aware of the clothing people wore here in Quito so that I could have packed accordingly. For the most part normal clothes are fine, but people in the city dress slightly more modestly and do not typically wear shorts, skirts, or dresses. In the Galapagos, though, people wear shorts more frequently. Also, there are also many opportunities to buy clothes in Ecuador so don’t overpack suitcases like I did!