Our Educators

As part of two academic institutions, the GSC seeks to educate through science in a variety of ways.

© Archipiélago Films

UNC students interact with local USFQ Galapagos Extension students and the local community to share science. © Diego Riveros-Iregui

L – Gonzalo Rivas, Andy Russell, Camille Bonneaud, and Jaime Cháves organize activities with student researchers in the EXETER University group from Falmouth, England. © Geno de Rango

Daniela Alarcón, Special Education Projects Coordinator, Galapagos Science Center, informs a UNC group of students about the local research projects she oversees in the GSC Community Room

GSC Researchers are Educators

GSC Researchers involve local and international students on their scientific research projects to mentor the next generation of scientists for Galapagos and the world. Find out more about education opportunities at GSC on this page.

Most of our Educators are based at the UNC and USFQ but many times they collaborate with professors from other universities on their research and to co-teach courses. Photo credits: GSC Archive, Geno De Rango on Española Island, Diego Rivero-Iregui at Cerro Mundo on San Cristobal Island.

Education Programs at GSC

Thanks to partnerships with the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) and other local public institutions, the GSC has expanded its operations to host 66 research projects and more more than 150 undergraduate/ graduate students that participate in our various education programs which are grouped into two categories:

1. University research groups: GSC currently receives international university research groups in one of two main focuses:

David Hutto from the Houston University group confirms that a local student understands the outdoor education activity he is leading to communicate the research he helped contribute to during his stay

a) Citizen science:

This option is best for undergraduate students that wish to participate in a variety of current, relevant research projects. Whether there are credits associated or not is dependent on the university, but regardless GSC helps structure a final report and presentation opportunity to share their findings with the local community.

Jaime Chaves gives an open air class about evolutionary biology on Playa Mann

b) Focused course:

This option is best for international faculty and their GSC counterparts to further current research projects while deepening their student´s knowledge and research skills. All current focused courses have credits associated and a final reporting requirement.

2. Hands-on Scientific Research Experience – Education program Our researchers proudly include local and international assistants. We offer two tracks:

MacKenzie Moersch assists for a second summer in the Microbiology Lab

a) Research assistants:

Undergraduate or graduate students that wish to hone their own research skills on a thesis, dissertation or other associated research project can pair up with our researchers on a GSC Flagship Project (more below this section).

Junior Scientist Tea DiPrima receives her certificate for completing more than 100 hours assisting GSC Flagship Research Projects

b) Junior scientists:

Anyone with a love for science and basic understanding of the scientific method may contribute on our citizen science and/ or Flagship Projects (more below this section).

3. GSC Join Science! Program: GSC helps shape the next generation of local researchers through this program that invites USFQ-Galapagos Extension students to assist in research projects and communicating science activities

Local students help researchers in the laboratories.

Local students accompany researchers to the field.

Local students interact with visiting students to enhance their international comparative studies

Local students help communicate science creatively with their community

Want more information? Please write to Experimental Education Coordinator, Silvia Zavala at szavalam@usfq.edu.ec.

If you are interested in participating with our researchers and educators, we highly recommend you check out our Flagship Projects.


GSC Local Flagship Projects

Over the years more locally-based researchers are opening their projects to visiting and local research assistants in hopes to engage them in science and promote the next generation of Galapagos scientists. In 2019 GSC will have the following six Flagship Projects open to Research Assistants for participation in the short to medium term.

Below you can find a sample of GSC Local Flagship Projects over the years. Please contact our Special Education Projects Coordinator, Galapagos Science Center, Daniela Alarcón at dealarcon@usfq.edu.ec for more information.

1. “Understanding the effects of marine trash on Galapagos.” GNPD Permit PC-23-19; Principal investigator: Juan Pablo Muñoz-Pérez, MSc.

This project seeks to identify patterns of marine debris distribution, its sources, and evaluate the potential harm it poses to marine fauna and the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Methods include: 1) microplastic sampling in sea water, sand and sediments, 2) macroplastics sampling on beach visits, 3) drone flying to image distribution of trash on beaches, and 4) fauna observation to evidence plastic harm. Research findings are important to inform the current local and international education campaigns to promote responsible plastics use in Galapagos.

