The 26 sixth form biology students and four staff members from Darwin’s former school, Shrewsbury School, are heading for Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.
The first week of their adventure will be spent camping in the Spiny Forest in southern part of the island where the team will undertake surveys for Operation Wallacea, an ecological research organisation.
Shrewsbury School biology master Richard Case, who is leading the trip, said that they would also have the chance to work alongside university scientists specialising in lemurs, chameleons, small mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.
He commented: “We will then travel up through the rainforest and mountains of the east coast targeting different habitats, nature reserves and tribes. The expedition should provide an opportunity for students to gain a deep knowledge of Malagasy wildlife and the problems it faces.
“This will also allow the students to gain insights into what it is like to carry out science in the field. In addition, the opportunity to travel in the developing world will open eyes in a way that no classroom can.
“Travelling to a what naturalists call ‘the eighth continent’ will be hugely exciting. Madagascar is so called because over 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else on earth. Getting to experience the wierd and endless forms that natural selection has generated in Madagascar is every biologist’s dream. Seeing it now is of huge importance as so much of it is under threat.
“As a former Shrewsbury pupil, Darwin had what might be called the ultimate gap year as he circumnavigated the globe on the Beagle. Although he never made it to Madagascar, he still had an impact on its wildlife.”
This is the second time such an expedition to Madagascar has been organised by Shrewsbury School and this year the group will spend a total of 17 days on the island.