Our Team

Meet the GSC Staff in USFQ-Quito, UNC-Chapel Hill and San Cristobal, Galapagos

We are an international team, each member with his or her role to provide the best service possible at the GSC. Get to know each of us on this tab

© Carola, Miguel Vences

Our Team in Quito, Ecuador

Carlos Mena

Co-Director, Galapagos Science Center (USFQ)

Director, Galapagos Research (USFQ)


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Dr. Carlos Mena is a geographer interested in a wide variety of issues that emerge from the interaction between social and natural systems, including the impacts of extractive industries (oil and mining), land use and land cover in the tropics, climate change and infectious diseases, and tourism research.

Methodologically, his research uses a combination of social survey methods, remote sensing and spatial analysis, complex models (Agent Based Models), and participatory/community methods of data collection.

His work has been funded by the US Academy of Sciences, The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, NASA, The Inter-American Institute for Global Change, HIVOS, the Ecuadorian Government, USAID, and USFQ.

Carlos is the Co-Director of the Galapagos Science Center, as well as, Director of the Galapagos Research USFQ.

Sofia Tacle

Assistant Director, Galapagos Research (USFQ)


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Sofia studied her undergraduate degree in International Relations at USFQ  and later completed a Master’s degree in Public Policy at the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, Sede Ecuador (FLACSO).

Sofia is the Assistant Director of the Galapagos Science Center in Quito. One of her objectives and goals is to position the Galapagos Science Center as one of the most recognized research centers in Latin America and the world.

In her spare time, Sofia enjoys reading, hiking, and enjoying time with her family.

Our Team in Chapel Hill, USA

Jill Stewart

Deputy Director, Center for Galapagos Studies (UNC)


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Dr. Stewart is committed to pursuing high impact, interdisciplinary research at the nexus of ecosystems and human health, and in bridging silos between traditional academic disciplines. As Deputy Director of the UNC Galápagos Initiative, she leads efforts to build the research enterprise across departments including leading faculty research directors from across campus to identify critical research questions and to work together to understand the complex interactions between people and the environment.

Kelly Weaver

Director of External Affairs & Communications, Center for Galapagos Studies (UNC)


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Kelly brings over 10 years of experience working in higher education both in the US and UK across Business Development, Fundraising and Career & Leadership. As Director for External Affairs & Communications, Kelly will develop strategies for fundraising, communications and international partnerships as it relates to UNC’s Center for Galapagos Studies. She recently worked at UNC Kenan-Flagler, managing relationships with global companies within energy, sustainability, healthcare and consulting. Prior to joining UNC Kelly spent six years working at University of Oxford in various roles such as Senior Development Executive for Saïd Business School and fundraising for Oxford Sport during London 2012. Before moving to the UK, Kelly was Senior Woman Administrator and Head Tennis Coach at Meredith College, leading the team to two NCAA appearances. She has worked in the corporate sector as an attorney and a global project manager. Kelly earned her BA in Foreign Affairs from University of Virginia and her JD from UNC School of Law.

Kelly has worked and traveled in nearly 30 countries and enjoys exploring new cultures. She is excited to be doing meaningful work with global impact and to ultimately help protect the Galapagos for future generations.

Steve Walsh

Co-Director, Galapagos Science Center (UNC)

Director, Center for Galapagos Studies (UNC)


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Dr. Walsh’s research explores questions about social and ecological vulnerability, resilience, and sustainability in diverse settings. His research focuses on three main areas:

Human-Environment Interactions – relationships between environment and population with particular emphasis on the linkages between deforestation, agro-forestry systems, urbanization, tourism, population demographics and socio-economic patterns, household livelihoods, land use/land cover change, social-ecological vulnerability, and island sustainability

 Coupled Human-Natural Systems – the integration of people, place, and environment considered through the lens of Complexity Theory in which nonlinear relationships, feedback mechanisms, emergent behavior, and complex adaptive systems are examined using multi-agent based models and spatial and statistical analyses. The goal is to understand pattern-process relations within the context of a dynamic environment, evolving characteristics of multiple agents, interaction mechanisms, rules of behavior, and scenarios of change

Geographic Methods – remote sensing, GIS & spatial analysis, and modeling approaches within the context of landscape characterization and representation of social and biophysical systems with particular emphasis on the use of spatial models for landscape characterization and simulation of the drivers of land use/land cover change.

