Alumni Spotlight: Elizabeth Ann Wormell


Liza is a 72-year-old retiree who has always volunteered and loves independent travel. Conservation was a completely new area for her.

Why did you choose this program?

I wanted to be in a Spanish speaking area and somewhere I hadn’t been before. The Galapagos is a World Heritage area with a unique fragile environment and many stressors. I wanted to contribute and to understand more than I could as a tourist. I went to the Projects Abroad meeting in London and decided that they were offering structure and support.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

I planned the travel as I went to Quito before and then on to Colombia. Insurance would normally be provided but I was too old, so I got a rebate and used my own annual worldwide cover.

I was picked up from the airport, given an induction, provided with full board and lodging, transport to activities every day and supervision. There were social activities organized and travel to other islands and commercial trips, such as snorkeling, booked for us.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

This is quite a physical program. I could do it at my age and level of fitness, but the first week I was very tired!

Take very old robust clothing, wellies, and strong gloves. I think 2 weeks is on the short side; 3 or 4 weeks would be better and would also give more weekends to travel the islands.

Take enough money to do side trips.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

On 3 mornings, you leave at 5 am to conduct a sea lion census on beaches. On those days, there is then a post-breakfast and afternoon sessions. There is a clearing of alien species with machetes, weeding, cutting of otoy to feed tortoises and inspection of petrel nests and placing of rat poison. You will also clean the tortoise enclosures and lagoons and chop feed for the various sizes of animals. We spent a day painting a mural at a school.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I didn’t have any specific fears; my commitment was two weeks and I was pretty sure I’d cope. I was impressed that there were 9 different nationalities and a 55 year age span and we got on well and supported each other. I knew very little about the Galapagos or their flora and fauna, so the hands-on experience and the excellent interpretation centre and research centre gave me insight and knowledge.

What impressed you the most in this trip?

You will probably be able to shine a torch into a petrel nest and see a chick, notice a newborn sea lion pup, with placenta being eaten by birds and spot black iguanas on black volcanic rocks. I can now say that I can tell the difference between an alpha male, male, female, juvenile and pup.