<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Gorka Sancho
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Department of Marine Biology
Gorka SanchologoGorka Sancho
Photos: Sancho (left) catching fish with colleague David Itano and with son Unai
A Wild Life Love
By Paulette Barba

True passion lasts forever. In the case of Professor Gorka Sancho, marine biology and his students come hand in hand, his passions for life.

While I patiently wait to meet with Professor Sancho, I overhear his conversation with a student. Through his enthusiastic movements and vivid words, anyone could tell that Sancho loves his students just as much as teaching.

He stresses that marine biology is an important subject but also strongly believes it wouldn’t be the same without a little fun, "I tell my students to remember to have fun while studying. Biology should be fun. Don't ever forget it should be fun!" Sancho says.

Born in Tucson, Ariz., Sancho lived most of his life in Spain and completed his undergraduate work there before moving back to the U.S. to work on his Ph.D. at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. Sancho continued to work out of Woods Hole as an oceanography faculty member in the Sea Education Association.

Eventually the winds brought Sancho to the College of Charleston. The College opened its doors with many opportunities for Sancho. "I decided to teach at the College of Charleston because of the emphasis on student teaching and education," Sancho says. "I love the freedom it gives me to offer new courses, new educational opportunities and avenues."

Every year Sancho teaches two upper level classes in biology, specifically Biology of Fishes and Oceanography. This year Sancho and geology professor Leslie Sautter, will collaborate with one another to teach an Oceanographic Research course.

When Sancho has more time on his hands, he teaches summer international courses.  In the past, Sancho has ventured with his students to Spain to teach them about the country's natural history. Additionally, this summer Sancho plans to team up with Sautter and Scott Harris of the geology department and with the Sea Education Association. The program will serve 16 College of Charleston Biology and Geology students on board a research vessel. The vessel will sail from Charleston to Bermuda.

So what keeps Sancho at the College of Charleston you might ask? Well, his passion for teaching comes as an easy guess. "I love all my classes," he says. "Fish Biology and Oceanography are my passions, and the international travel courses really allow me work one-on-one with students, exposing them to new environments and novel situations, which really promotes hands-on experiential learning."

According to a student of Sancho, Laura Ferguson, Sancho continuously strives to stimulate the minds of his students and always pushes them to explore outside their boundaries. "There’s not a class I have walked away from and not learn about something interesting or unique about our environment," Ferguson says. "Professor Sancho makes you fall in love with the environment just as much as he is. He’s definitely changed my outlook on wildlife."

Though balancing teaching and his family life can sometimes be tricky, Sancho still finds a way to include time for marine biology research. Currently, Sancho is working on various research projects, including a study on fish populations in deep hydrothermal vents in the ocean's Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Additionally, Sancho is concentrating on a study on the migration and movement patterns of mahi-mahi fish in the northern Atlantic Ocean.

I wrap up my interview with one last question, "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?" As he gazes out the window while contemplating the question, I see a passion for marine biology that will never die. "I plan to continue what I’m doing right now, teaching a new generation of students and pursuing my career in fish biology," Sancho says.

As I stand to leave, I capture one last glance of Sancho still staring out in the distance probably reliving the adventures of his past.