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  • Locations: Gal├ípagos Islands, Ecuador
  • Program Terms: Spring
  • Budget Sheets: Spring
  • This program is currently not accepting applications
Fact Sheet:
Study Abroad Advisor: Jerri Snyder Program type: Faculty-Led
Class eligibility: Junior, Senior, Sophomore Minimum GPA: 2.75
Language of instruction: English Language prerequisite: Not applicable
Open to Non-UNC students: UNC System Schools Only Housing options: Homestay
Program Description:
Location| Courses & Credits| Housing| Program Costs| Application Process | More Information|

UNC Environmental Studies in Ecuador

The UNC Study Abroad Office, the Institute for the Environment and Universidad San Francisco de Quito through the GAIAS Institute are glad to offer a semester program with an added field research component in the Galapagos.

This program builds upon the existing semester-long USFQ in GALAPAGOS PROGRAM based at Ecuador. It does so by adding a research component while allowing students to take a wide range of courses and visit a variety of regions in Ecuador including two of the world’s most important ecological sites: the Galapagos archipelago and the Amazon.

In the Galapagos, this program both supports and benefits from UNC-CH’s growing research presence through the Galapagos Science Center and the establishment of the UNC Center for Galapagos Studies. UNC-CH and USFQ are jointly developing a Galapagos Initiative that grew out of continuing research projects in the Galapagos between faculty at the two universities. UNC-CH graduate students from a number of departments are working on dissertation research there, and in recent summers, UNC-CH undergraduate students participated in field data collection for a research project funded by UNC’s Institute for Global Health and Infectious Disease.


Founded in 1988, Universidad de San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), a private liberal arts institution, is located high in the Andes mountains but is in an urban environment. The university offers an interdisciplinary curriculum relevant to a variety of majors and minors. USFQ is considered the most distinguished private university in Ecuador.  It has the largest international exchange program in the region, with more than 100 agreements with universities throughout the world. USFQ is based on a liberal arts college model and employs many of the Ecuador’s most renowned scholars and educators, including almost half of the Ph.D.’s in the country. USFQ’s international programs include short term, semester and year-long programs at their main campus in Quito, at their Galapagos campus (GAIAS), and at their Tiputini Biodivesity Station for research and environmental education in the Amazon. 

Courses & Credits

This program follows the structure of the existing Universidad San Francisco in Galapagos semester-long program with the addition of a field research component at the conclusion of the semester.

Students follow an ecology curriculum that includes courses from the natural and social sciences and combines classroom, field, and lab learning and a research methodology class. Students take five intensive 3-credit courses, all taught in three-week modules, which include:

  • Evolution, Ecology and Conservation in the Galapagos
  • People, Politics and the Environment in the Galapagos
  • Marine Ecology

Please note that the Marine Biology track requires a GPA of 3.0, not all tracks are offered every semester and each has a different cost.

As part of the GAIAS courses, the students will also visit the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in the Amazonia, and USFQ's Riobamba campus in the highlands. In the Galapagos, the courses include visits to various sites and a 4-day cruise in the archipelago. In addition to the core courses, GAIAS also offers optional courses (not for credit) in basic Spanish (19 contact hours in “survival” language skills).

Following the semester coursework, students will engage in a six-week research project. Students will work directly with UNC-CH faculty and/or their graduate students or USFQ faculty. Students will do their research at one of two USFQ field stations of their choice: GAIAS (San Cristobal, Galapagos) or Tiputini (Amazon region). Students working in the Galapagos will work closely with a UNC-CH faculty member or graduate student and will be able to utilize the new lab building that is being constructed as a joint venture between UNC-CH and USFQ. In Tiputini, USFQ faculty members have a number of ongoing research projects as well, which UNC-CH students can join under the support and supervision of USFQ faculty and field station staff. Students will not be allowed to work on more than one research project. At the end of the six weeks of research, students will participate in a three-day wrap-up session to present their research to their fellow students and the field site director.

Students will receive a total of 18 credits for the program: 15 hours of TREQ transfer credit for the 5 courses taken at GAIAS (3 credits each) and 3 hours of UNC graded credit for the research project in Research in Environmental Sciences and Studies for Undergraduates (ENST 395)

PLEASE NOTE: As part of the application, students need to describe the type of research that they would like to conduct during the research phase of the program. The research project will be graded by UNC Professor Amy Cooke.

Courses in this program are UNC Graded Credit.
UNC Graded Credit Programs (often taught by UNC Faculty): No action required

  • These courses automatically show up on your Tar Heel Tracker and UNC Transcript.
  • You will receive a letter grade for those courses, and this does affect your GPA.


Students will be housed with selected Ecuadorian families in the Galapagos, who will provide meals and laundry services.

Research projects undertaken in the Galapagos will be based largely at the GAIAS campus in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on Isla San Cristobal, with short stays on Isla Santa Cruz and Isla Isabela. On San Cristobal, students will be housed with families selected by GAIAS to host homestays, and the host families will provide breakfast and laundry services. On Santa Cruz and Isabela, students will be housed in hotels, with breakfast included. On each of the islands in the Galapagos there are restaurants within easy walking distance, most of which will have vegetarian options available on the menu or by request.

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno has a post office, several internet cafes, an international telephone calling center, banks (with ATMs), travel and tour agencies. Groceries are available for purchase at several small tiendas and bodegas. GAIAS maintains a small library in its classroom building in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, and also provides free, wireless internet access. All of the islands to be visited by the students have both public and private health clinics.

In Tiputini, the various facilities of the camp are scattered throughout a few hectares (5 acres) of virgin rainforest. Students will stay in screened dormitories, each has a bathroom with showers (cold water only) and flush toilets. Food service is provided in a central dining hall where three meals are served daily. Electricity is provided by a generator for several hours each day.

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Program Costs

Review the Budget Sheet posted above for detailed information on costs and fees. Costs vary per term and are subject to change.

Tuition and fees for the program are set based on the host institution’s rates, and will be charged to the participant’s UNC student account. Always refer to the Budget Sheet on this page, and not the host institution’s posted rates, as it is customized for UNC students. Review the Budget Sheet for additional Cashier Billed Expenses and Out-of-Pocket Costs. The Study Abroad Office strongly encourages students to budget carefully for their time abroad. 

Getting Started: Funding Study Abroad
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Application Process

Follow these steps to apply for this program:
  • Complete the required UNC application by clicking “Apply Now” at the top of the page. If you have not done so already, create a profile to start your application.
  • Follow the instructions on your UNC application to submit the supplemental application required by the partner institution.
  • In order to participate in the program, both the Study Abroad Office and partner institution must accept your application. Note that decision notification timelines may differ.
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More Information

For information on requesting ARS accommodations (academic, health, and mobility concerns) for a study abroad program, contact the Advisor for Access.
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Dates / Deadlines:

There are currently no active application cycles for this program.

This program is currently not accepting applications