© Juan Pablo Muñoz – Pérez

2. “Abundance, distribution and vital range of cetaceans in the Galapagos Marine Reserve.” Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) Research Permit PC-60-18; Principal investigator: Daniela Alarcón-Ruales, MSc.

The main objective of this project is to learn more about the species abundance, distribution, movements and ecology of cetaceans (dolphins and whales) found around the Galapagos Marine Reserve, namely with most frequency: Orcas, bottlenose dolphins, Bryde whales and humpback whales. Methods used include: 1) photo-identification of different species, primarily using photos of the dorsal fin, 2) sound recordings of whale songs, and 3) satellite transmitters to track regional movements. All findings serve to recommend improvements to conservation and management strategies.

© Daniela Alarcón-Ruales

3. “Distribution, demographics and habitat use of two marine turtles in Galapagos: Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) and Hawksbill Sea Turtles (Eretymochyles imbricata) in feeding, reproduction and resting areas.” GNPD Research Permit PC-21-19; Principal investigators: Daniela Alarcón-Ruales, MSc. and Juan Pablo Muñoz-Pérez, MSc.

The main objective of this project is to increase understanding about the ecology and behavior of Green Sea Turtles and Hawksbill Sea Turtles in feeding, reproduction and nesting areas. Methods used include: 1) photo-identification using photos of the right side of the sea turtles face, 2) tag individuals to analyze species abundance and habitat use along migration routes and nesting sites, and 3) take tissue samples to analyze carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes.

©Ana Carrion

4.“Genetic and genomic information use to study population structure, connectivity and effective sizes of diverse biological groups inside the Galapagos Islands to inform their management and conservation.” Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment Permit MAE-DNB-CM-2016-0041-M-003; Principal investigator: Diana Pazmiño, PhD.

Although this macro project aims at including both bony and cartilaginous fish in the future, it has a focus on rays and sharks at the moment. The current component of this ongoing genetic research project will contribute to the understanding of population structure and dynamics of a largely understudied group: rays. More specifically, the results are important for the development of genetic/genomics resources of three species of interest: the Pacific eagle ray (Aetobatus laticeps), the giant manta ray (Mobula birostris), and the golden ray (Rhinoptera steindachneri). In addition, the project aims at analyzing the environmental and anthropological variables that may influence the genetic structure and diversity of these species. Methods used include: 1) net capture and free diving techniques to obtain tissue samples for each species, 2) DNA extraction, PCR and sequencing, and 3) genetic/genomics data analysis. Research findings will help to identify vulnerable areas and justify marine management recommendations.

© Michel Guerrero

5.“The Role of Oceanic Islets in Migratory Marine Species Protection.” GNPD Permit PC-13-19; Principal Investigator: Alex Hearn, PhD.

The central objective of this project is to understand how well the Galapagos Marine Reserve protects pelagic migratory species, namely sharks, in feeding, reproduction, resting areas and cleaning stations. Methods include: 1) tagging sharks to study migration paths, 2) tissue and blood sampling for genetic and health analysis, respectively, and 3) drone imagery to identify potential nursery sites. Findings are important to shape regional policy.

© Manolo Yépez

6.“Evaluating the reproductive success of the Galapagos Sea Lion (Zalophus wollebaeki) on San Cristobal beaches with varying anthropogenic impacts.” GNPD PC-08-18; Principal Investigator: Diego Páez-Rosas, PhD.

This ongoing study looks at the effects of human settlements on the sea lion populations in Galapagos with regards to feeding efficiency, immune defenses and stress levels. Methods include: 1) land censuses of sea lions on rocks and beaches, 2) sea lion pup tagging, and 3) several tissues sampling to analyze trophic ecology and determine the presence or absence of stress indicator hormones. These findings will help understand population dynamics, feeding patterns and human effects on these emblematic creatures.

© Ashleigh Klingman

In addition to these research projects, GSC´s Communication and Education Department offers research assistants the opportunity to participate in the “Connecting with Nature Program” with monthly community events and classroom activities in schools. Find out more in the Our Community tab.

© Silvia Zavala

1- Houston students present a poster they prepared about the negative impacts of plastics on sea turtles.

© Ashleigh Klingman

2- GSC staff member Daniela Alarcón presents research findings about sea turtles to local community members.