The Galapagos Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS) is a world-class academic and research institution offering hands-on academic programs for both international and Ecuadorian students on the Galapagos Islands. Students have the opportunity to choose between four tracks: Marine Ecology; Evolution, Ecology and Conservation; Sustainable Tourism; and People, Politics and the Environment. Participants spend one month in Quito at USFQ’s Cumbaya campus (including various excursions), followed by 3 months in the Galapagos. Interested students may also be able to arrive a week early to participate in the GAIAS Diving Experience program, an intensive course in which they will get their PADI Diving License.
- Degree-seeking student
- At least sophomore standing at time of participation
- Good judicial standing
- 2.8+ GPA at time of application
- Evolution and Marine tracks: at least one general biology and one ecology course at the college level
- Marine track: students must have taken a prior biology class and will require DAN insurance for academic dives (included in program price)
- Must be at least 18 years of age at time of participation
As a part of the program, each student will pay UNCW directly for their tuition and a program fee. The program fee varies depending on the academic track selected. GAIAS offers 4 academic tracks for students, as well as two elective course options which include Beginner Spanish and Intermediate Spanish. Students can take up to 2 classes from different academic tracks assuming that they meet any necessary prerequisites and spaces are available (an additional fee may apply). Additionally, volunteer placements in the Galapagos are also available to interested students.
Evolution, Ecology, and Conservation
Students examine and study the ways in which Ecuador´s diverse ecosystems shape evolutionary processes; the manner in which these processes lead to adaptive radiation, specification, endemism, biological diversity; and the role that distinct social, cultural and economic conditions have played in the protection or transformation of these unique environments. Please note courses are subject to change, but may include: Tropical Ecology, Native and Introduced Plants of the Galapagos, Evolutionary Ecology, Phylogenetic and Molecular Evolution, Geographical Information System, and Island Biogeography.
This track combines course and field work addressing the importance of marine conservation and the social aspects of marine management. Through studies on the Ecuadorian Pacific Coast and the Galapagos Islands, students will experience and study a variety of ecosystems, including the subtropical ecosystems of the Humboldt Current and tropical ecosystems of the northern Ecuadorian coast. Course related field trips may include oceanic mangroves, wetlands, cliffs, inter-tidal ecosystems, open sea, and rocky and coral reefs. Please note courses are subject to change, but may include: Techniques of Marine Research I & II, Marine Life, Marine Ecology, and Marine Ecosystems Based Management.
People, Politics, and the Environment
Students explore the various economic, cultural and social issues that affect relationships between humans and their environment. Participants will study ways in which societies adapt to diverse ecosystems on local and global levels. They will examine the economic, political, and societal transformations resulting from the tourism, fisheries, and agriculture industries, as well as from conservation efforts. Please note courses are subject to change, but may include: Wildlife Conservation Management, Political Ecology, Strategic Planning for Natural Resource Planning, Marine and Island Eco-Systems, and Climate Change.
Sustainable Tourism (Fall only)
Students will explore the importance of sustainability and its impact on the economy, the environment and society, as well as the global
community. Please note courses are subject to change, but may include: Introduction to Sustainable Tourism, Destination Marketing, Wildlife
Conservation Biology, Strategic Planning for Natural Resource Management, and Island Socio Ecosystem.
Academic Year Dates
Late August to Mid-May
Fall Semester Dates
Late August to Mid-December
Spring Semester Dates
Early January to Mid-May
Exchange and Study Abroad - With either option you will pay UNCW directly for tuition (either UNCW tuition for exchange students or USFQ tuition for study abroad students) and a program fee specific to the academic track (which includes administrative fees, housing, most meals, excursions, health insurance, and round trip airfare between Quito and the Galapagos). The differences between these two options are competitiveness of placement (exchange is competitive due to limited placements available, study abroad is not), and the amount of tuition charged.
*Please note that we cannot currently accept Exchange applicants for this program. All applicants will be processed as Study Abroad.*
With each option, there will be additional costs for international airfare, passport, and visa. Please meet with an advisor at the Office of International Programs to discuss which option is best for you.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Federal and state financial aid may be applied towards this program. Even if you are normally ineligible for financial aid, you should submit a financial aid application (FAFSA). You may find that you are eligible for additional funding.
UNCW students may also apply for a UNCW Education Abroad Grant and additional study abroad scholarships. Grant applications and additional information are available at http://www.uncw.edu/international/abroad/aid.html.