Human environment interactions: 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
- Institutions and conservation politics
- Subsistence strategies, agriculture and fisheries
- Land use/land cover dynamics
- Invasive species and eradication
- Social and ecological vulnerability and resilience
- Conservation and economic development
Marine ecology: 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.
- Mapping/modeling of marine ecosystems
- Biodiversity and biogeography
- Communities and endemism
- Habitat dynamics
- Population distribution and dynamics
- Migration and environmental change
Terrestrial ecology: 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.
- Succession studies
- Evolution and adaptive radiation
- Invasive species and eradication
- Habit stress, recuperation, and restoration
Microbiology: Oceanic island systems are ideal locations for the study of molecular processes. In the Galapagos, molecular biologists investigate changes to soil makeup following invasion by particular plant species such as blackberry, guava, and elephant grass. Epidemiologists evaluate the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in animal species that reside near human settlements, to identify those who are most at risk of exposure to human pathogens.
- Molecular biology
- Animal virology
Public Health: The Galapagos islands are undergoing rapid social and economic development, and are in the midst of a nutrition and health transitions. Human health in the archipelago is linked to both natural and human. environmental factors.
- Disease ecology
- Access to care
- Environmental health
Earth sciences: Global phenomena such as El Niño/La Niña affect Galapagos and an increased intensity in recent decades may be due to human-influenced climate change. Just as islands provide opportunities to observe micro-scale patterns, they are equally appropriate sites for large-scale interactions between atmospheric, terrestrial, and marine systems. The ongoing tectonic activity of the Galapagos makes the archipelago particularly interesting to geologists and geomorpholgists.
- Marine substrates and maritime conditions
- Sediments, volcanism, island formation
- Marine currents, temperature, productivity
- El Niño/La Niña and climate change
- Natural hazards