The Initiative and Partnership

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA and the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador, have created a collaborative partnership to address the challenges facing the Galapagos Islands.

The initiative is designed to foster research, education, and outreach programs with the larger goals of advancing conservation efforts in the Galapagos and promoting better understanding of ecologically sensitive and protected areas worldwide.

The Center for Galapagos Studies

The Center for Galapagos Studies (CGS) is UNC Chapel Hill’s managing unit for the initiative.  The Center coordinates Galapagos programs at the main Chapel Hill campus and all Carolina activities in the Galapagos archipelago itself, and is the primary communications link with the Universidad San Francisco.

GSC daytime 1CGS administrates the joint UNC/USFQ Galapagos Science Center, a state-of-the-art research center located on San Cristobal Island, and the only university science facility of its kind in the Galapagos.

CGS links to local, national, and international organizations and institutions. UNC-Chapel Hill has Memoranda of Understanding with the Galapagos National Park, as well as with the Universidad San Francisco de Quito.  The Center also maintains relations with local governments, NGOs, and other conservation and science organizations operating in the Galapagos archipelago.


Conflicts between resource conservation and economic development occur as a consequence of the direct and indirect effects of a burgeoning human population (i.e., 28,000 as of 2007) that continues to migrate to the Galapagos Islands primarily from the mainland of Ecuador, as well as from tourists who visit the archipelago from around the world (i.e., 170,000 in 2007).

This growing human population is now threatening the future of this archipelago – its resources, ecological fragility, and human-environment interactions that exist in this charismatic place – and, as such, in 2007 the United Nations  designated the Galapagos Islands “at risk” from the threats associated with population growth and economic development, and the Ecuadorian government has declared an “ecological emergency,” thereby, further emphasizing the interactions between people and environment in a world-renowned protected area.

The Center for Galapagos Studies addresses these complex interactions among social, terrestrial, and marine environments through an integrated perspective that emphasizing coupled human and natural systems.  An interdisciplinary approach guides our study of the social, terrestrial, and marine sub-systems in the Galapagos, a World Heritage Site. Our goal is that UNC’s work in the Galapagos will be a model for understanding similarly challenged environments around the World.