SALISBURY, MD---Isolated for millions of years, the Galapagos Islands were colonized over time by wildlife that evolved and literally was shaped in this pristine ecosystem. Tortoises grew to giant proportions, iguanas took to the ocean in search of food, and tiny finches adapted in this timeless world.
Salisbury University features this immaculate beauty, including the island’s lush vegetation and animal life, in the exhibit “Darwin’s Enchanted Islands: Photographs by Ronald Gard” January 20-April 9 in the University Gallery of Fulton Hall.
A reception and lecture with Galapagos Conservancy President Johanna Barry is 6-8 p.m. Friday, January 27. Barry speaks on the unique flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands. She also offers a brief history of the Galapagos, its international importance as a World Heritage Site, the major conservation issues and challenges in the Galapagos and current initiatives to protect the islands’ biodiversity.
The exhibit also includes a screening of the A&E Biography episode Charles Darwin—Evolution’s Voice, from 6-7 p.m. Friday, February 17. The beauty of the Galapagos Islands intrigued the 19th century Charles Darwin, who turned the world around with his insightful study On the Origin of Species.
A photographer most of his life, Gard specializes in nature and outdoor photography and has traveled extensively with his camera (and fishing equipment), including several trips to Central and South America, Europe and Africa. His photographs have appeared in various outdoor publications, in his three folk art books and in his promotion of conservation efforts.
In most places in the world, photographers often face not getting a crisp close picture of the animals. In the Galapagos Islands, animals are very curious and sometime get just a little too close to photograph.
“I was trying to photograph a bird and it momentarily disappeared, then I noticed it was sitting on my lens,” said Gard. “One of the rules in the Galapagos is never to touch the animals. This rule is difficult to follow when some of the animals want to see how you smell and taste. The baby sea lions especially like to rub their noses against you.”
Gard believes one of the main reasons these animals do not fear humans is that relatively soon after the islands were discovered, conservation efforts were put in place. However, much time and money is still needed on a continuous basis to protect and conserve the islands’ unique and fragile environment.
Galapagos sits on the equator, but also lies in the path of cool nutrient-rich currents—a combination that separates it from all other major island groups. There, corals, manta rays and other plants and animals typical of tropical seas share islands with penguins, fur seals, sea lions and cool-water species.
“I chose this area because of the exquisite beauty,” said Gard. “The Galapagos is noted for its unique species and remote desolate areas, allowing me to utilize my artistic expression.”
Gard is an advisory board member for SU’s Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art.
Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon-4 p.m. weekends. The gallery is closed Mondays and holidays. Sponsored by the University Galleries, admission is free and the public is invited. For more information call 410-548-2547.