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Introduction to the
Galapagos Islands Natural History


Galapagos Islands

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Workshops in Ecuador Page

Summer  2013
July (Dates to be announced)
- 5 credit hours -
(approximate dates, subject to change and cancellation)

Non-credit option available

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Updated on March 18, 2016

The web journal of the Summer 2005 program is online. Take a peek...

(Deadline: March 18th, 2013)

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The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Archipelago is located in the Pacific Ocean, 600 miles west of Ecuador. It consists of thirteen larger islands and numerous smaller islets and rocks. Emerging from the sea some five to seven million years ago, the islands were formed by the combination of tectonic forces and volcanic eruptions.  Geologically speaking, the islands are considered relatively new, and together with the Archipelagos of Hawaii and Japan, one of the most active volcanic sites on Earth.

Due to their isolation, the islands have remained undisturbed for millions of years, resulting in the evolution of unique species, found only on the archipelago.   

A Laboratory of Evolution

The Galapagos Islands have often been called “laboratory of evolution”, where scientist have been able to study in detail many of the processes that have shaped the face of life on our planet.  There are few places in the world, where it is possible to find such a variety of species, both animal and plant, which show so many degrees of evolutionary change, in such a restricted area. The Galapagos Islands were one of the sources of inspiration for Charles Darwin’s revolutionary Theory of Evolution.  His observations of the adaptation of the flora and fauna of the archipelago were crucial in formulating his theory of evolution and natural selection.

A Unique Ecosystem

Located on the Equator line (latitude 0.000), the archipelago is yet bathed for much of the year by cool waters from the Humbolt and Cromwell currents coming from the south.  The mixture of warm currents coming from Central America and these cooler undercurrents has produced an amazing mix of tropical and temperate environments that house incredible flora and fauna.  Because of its uniqueness and incredible beauty, the Galapagos Archipelago was declared Biosphere Reserve, World Heritage, and its breathtaking Marine Reserve is considered one of  the top seven sites in the world for diving. 

Description of the Program

The Galapagos Islands are reached by flying TAME or Aerogal airlines from the city of Quito-Ecuador to Baltra Island airstrip.  The flight from Quito is approximately 2 and a half hours.  From Baltra, we will board our yacht.  Travel from island to island is by boat, with distances from one visitor site to the other varying from a few to over 100 kms.  Journey times, therefore, vary from less than an hour to overnight.  To visit each site, we will travel from the yacht to shore on small dinghys called “Pangas” and land either on rocks or beaches.  Most visits are two to three hours long during the morning and afternoon.  This gives ample time to walk the trails slowly, and to study and photograph the fascinating animals and plants.

This program contributes to the sustainability of the research efforts that the Ohio University Tropical Disease Institute carries out in Ecuador through our Infectious Disease Research Laboratory.


The fist day will be in Quito, where the group will have a city tour and a visit to the famous "Mital del Mundo" complex, located 16 Km from Quito. This day is meant as a buffer in case there are delays on the international flights.

During our 8 day cruise trip around the main islands of the Galapagos Archipelago (Baltra, Sta. Cruz, Sta. Fe, Plazas, Floreana, Isabela, Fernandina, James y Seymour), participants will have first hand exposure to the splendor and diversity of one of the most sensitive ecological habitats in the world. The group will visit uninhabited and inhabited islands, giving the participants the chance to compare and evaluate the impact of human activities on these unique island ecosystems, and to discuss the struggle between economical development and conservation. There will be ample opportunity to explore the marine environment, as well.  Snorkeling gear will be available on the yacht for the participants to explore one of the richest marine habitats in the world.

During the workshop,  participants will be presented with in depth information about ecology, biodiversity, geology, evolution and conservation on the islands delivered by faculty from Ohio University, and a Galapagos National Park naturalist guide.

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