Phil Page

Assistant Director, Center for Galapagos Studies (UNC)


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Phil Page has oversight responsibilities for UNC’s activities with the Galapagos Science Center, as well as for general science, education, and logistics issues associated with UNC’s Center for Galapagos Studies.  As a UNC alumnus himself, he relishes working with all the faculty and students from different departments and schools who are doing amazing Galapagos work.  He is trained as a geographer and has taught multiple times in the UNC Galapagos Study Abroad program and, when time allows, participates in research projects there as well.

Katya McKerr

Administrative Manager & Events Coordinator, Center for Galapagos Studies (UNC)


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Katya was born in Peru and has lived in the United States since 2003. She is a native Spanish speaker with 10+ years of experience working in the travel industry, where she trained personnel in five countries. She earned a BA in Management and Society with a minor in Hispanic Studies from UNC-Chapel Hill. She is passionate about protecting the environment and enjoys working with people from around the world.

Katya is responsible for the CGS Administrative Management, which includes working directly with the GSC’s Assistant Director to improve protocols, develop institutional manuals, and produce relevant documentation. Also, she assists the GSC’s team to manage services, programs, logistics, and events.

Katya is also responsible for the CGS Financial Management, including purchasing equipment, bookkeeping, billing, and managing accounts receivable.

Last, Katya provides information and assistance to UNC’s staff, faculty, and students interested in traveling to the Galapagos to conduct research.

Our Team in San Cristobal, Galapagos

Ana Lucía Carrión

Assistant Director, Galapagos Science Center

Research Coordinator


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Ana studied Ecology at USFQ and received a Master’s degree in Protected Area Management at James Cook University, Australia.

Ana is the Assistant Director, Galapagos Science Center in Galapagos, where she coordinates the effective execution of the GSC’s operations to promote high-quality scientific research in the Galapagos. Ana also manages scientific research projects within the framework of the management guidelines established by the Environmental Authority.

Ana has worked in projects of biological monitoring, conservation, ecological restoration, and participatory management and management of natural resources in Galapagos and different protected areas in Ecuador. Ana strives to help position the GSC as one of the most important research centers in the Galapagos by generating key knowledge for the conservation and sustainable development of the islands.

Ana enjoys doing outdoor activities and photographing animals, especially birds.

Sylvia Sotamba

Administrative Coordinator, Galapagos Science Center


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Sylvia joined the USFQ – Galapagos Extension as a World Wide Fund (WWF) fellow in May 2008 and in 2016 she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Business Administration at USFQ.

Sylvia is the Administrative Coordinator at the Galapagos Science Center, and her responsibilities include managing and providing administrative and logistical assistance to all the staff and researchers. In addition, she coordinates and supervises the maintenance, cleaning, and safety area of ​​the GSC.

In her free time, Sylvia enjoys walking, reading, cycling, listening to music, tending to her garden at home, and reading articles related to the environment and culture.

Leidy Apolo

Community Outreach Coordinator, Galapagos Science Center


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Leidy obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Tourism from the Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL) and for over five years she has worked on projects linking to the community. Leidy currently serves as the GSC Community Outreach Coordinator.

One of Leidy’s main objectives is to contribute to the change of behavior of those who participate in her different outreach programs and to continue learning from all the people she has the privilege of working with.

Leidy has a passion for plants and enjoys growing and caring for them. She enjoys promoting good habits from home, so she regularly prepares healthy meals with her daughters.

