Location(s): Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Date: Arrival Date:  June 24, 2022  End Date: July 23, 2022

Remote prep days will be from June 20, 2022 - June 24, 2022

Program Overview

Upcoming Online Info Sessions: Feb 24th at 3:30pm - Register Here 

Watershed Thinking in Sustainability has been designed to give you an immersive educational opportunity that goes beyond the typical tourist experience in the Galapagos Islands, opening up the possibility for you to intimately know the beauty of the Galapagos from the inside out. Join us for an in-depth exploration of the interactions between human and natural communities on the archipelago in two ways: by working alongside its people and by performing field methods to assess the health of its watersheds and all those that depend on it. We will visit sites that include Darwin Station, artisanal farms, and volcanoes, and participate in nature walks, traditional fishing, and beach cleanups. You will have the chance to meet passionate people from farming, fishing, conservation, governmental, and rights-based, and ethnic grassroots sectors doing the work to ensure a long-term and sustainable future for all those who share the Galapagos Islands.

The Galapagos Islands are generally framed as a haven for research into evolutionary theory, a panacea for conservation, and a tourists’ playground. While this is true, the overly simplistic view does not fully convey the historical complexity that has led to tension between the natural and built environments on the islands. Stories from diverse Galapageño communities, as well as measurements of key environmental indicators, show that the tourist, biological research, and conservation infrastructure that invisibilizes the people have had detrimental impacts not only on the people who live there, but also on the environment for which the Galapagos is known. 

In this UCSC Global Seminar, we will cross disciplinary bounds for a new approach to sustainability. By working work with the local organization FUNDAR (Foundation for Alternative Responsible Development in Galapagos), we will analyze the complexities of a conservation-versus-development approach while also having the first-hand experience of what a more holistic version of valuing and taking care of life—in all its diverse forms— could be like. Visits to local organizations and communities will be balanced with classroom seminars in cultural and historical geographies to explore the potential for truly ethical and collaborative research. In complement, hands-on activities that train you in various scientific tools and processes to assess the health of local watersheds and potential for renewable forms of energy. During the program, you will travel to three islands of the Galapagos: Santa Cruz, Floreana, and Isabela to understand different approaches to sustainability based on the unique local contexts and realities.

As a participant in this program, you will not only learn how scientific and cultural approaches together formulate sustainability, you will be an active participant in the ongoing story of the Galapagos Islands.

Language of Instruction: English


  • CRSN 151 A: Sustainability Praxis in the Natural and Built Environment (5 units)
  • CRSN 151 S: Sustainability Laboratory Tools, Techniques, and Applications (5 units)

Max Enrollment: 16

Faculty Leaders: Dr. Juli Hazlewood & Dr. Tela Favaloro

Contact: globallearning@ucsc.edu 

Program Highlights

  • Spend almost a month exploring three astoundingly beautiful Galapagos Islands, giving you ample time to learn about the incredible biodiversity present on and around the islands, as well as the deep local knowledge that you simply can’t find anywhere else in the world.
  • Enjoy a perfect balance of formal and informal learning - the classroom will open up as you are presented with opportunities to learn everywhere you look and with everyone you meet! You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll learn just by being present on the islands and interacting with the living world all around you. 
  • Understand how science, engineering, and cultural ways of knowing contexts interact in exciting ways through visits to several local organizations, all doing important work for the benefit of the human and nature’s communities. 
  • Get your hands dirty by engaging in data collection and analysis across the islands, become an active part in the ongoing story of research and scientific understanding in the Galapagos.
  • It’s not all work! Take time to engage with the land and sea through hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, and more! You’ll gain a new appreciation for the beauty and diversity of the islands and more deeply understand why ensuring a sustainable future for the islands’ flora and fauna is important.


How to Apply

  1. Review the below eligibility criteria, prerequisites, and specific requirements for this program
  2. Apply in the Global Learning Portal

All applications will be processed first-come, first-served. Students are encouraged to apply early due to limited capacity. 

General Eligibility Criteria

  • Good Academic and Disciplinary Standing at the time of application and every quarter prior to departure
  • 2.5 cumulative GPA or higher at the time of application and every quarter prior to departure
  • Be at least 18 years old by the time of departure

Prerequisites and Program-Specific Application Requirements

Personal Statement

Write a 1-page statement to upload on your application with the following:

(Suggestion: one paragraph single-spaced for each bullet point)

  • Tell us about yourself including your interest in this program. How will it fit into your academic and life plans? Please include a brief account of relevant classes, projects, or extra-curricular programs you have already taken. 
  • Respect for one another, the people, and our surroundings is essential to our group-based and experiential learning opportunity. How do you think your skills and life experiences could contribute? What expectations and hopes do you have?
  • Why the Galapagos? What motivates you to join this UCSC Global Seminar? What are some initial questions you would like to explore while on these islands?