Of God and Blue-Footed Boobies
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Steve Strand, our official Bruin "host"
and a member of the UCLA faculty, is crouching motionless behind
a rock, pointing his camera at a male great frigate bird perched
in a thicket of mangrove on Genovesa Island. The male has green,
iridescent feathers on his back, and Strand is waiting for the sun
to hit them at just the right angle before clicking the shutter.
Strand hears a familiar sound and looks up to see a Galápagos
mockingbird, long-tailed with a sharp bill, and white, gray and
brown markings. "Everybody talks about the finches on the Galápagos,
but it is really the mockingbird that got Darwin excited,"
explains Strand, a marine biologist. "Every single island had
a clearly different species of mockingbird, and the question was,
why would the Creator put a different species on every island and
just a single species in South America?"
talks about the finches on the Galápagos, but it is really
the mockingbird that got Darwin excited."
Tall and slender, with a warm manner and quick smile, Strand is
a patient tutor who schools us in plant and animal life on the Galápagos.
On top of being a knowledgeable scientist, Strand and his wife,
Patti, a fellow marine biologist who teaches at El Segundo High
School and who is accompanying us to the Galápagos, are inveterate
They met in 1984 at UCLA. Patti, a freckled, strawberry blonde,
was taking a teacher-training course and Strand was one of the instructors.
Before the year was out, they had exchanged vows on Strand's 45-foot
sloop, Danzante I. In 1990, the husband and wife biologists took
off from their teaching posts and set out on an epic voyage to the
South Pacific. En route home to Los Angeles, they anchored off Floreana
Island in the Galápagos. The next three months were spent
in wetsuits and scuba gear submerged in the chilly waters, investigating
the Harlequin wrasse, a fish with such varied colors that no two
While the Ecuadorian government has taken impressive steps to preserve
the island ecosystems, fewer safeguards protect the marine world,
ravaged in the 19th century by turtle-hunting whalers and buccaneers,
and more recently by commercial fishing, oil spills and other environmental
degradations. An ardent conservationist, Strand worries about the
future of this imperiled underwater world.