Daniela González

Communications Coordinator, Galapagos Science Center


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Daniela received her degree in Environmental Communication at USFQ and later obtained her Master’s degree in Communication and Education at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata (UNLP) in Argentina.

Daniela is the Communications Coordinator of the Galapagos Science Center. Her responsibilities include social media management, design and development of communication and education campaigns, development of radio programs, writing of news articles, coverage of events, and special photography.

Daniela has worked in various public institutions such as the Agency for the Regulation and Control of Biosafety and Quarantine for Galapagos, Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion, and, Ministry of Public Health.

She is passionate about pastry, a lover of the sun, the sea, music, and reading. Daniela also provides advice on nutrition and physical training.

Silvia Zavala

Experimental Education Coordinator, Galapagos Science Center


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Silvia received her undergraduate degree in Marine Biology and Freshwater at the University of Glasgow, United Kingdom, graduating with honors in 2018.

Silvia is the Experimental Education Coordinator at the Galapagos Science Center and and is in charge of the design, coordination, execution and evaluation from various education programs including active research activities for national and international students, manages and organizes groups that visit the GSC, creates and designs programs, organizes the participation of teachers and students, accompanies their visits, and evaluates their experience.

Silvia hopes to consolidate and structure study programs that are specific to the GSC and are aimed at local, national, and international students.

Ariel Pila

Terrestrial Ecology Laboratory Coordinator, Galapagos Science Center


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Ariel studied Technology in Production and Industrial Safety at Universidad de las Américas (UDLA). In 2018, he complete an International Certification Yellow Belt Lean Six Sigma with LSS Institute.

Ariel is the Terrestrial Ecology Laboratory Coordinator at the GSC and provides support to researchers and students who use the laboratory. Among his responsibilities, he collects data from the meteorological stations maintained by the GSC on the island, as well as monitoring other sensors for research air quality, rainwater isotope measurements, and freshwater flow monitoring.

Ariel considers himself a curious and active person with new knowledge and experiences always motivating him. Living in San Cristobal has brought him closer to the sea, so surfing has become his hobby.

Cristina Vintimilla

Laboratories Manager, Galapagos Science Center

Marine Ecology Laboratory Coordinator


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Cristina obtained her degree in Applied Ecology at USFQ and later obtained her Master’s degree in Marine Sciences with a focus on Resource Management at the Universidad Nacional Costa Rica.

Cristina is the Laboratories Manager and the Marine Ecology Laboratory Coordinator at the Galápagos Science Center, where she provides support for the projects to be executed according to the needs raised by global researchers. Before this role, Cristina worked for two years as an assistant coordinator for the Forest Stewardship Council in Ecuador and spent a year as part of the consulting team at Greenwise.

Cristina loves to travel to new places, explore new cultures, and visit national parks and nature to photograph their fauna, flora, and landscapes. She loves being near the sea, snorkeling, diving, and listening to the sea.

Gabriela Gavilanes

Microbiology and Biomolecular Laboratory Coordinator, Galapagos Science Center 

Biobank Coordinator 


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Gabriela is passionate about the world of microorganisms and enjoys laboratory work.  She studied Engineering in Biotechnological Processes at San Francisco de Quito University (USFQ); later she did a master’s in Research, Development, and Innovation of Medicines at the University of Navarra, Spain.

Gabriela is currently the Coordinator of the GSC Microbiology and Molecular Biology Laboratory where she provides scientific and administrative support to researchers for the development of various projects in these areas.  She also works as the Biobank Coordinator.

Before joining the GSC team, Gabriela worked as Coordinator of the Evolutionary Biology Laboratory at USFQ and during her undergraduate degree, she was part of projects related to Bacterial Evolution and Antibiotic Resistance at the Institute of Microbiology of USFQ and the University of Michigan.

Gabriela enjoys playing tennis, swimming, chess, and gastronomy, but above all, she values ​​quality time with her family and friends.

