Orange fish in the ocean - photo by Hiroko Yoshii - photo by Hiroko Yoshii

Exploring Ecuador

According to Conservation International, Ecuador (including the Galapagos Islands) is one of the seventeen mega-diverse countries of the world. It has the most biodiversity per square kilometer of any country in the world. Ecuador and the Galapagos contain many endemic species that should be appreciated and cared for. In January 2011, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Ecuador and Galapagos and to observe firsthand the incredible biodiversity and vast beauty of this fragile region.

I went on a trip with Eckerd College and, as anyone who has studied abroad can claim, it absolutely changed my life. I was able to see the primary and secondary rainforests, lush landscape, beautiful people and cultures, and incredibly diverse islands of which, until then, I had only seen photographs. I snorkeled with schooling hammerheads, swam with sea lions, stood at arms' length from blue-footed boobies, hiked the magnificent mountains and had my eyes opened to this ever-shrinking ecosystem.

Nature has always inspired me. It makes me feel connected, grounded and whole. I took over five thousand images in the three short weeks I was in Ecuador and the Galapagos, not just because photography is a passion of mine, but also because I want to share this immense beauty with others. Deforestation and marine degradation are two critical issues facing our world today, and many people are unaware of the magnitude and urgency of these issues.

I hope that by sharing my images I may be able to inspire people to travel and find out more about these rare ecosystems and the problems facing them. In order to protect and conserve these natural wonders, we must educate ourselves and others about the importance of these delicate worlds.