UGalapagos provides students with an unforgettable learning experience in one of the most unique places on Earth.
In 1835, Charles Darwin, 22, sailing aboard the Royal Navy ship H.M.S. Beagle on a multi-year research mission, landed on the Galapagos Islands, 600 miles out in the Pacific Ocean from Ecuador’s western coast. His intensive study of the curious creatures that resided on the volcanic archipelago—from spiky iguanas to giant tortoises, the blue-footed booby to the bright red Sally Lightfoot crab—was a key component of his groundbreaking work, On the Origin of Species.
More than 175 years later, University of Miami students are following in Darwin’s intellectual and actual footsteps—and making some fresh tracks of their own—via the academic adventure called UGalapagos. Launched in 2010, the multidisciplinary semester-long program, housed in the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, encompasses marine sciences, conservation biology, sustainable ecotourism, and civic engagement.
UGalapagos students explore every inch of the equatorial chain of islands, from deep within the ocean to towering volcanoes, coffee farms to fishing co-ops. They conduct political and economic analyses, study park management practices, conduct oral histories. In the process, they get to know the island’s human residents—as well as their fascinating animal neighbors—up close and personal. “The UGalapagos program has been structured to provide our undergraduate class with a one-of-a-kind hands-on experience that will help to shape their academic career at UM,” says Rosenstiel School Dean Roni Avissar.
Nikita Shiel-Rolle, A.B. ’10, a marine affairs graduate who leads a research, environmental education, and art program in the Bahamas with the Rosenstiel School, views her UGalapagos experience as a vital link in her own evolution. “There was no better way to end my time at UM than to spend a semester studying in a place so well known from a scientific perspective,” she notes. “And there is no better way to learn than hands-on in the field.”
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