Ferrum’s Ecotourism Program Leads to Research in Galapagos for Alumna Audrey Ramsey

In January, Ferrum College alumna Audrey Ramsey ’18 boarded a plane bound for the Galapagos Islands. She will spend the spring collecting data in collaboration with the National Park of Galapagos, Ferrum College’s ecotourism program, and the Center for Protected Area Management (CPAM) at Colorado State University, and will return to Virginia in May.

As an undergraduate in Ferrum’s recreation leadership program, Ramsey completed an internship with CPAM where she helped with annual training courses for Latin American protected area managers. After earning her Bachelor of Science in recreation leadership with minors in ecotourism and environmental science, Ramsey enrolled at Colorado State and continued to work for CPAM. She earned her Master of Science in global conservation leadership in 2020. Her work with CPAM lead to phase one of this consultancy in the Galapagos to develop site-by-site interpretive plans for Las Grietas and Tortuga Bay, two of the most visited public use sites on the island of Santa Cruz.

“I’ve spent the last two months collecting data from park rangers, tourists, and locals to gather perceptions and learn about the two sites to aid the Park in future management decisions,” said Ramsey.

Ramsey completed her masters thesis project by doing research on the state of environmental interpretation in Latin American Protected Area Systems. “[This research] is a baseline inventory of the use of environmental [and] cultural interpretation as a tourism management tool within Latin American federal protected area systems,” explained Ferrum College Associate Professor of Recreation Leadership Christopher Mayer, who offered his expertise in environmental interpretation throughout Ramsey’s master’s thesis and now advises her on the Galapagos project.

Ramsey said she became interested in ecotourism when she traveled to Costa Rica for a family vacation in 2010. After ecotouring the Osa Peninsula, Ramsey was hooked. She knew she wanted a career in ecotourism.

“I searched for colleges that offered ecotourism and Ferrum was the one college on the East Coast that offered it as a minor,” she said. “In my first ecotourism class in 2014, Foundations of Ecotourism, I learned about the Galapagos Islands and their exceptional model of ecotourism. From that class onward, Galapagos became a dream of mine. I wanted to do some type of ecotourism work here and learn from their model. Seven years later, I arrived in the Galapagos and am living [my dream].”

In 2019, the College began offering ecotourism as a major. “When I learned that Ferrum was going to begin offering ecotourism as a major, I was incredibly excited,” said Ramsey. “That degree will offer incredible experiences for incoming students. I would never have had the opportunities I have had if it weren’t for the ecotourism program at Ferrum.”

Learn more about Ferrum College’s ecotourism program here.

Learn more about Ferrum College’s recreation leadership program here.