Through an extensive and intensive program of integrated and interdisciplinary research and education, the primary goals are to understand the complex nature of population-environment interactions, challenges related to resource conservation and economic development, global interconnections, develop education and knowledge transfer programs that benefit UNC-Chapel Hill, our collaborators, and the global community, inform policy and management, develop and translate research technologies to industry and government, and develop insights and understandings to address the cross-cutting challenges that face science, society, and this vulnerable place. Beyond the Galapagos Islands, the program will create a global template for the study of other conflicted and challenged places throughout the world that are located in and around protected areas, as well as in the many diverse environments where social and ecological sustainability is at risk.
Our education plan will engage scientists, visitors to the Islands, decision-makers, institutional stakeholders; students from Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, the U.S. and other international locations; and local community groups and individuals living in the islands, as well as global participants who advocate a vision of the island’s future. Our plan stresses important elements of our coupled natural-human system: importance of context and place, importance of relationships between patterns and processes of social-ecological change, assessment and measurement, monitoring and modeling of human-environment relationships, and scenario testing of the complex interplay between people and environment within the context of conservation and development. The education activities will occur in a number of strategic and integrated ways, for instance:
(1) We will create a series of research and educational networks that deepen the international collaborations between faculty and students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, other US and international universities, scientists and managers at the Galapagos National Park, Charles Darwin Foundation & Research Station, NGOs such as the World Wildlife Fund and Conservation International, faculty and students at the University of San Francisco at Quito (USFQ), and other organizations who seek to understand the social, terrestrial, and marine sub-systems of the Islands, as well as other similarly challenged places around the world. We will expand a partnership that has already begun with our collaborating Ecuadorian organizations through Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) that have been endorsed by each institution. We believe that resource conservation-economic development issues need to be studied through linkages of the global North and South. Bringing together students and scholars with various perspectives, institutions, and experiences will allow us to build working relationships that take into account these differences and move forward towards finding common grounds on which to build effective and holistic conservation science.
(2) To further increase diverse learning experiences for students, we have developed a Study Abroad program between UNC-Chapel Hill and USFQ that emphasizes educational programs for undergraduate students at the main USFQ campus, as well as in the Galapagos Islands at their campus on San Cristobal Island (GAIAS - Galapagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences); arrangements also have been made for USFQ students to enroll in courses at UNC-Chapel Hill.
(3) We have also developed a Seminar Series on the Galapagos Islands that will bring UNC-Chapel Hill faculty to USFQ and USFQ faculty to the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill.
(4) Faculty associated with this proposed project are invited to teach existing courses at GAIAS as well as to create new courses designed around the goals and objectives of our research on coupled natural-human systems for students from the U.S., mainland Ecuador as well as students from the Galapagos Islands, and International undergraduate students enrolled in USFQ programs. For instance, a new undergraduate course, “Population-Environment Interactions in the Galapagos Islands,” has been designed by Professor Walsh to be taught at UNC-Chapel Hill in the fall of 2009; the course will also be taught at GAIAS in the fall of 2010. In addition, a new course, “A Research Practicum in Coupled Natural-Human Systems,” will be jointly developed by Professors Mena at USFQ and Walsh at UNC-Chapel Hill to be taught at GAIAS for undergraduate students enrolled at USFQ. The intent is to train students in the central elements of the research program that entails social and ecological data collection, measurement, and analysis.
(5) GAIAS also serves as a community college for people living in the Galapagos Islands, and our project team will interact with these students as well. We will encourage their participation in our project through possible enrollment in the research practicum course (see above); we will also employ GAIAS students from Isabela Island on the project to aid in data collection, measurement, and analysis. We will also encourage UNC-Chapel Hill student participation in our project by offering research internships to student who have completed the population-environment interactions course (see above). In addition to student involvement in various field activities and training programs associated with our data collection campaigns, we develop learning experiences in survey design methods, remote sensing image processing, and qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis approaches.
(6) We will work to develop a community outreach and education program by collaborating with the primary and secondary public schools in the Galapagos Islands (i.e., Isabela, Santa Cruz, and San Cristobal Islands); we will also place the educational material on the Galapagos National Park’s web site for access by international visitors, those contemplating travel to the islands, government and non-government organizations associated with the Galapagos Islands, and local citizens and institutions. Research teams will transform research goals, data, methods, and findings into teaching modules that are suitable for children and adults. The modules will address questions relevant to the lives of local people, as well as the direct and indirect effects of tourism on the social, terrestrial, and marine sub-systems of the Galapagos Islands. For instance, alternate household livelihood strategies will be examined within the context of exogenous factors such as El Niño events; the spread (or eradication) of invasive plant and animal species; employment in fisheries, tourism, or construction; and the vulnerability and resilience of ecological and social systems in a World Heritage Site through tourism, population migration, and institutions and their policies. Further, we will adapt the teaching materials to supplement information on the web site of the Galapagos National Park that addresses the consumptive issues of tourism on the resources of the archipelago, with a special emphasis on the vulnerability of the coupled human-natural system and the relevance of exogenous and endogenous factors in system behaviors and dynamics.
(7) Graduate students supported in this project will link to the NSF IGERT Program on population-environment interactions at the Carolina Population Center. Also, a graduate seminar on “Population-Environment Interactions” is taught by Professor Walsh that emphasizes the many challenges of linking people and environment in the Galapagos Islands and elsewhere. For instance, Walsh is scheduled to teach the graduate seminar during the spring semester of 2009, and every other year thereafter, along with other project faculty as co-instructors. We also anticipate that undergraduates will become increasingly involved in the Galapagos project as this proposal is viewed as the cornerstone of a much larger effort to integrate research and education across the sciences and campus using the Galapagos as a “living laboratory.” In October 2008, the Vice Chancellor for Research at UNC-Chapel Hill announced the development of a pan-university Center for Galapagos Studies (CGS) that is directed by Professor Walsh. Through the Galapagos Working Group of faculty and students from across campus, CGS focuses on the development of interdisciplinary and integrative research, education, and outreach programs in the Galapagos Islands with an emphasis on population-environment interactions and coupled natural-human systems. Through a collaborative partnership between USFQ and UNC-Chapel Hill, the development of the Islabela Center for Galapagos Studies, a research and training facility on Isabela Island in the Galapagos archipelago, is being explored. The intent is to integrate social, natural, and spatial sciences into the study of social, terrestrial, and marine sub-systems in the Galapagos as a global template.