International Programs

Ecuador

Galapagos Science Center

Promoting Science and Education to protect the Galapagos' Ecosystems and Enhance the Lives of their Inhabitants.

To address the current challenges facing the Galapagos Islands such as population growth, resource conflict, and economic development, a collaborative partnership has been created between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA and the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador. The partnership is designed to foster research, education, and outreach programs in the islands, with the larger goals of advancing conservation efforts in the Galapagos and promoting better understanding of ecologically sensitive and protected areas worldwide.

UNC-Chapel Hill and USFQ are jointly building the Galapagos Science Center, a state-of-the-art research facility on San Cristobal in the Galapagos Archipelago. The new facility will be used by faculty and students from both universities to conduct research in this special and unique environment, a World Heritage Site and the birthplace of Darwin's theory of natural selection.  

UNC has committed to reaching out to the people of San Cristobal and to the larger Island community who are our hosts.  Initially, this has included a few short-term workshops and seminars for Island students and teachers related to the mission of the Center, which is to study terrestrial ecology, marine ecology, geospatial technologies (remote sensing & geographic information systems), and microbiology.  The Center will also have office space for visiting physical, social, and health scientists, as well as multi-purpose space that will be used for community outreach events. 

In the longer term, the School of Education is working with the Center and with faculty and students from USFQ at GAIAS, the Galapagos Institute for Arts and Sciences (to which the new Center is physically attached and, among other things, provides an education abroad program for Carolina students) to forward two initiatives both of which are dependent on external funding that is pending.  First is "Galapagos Vision 2020 and Beyond: Cultivating Future Leader-Scholars on the Enchanted Islands."  This project will create homegrown community leaders from a cohort of exceptional public high school students.  The idea is to identify promising students and prepare them for university on the mainland while inculcating in them a commitment to public service and entrepreneurship back on the Islands.  

The School of Education will be involved in helping to train teachers in effective science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) pedagogies and to serve as virtual mentors to the high school students in support of the development of their proficiency in English and particularly on a capstone project (which must be written entirely in English). Second is general STEM education outreach (teacher workshops focusing on the mission of the Center, including lab and field training experiences at the Center) as part of an NSF Partnerships in International Research and Education proposal. The main thrust of the proposal is to develop a model that will quantify the interrelationships among the flora, fauna, and human impacts on the Islands.