Marine ecology faculty and students study habitats, populations, and interactions among marine organisms and their environments in the near-shore and protected waters of the Galapagos Marine Reserve. As the fourth largest marine reserve worldwide, and the site of converging warm and cold oceanic currents on the equator, the marine environments of Galapagos are unusually diverse habitats of permanent and migrating vertebrate, invertebrate, mammalian, and avian communities. Our marine ecology researchers investigate mapping/modeling of marine ecosystems, biodiversity and biogeography, communities and endemism, habitat dynamics, population distribution and dynamics, migration and environmental change, and bio-acoustics.
Today the Galapagos Islands, a milestone of sustainability, are faced with the challenges of consumptive demands of a growing tourism sector, an increasing residential population attracted to the Galapagos for jobs in the tourism industry, environmental management institutions and policies of government and non-government organizations, and ecosystems that are highly vulnerable to human activities and decision making. Research at the GSC focused on these linked human-environment interactions takes shape along the following lines of inquiry: Human migration and tourism, public health and disease ecology, agriculture and fisheries, access to care, land use/ land cover dynamics, invasive species eradication, social and ecological vulnerability and resilience, conservation and economic development, environmental health, and nutrition.
On land, Galapagos research is focused on the distributions and effects of plant and animal species, communities, and their interactions with humans in a changing physical environment. Even the giant tortoises of the Galapagos are ecosystem engineers, shaping the archipelago’s terrestrial ecology. Interactions between Galapagos and the mainland occur via man-made air and sea pathways, and are the focus of species mobility studies, invasive species research, and programs to restore altered ecosystems. Our terrestrial ecology researchers examine succession studies, evolution and adaptive radiation, invasive species and eradication, and habit stress, recuperation, and restoration.
The Center For Galápagos Studies awards seed grants to select projects. These awards are designed to foster the development of research partnerships and projects in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, with a focus on the Galapagos Science Center, a jointly developed and supported facility of UNC-Chapel Hill and the Universidad San Francisco de Quito. Grants are to UNC faculty to undertake preliminary research or to enhance existing projects that lead to external grant applications. Preference is given to new project initiatives. The Galapagos Initiative emphasizes the study of the social, terrestrial, and marine sub-systems in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador and their integration through a focus on population, health, and environment.
Our interdisciplinary research team publishes on variety of themes including marine and terrestrial ecology, plant and animal biology, water quality, human-environment interactions, human health, and others. Check out our recent publications here.