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Executive Summary

Our vision of globalized learning is to transform research, education, and outreach at Carolina by creating links to international partners whose ideas and energies flow between UNC, USFQ, Galapagos Islands, global island ecosystems, and world institutions to innovate, enlighten, and transform. The Galapagos Initiative draws from the varied talents and experiences of Carolina faculty, students, staff, alumni, and special friends, and applies the lessons learned and new knowledge generated to the challenges facing North Carolina and the World. The Galapagos Initiative emphasizes the study of island ecosystems, and by extension, coastal environments, and their direct/indirect linkages to local/global places as well as social/ecological forces of change.


The Grand Challenges that frame the Galapagos Initiative are to

  1. Assess island ecosystems and resolve the social-ecological threats to their sustainability,
  2. Foster the health and well-being of people, animals, and ecosystems to better understand the complex interactions between people and environment, and
  3. Promote stewardship and extend our knowledge of global environmental change, social and evolutionary adaptation, and the dynamics of local places and global contexts to benefit the Galapagos Islands, North Carolina, and the World.


The Mission Goals of the Galapagos Initiative are to

  1. Improve the scientific understanding of the linked social, terrestrial, and marine sub-systems in the Galapagos Islands to better inform policies and practices of the Galapagos National Park and to encourage wise stewardship throughout the Galapagos Islands and beyond,
  2. Develop an integrative and interdisciplinary program of research, education, and outreach that emphasizes the interactions among population, health, and environment,
  3. Educate UNC students, local people, and citizens of the world about the challenges to stewardship of protected areas and marine reserves and the relevance of a coupled human-natural systems approach to study island and coastal ecosystems and their sustainability, and
  4. Translate the results of our integrative research into tools, techniques, and new knowledge about island and coastal ecosystems in the Galapagos and North Carolina, and also develop a template to address other similarly challenged settings around the globe through an integrative approach of innovation, discovery, and learning.


The Galapagos Science Center is the only institution of its kind in the Galapagos, and it represents a unique facility and a special opportunity to make the world a better place and to enrich our understanding of coupled human-natural systems in a world-renowned National Park, Marine Reserve & World Heritage Site. Our goal is to extend our understanding of island and coastal ecosystems and their sustainability to North Carolina as well as to other similarly challenged environments around the globe. In addition, the Galapagos Initiative seeks to integrate research, education, and outreach through a seamless transition between the classroom, field, and lab, relying upon the unique infrastructure at the Galapagos Science Center and the diversity of scientists at UNC, USFQ, and our global partners. Together, we are working to enrich scholarship, create new knowledge, and enhance educational experiences.