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UNC Endeavors Galápagos: A Gateway for Global Research

Written by Alyssa Faro
Excerpts of the article below. Original Full Story available on the Endeavors Research website.

Since Charles Darwin conducted his famous finch studies that led to his theory of evolution, the Galápagos Islands have been heralded as a destination for seeing incredible wildlife. Today, more than 275,000 tourists visit the archipelago each year, supported by over 30,000 residents, most involved in tourism. It is not merely an attraction for vacationers, but a haven for researchers interested in terrestrial ecology, marine ecology, and human-environment interactions.

UNC-Chapel Hill is the only non-Ecuadorian institution with a presence on the islands today — a feat made possible, in large part, thanks to geographer Stephen Walsh. Now a distinguished emeritus professor, Walsh spent over 15 years building relationships with the right people to form and grow both the UNC Center for Galápagos Studies (CGS) — a group of North Carolina researchers with projects on the islands — and the Galápagos Science Center, a fully staffed physical building on San Cristobal that is a joint partnership between UNC and the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ).

Amanda Thompson and Diego Riveros-Iregui have been members of the Center for Galápagos Studies since 2014. Both have conducted, and are still engaged in, multiple projects on the islands and have served on the Galápagos Advisory Board, as well as faculty research directors to Walsh. They have watched the Galápagos Science Center grow to include more than 100 researchers working on over 100 projects. Upon Walsh’s retirement on January 1, 2022, they became the interim co-directors of CGS, which they will oversee for the next 18 months until a permanent director is appointed.

Thompson will manage most of the center’s administrative tasks, like developing a five-year plan and maintaining relationships within the International Galápagos Science Consortium, a network of collaborating institutions and scientists. Riveros-Iregui will focus on encouraging more Carolina faculty, staff, and students to conduct research in the Galápagos, streamlining data management and sharing, and growing the study abroad program.

Read more of Alyssa's article on the Endeavors website by clicking the "Read More" button below.

Diego Riveros-Iregui and Amanda Thompson standing together
Diego Riveros-Iregui and Amanda Thompson are the interim co-directors of the UNC Center for Galápagos Studies. Riveros-Iregui is a geography professor who specializes in hydrology. Thompson, a professor of anthropology and nutrition, studies issues related to human biology. (photo by Andrew Russell)