#GOINGTOIEU

23/04/2024

At IE University, we prioritize hands-on, practical learning. We believe that the best way to add to the academic experience is by putting our students in real-life situations where they can directly apply their learning. With that in mind, we’re always looking for new ways to boost students’ experience, with new and inspiring opportunities both inside and outside the classroom.

The Bachelor in Environmental Sciences for Sustainability is no exception to our hands-on approach. As well as having access to state-of-the-art laboratories where students can carry out experiments and research, they have the opportunity to go on field trips to see complex environmental challenges firsthand. This year, IE School of Science & Technology introduced a new field trip location, offering students the chance to explore the diverse and rich landscapes of the Spanish island of Lanzarote.

Accompanied by the program’s academic director, Juan Carlos Silva, and one of the program’s professors, Carme Huguet, the group set off on a five-day expedition to the easternmost Canary Island. With its volcanic origins, subtropical desert climate and unique ecosystems, Lanzarote proved to be an ideal location for scientific exploration.

But the trip was far from just an opportunity for observation. The jam-packed itinerary encouraged participants to get actively involved in practical projects and collaborate on inspiring initiatives that are currently being employed to confront the complex challenges Lanzarote and its inhabitants are facing. The trip offered a truly immersive learning experience, which aimed to inspire students and fuel their passion for environmental stewardship.

A deeper look into the experience

After an early start on the first day, the group arrived in the port city of Arrecife, which served as the base for the trip. The afternoon was spent at the Institute of Geosciences (GSIC), where they learned to monitor seismological changes in temperatures and morphological changes in volcanoes, which can help to generate early warning systems for volcanic eruptions.

On the second day, students visited the island’s wind installations, which were built to harness the strong winds and generate a renewable source of energy. Later, there was a visit to a winery, which Juan Carlos points out is an impressive example of biomimicry. “They use nature as an example of adaptation.” By working with nature and finding a way to use it to their advantage, they are now producing high-quality wines with a prestigious denomination of origin status.

Day three was focused on monitoring coastal areas, with students learning different techniques. There was a visit to an area that suffers from an unsustainable and environmentally damaging form of tourism, and also to a more natural area where the main intervention had been the construction of a road that divided an ecosystem. “We discussed how we can make solutions based on nature to be able to restore these ecosystems, to reduce the impact of this activity,” explained Juan Carlos.

Further exploring the island

On day four, students explored the diverse marine ecosystems of the island. They learned about the consequences of illegal fishing and looked at solutions that are being implemented to mitigate coastal erosion. Their studies focused on two sites: Mojón Blanco, an area of natural dunes; and the Chinijo Archipelago Nature Reserve. There, students analyzed nature-based solutions for the protection of the beaches, such as how to preserve the beach without the use of groynes—a shore protection structure to reduce longshore drift and trap sediments.

The last day of the trip included a visit to the César Manrique Foundation. Manrique, an artist and sculptor, is a native of Lanzarote but lived in New York for many years. When he saw the growing issue of unsustainable tourism on the island, he returned and began a series of initiatives to mix nature and architecture in a more harmonious and sustainable way. “He was the pioneer of this kind of architectural activity,” Juan Carlos pointed out.

The final afternoon included a snorkeling adventure off of Playa de los Cocoteros, where students could see the marine biodiversity up close. Students had the chance to reflect on their experiences from the trip and talk about the key learnings they were taking with them.

The field trip to Lanzarote proved to be a transformative learning experience for everyone involved, and the group returned to Segovia with a renewed passion for sustainability. With so many learnings and insights from the trip—and a taste of how they can be a part of the solution—students are even more inspired to make their own impact and work toward a better, more sustainable world.