We also offer an optional, one-credit Intermediate-level Spanish course which takes place in the Galapagos. This optional course carries an additional fee and its opening is contingent on having a minimum of 8 students signed up for it.
Evolution, Ecology and Conservation
Students in the Evolution, Ecology and Conservation program will examine and study: (1) the ways in which Ecuador´s diverse ecosystems shape evolutionary processes, (2) the manner in which these processes lead to adaptive radiation, specification, endemism, and biological diversity, and (3) the role that distinct social, cultural and economic conditions have played in the protection or transformation of these unique environments.
The Marine Ecology track combines course and field work which addresses the importance of marine conservation and the social aspects of marine management. Through their studies on the Ecuadorian Pacific Coast and the Galapagos Archipelago 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.
People, Politics and the Environment
The People, Politics and Environment track explores the various economic, cultural and social issues that affect relationships between humans and their environment. Program 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.
Elective course options
*Students can combine classes from different tracks, assuming they meet any necessary prerequisites and spaces are available. Course choices for modules 1 and 2 CANNOT be changed once selected prior to arrival. Any course must have a minimum enrollment of 8 students or it will be cancelled. Please note if a student from the Evolution or Politics track wishes to participate in a Marine Ecology course, an additional materials fee applies. Please note courses are subject to change.
Studying and living in San Cristobal
The campus of Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Galapagos (which includes the local programs, GAIAS, and the GSC) is located in the island of San Cristobal, the capital of the Galapagos, in the city of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, which has a population of approximately 6,000 people, most of whom make their living principally of artisanal (small scale) fishing and tourism. In San Cristobal, water temperature averages 22-23 Cª / 71-73 Fº, although it can range from 19Cº - 26 Cº / 66Fº - 78 Fº. Other islands (such as Española) have lower water temperatures depending on the time of year.
On San Cristobal, students are surrounded by some of the most unique wildlife species on the planet. On this island alone, they will have the opportunity to observe Chatham Mockingbirds, Blue Footed Boobies, Masked Boobies, Frigate birds, Pintail Ducks, Gallinules, Pelicans, Giant Tortoises, Sea Tortoises, Crabs, Sea Lions, and various other sea and land birds, including some species of the famous Darwin finches.
The Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands is an archipelago of volcanic origin located along the equator in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 1000 km (600 miles) off the west coast of Ecuador. It has a population of around 30,000 people and constitutes one of Ecuador’s 25 provinces.
The Islands´ fame is attributed to its vast number and variety of endemic species, as well as to Charles Darwin´s visit to the Islands during the Voyage of the Beagle in 1835. It was this visit to the Galapagos Islands that inspired his theory of evolution by natural selection. The archipelago consists of 13 main islands, 6 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets. They are located on top of the Galapagos hotspot.
Ninety-seven percent of the Galapagos Islands’ land surface is a National Park and has been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In addition to the National Park, the Galapagos Marine Reserve, also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, covers 133,000 square kilometers and has been described as one of the most attractive diving destination in the world.
The climate of the Galapagos is influenced by a rich combination of both cool and warm oceanic currents, particularly the Humboldt Current, which brings cool water to the Islands from the south, and the Panama Current, which brings warm water to the archipelago from the northeast.
The climate of the Galapagos can be divided into two main "seasons": the “hot and rainy” season which lasts from December through May, with an average temperature of 25 Cº / 77 Fº, and an average precipitation of 1950 mm. / 748 in. of rain per month. February, March and April are normally the rainiest months of the year. The “cool and dry” season goes from June through November with an average temperature of 18 Cº/ 64 Fº, where the Galapagos receives an average of 315 mm. / 124 in. of rain per month. August, September and October count as the driest and windiest months of the year.
Beautiful landscapes in San Cristobal
A wonderful beach located just across the street from the campus of USFQ. This is a great spot for swimming, surfing and snorkeling with dozens of fish species and sea lions.
This “cerro” or cliff is located northwest of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, is the first spot where Charles Darwin disembarked in 1835 when he arrived to the Galapagos. Named after the shape of the tale of Frigate birds nesting in its cliffs (shaped as scissors, or tijeras in Spanish) this hill plunges into the sea in an enclosed cove that has become a very popular snorkeling destination.
Located within walking distance from the USFQ-Galapagos campus (less than 10 minutes) this remarkable white sand beach is where you can experience marine iguanas wandering freely and crystalline water breaking against the rocks. It is also known as a good surfing spot.
This farming settlement is located a few kilometers up the side of an extinct volcano. It was founded in 1879 by Manuel J. Cobos, a visionary from Guayaquil who established important sugar cane and coffee plantations in the area.
This white sand beach is only a 30-minute walk south of town. At La Loberia you will enjoy sea lions, its large colony of marine iguanas, bird watching, and marine turtles. Depending on the time of the year, you can catch some of the best surfing waves in South America.
Built by the Galapagos National Park in 2002, the Galapaguera is a man-made breeding program for tortoises. Here, you will get to see giant Galapagos living in a semi-natural habitat and learn about their origin, evolution, and threats to their survival.
Leon Dormido or Kicker Rock:
Its Spanish name is derived from its characteristic shape of a sleeping lion. Leon Dormido is located off the northwest coast of San Cristobal. It is a vertical tuff cone, rising almost 500 feet straight up from the ocean. Erosion has split the rock into two parts, forming a narrow channel where visitors snorkel and swim. Blue-Footed Boobies, Masked Boobies, Frigate birds and sea lions line the shore. This is an excellent location for snorkeling and diving, as you can often spot manta rays, sea turtles and several species of sharks.
Hermit crabs are very common in the cove of Puerto Grande, covering the areas near the lagoons located behind the beach. The cove is also one of the main sites where blue- footed boobies feed. For many centuries Puerto Grande was also one of the most popular sites to anchor sailboats, adding to the legends of pirates, buried treasures and adventured treasure-hunters around the island.
The remains of a tuff cone that boasts an impressive landscape, where it is also possible to see coastal and migratory birds. The primary attraction of this site is the coral sand beach, but it is also an excellent place to go swimming and snorkeling. Darwin has immortalized it in one of his sketches of the islands.
This islet is located one hour from San Cristobal by boat. It is a seasonal nesting ground for Blue-Footed Boobies. The islet’s environment is also a great place for snorkeling with playful sea lion cubs.
Playa Ochoa is a great place to rest after a visit to Isla Lobos, and a remarkable place for snorkeling. Playa Ochoa is a small rocky beach, with white sand and calm waters. Migratory and coastal birds can be observed in the nearby lagoon, as well as various species of mangrove trees,, many species of shore birds and two species of crabs inhabit this beach.
Situated on the northeastern tip of San Cristobal, visitors can enjoy watching a variety of birds, particularly all three species of boobies: red-footed, blue-footed and masked. Two species of frigate birds can also be observed here, as are swallow-tailed gulls and storm petrels. In addition, Punta Pitt is the only spot of San Cristobal where you watch tortoises in their natural setting.
El Junco is the only permanent fresh water lake in the Galapagos. It is located in the highlands, at an altitude of about 700 m / 2300 ft above sea level. This lake is located about 45 minutes from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno by bus. Junco is Spanish for sedge, which is present along the banks of the lake. The lagoon has a surface area of 648,000 square feet and a volume equivalent of nine million gallons of water. It is an ideal spot for bird watching, as well as enjoying the landscape. El Junco is one of the few places where you can see frigate birds bathing to preen their feathers.