Daniela Alarcón

Special Education Projects Coordinator, Galapagos Science Center


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Daniela earned her Bachelor’s degree in Marine Ecology from USFQ and, after completing her degree, she was part of the volunteer program with the Parque Nacional Galapagos (PNG) and participated in several marine research projects. She received her Master’s degree in Protected Area Management from James Cook University, Australia. Daniela now works as the Special Education Projects Coordinator at the Galapagos Science Center.

Daniela hopes to continue with marine research through emblematic projects to contribute to knowledge about the marine megafauna in Galapagos and its possible threats to inform policy makers. Daniela is passionate about the underwater world, organic agriculture, and reducing the unnecessary consumption of products to contribute to leaving a better world. As a hobby, she loves rock climbing, mountain biking, surfing, and experimenting in the kitchen with different recipes.


Luis Tasipanta

Spatial Analysis & Modeling Laboratory Coordinator, Galapagos Science Center

Information Technology Systems Coordinator


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Luis studied Systems and Computer Engineering at the Escuela Politécnica del Ejército (ESPE) in Ecuador.

Luis is the Information Technology Systems Coordinator and the Spatial Analysis & Modeling Laboratory Coordinator at the Galapagos Science Center. He is also working on obtaining the international CISCO certification. He has worked at the Galapagos Naval High School, at the Galapagos District Education Office, and the Galapagos Electoral Tribunal.

In his spare time, Luis likes to practice ping-pong, taekwondo, and cycling. In addition, on weekends he is dedicated to agriculture on his farm.

Juan Pablo Muñoz-Pérez

Special Research Projects Coordinator, Galapagos Science Center


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Ana studied Ecology at USFQ and received a Master’s degree in Protected Area Management at James Cook University, Australia.

Juan Pablo is the Special Research Projects Coordinator at the Galapagos Science Center. He is an occasional lecturer and Research Scientist at UNC-Chapel Hill, USFQ, and the GSC. He is a PhD Candidate in Environment and Sustainability at the University of the Sunshine Coast – Australia.

His doctoral thesis is titled “Plastic pollution in the Galapagos Marine Reserve: Quantifying the Impacts on Marine Vertebrates and Proposing Solutions to Reduce Wildlife Impacts.”


Juan Pablo is the co-founder of EquilibrioAzul Sea Turtle Conservation Program as well as, the GSC Sea Turtle Conservation Program and the GSC Marine Debris Program.

Jessenia Sotamba

Administrative Assistant, Galapagos Science Center


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Jessenia is the Administrative Assistant of the Galapagos Science Center. Jessenia’s job consists of supporting the science coordinator, managing research permits, field notices, requests for export of samples, and other related activities to science and research. She is currently pursuing a degree in Environmental Management at USFQ- Galapagos extrension.

In 2017 and 2018, Jessenia was in charge of coordinating research cruises led by the GSC in collaboration with the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park (DPNG), an activity where several national and international researchers participate intending to collaborate in the conservation of species of the archipelago.

In the future, Jessenia hopes to travel to other parts of Ecuador such as Mindo and the Amazon to enjoy its nature and culture. She is a lover of sunsets accompanied by good wine, music, and a book.

Fabiola Quiñonez

Housekeeping Specialist

Marcos Gutiérrez

Maintenance Specialist

About Us

Meet the GSC Advisory Board

The Galapagos Science Center is overseen by a governing board of successful scientists with years of experience working on research projects in Galapagos. Members are selected from both the USFQ and the UNC. The Board meets annually to advise the Co Directors in their leadership of the institution and facilities use.

From front left: Sofia Tacle, Jaime Ocampo, Carlos Mena, Diego Riveros-Iregui, Gunter Reck, Steve Walsh, Amanda Thompson, María de Lourdes Torres, Don Hobart, Jill Stewart, Peggy Bentley, Diego Quiroga, Adrian Marchetti, Corbin Jones, Carlos Valle