“…by far the most remarkable feature in the natural history of this archipelago…is that the different islands to a considerable extent are inhabited by a different set of beings…I never dreamed that islands, about fifty or sixty miles apart, and most of them in sight of each other, formed of precisely the same rocks, placed under a quite similar climate, rising to a nearly equal height, would have been differently tenanted.”
---Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle
Through this program you will have the opportunity to literally walk in Darwin’s footsteps, experiencing and observing the flora and fauna of these unique islands. Hike with giant tortoises in their native habitat, see blue-footed boobies courting their mates, bask with marine iguanas on the rocky shores and snorkel with the great diversity of tropical fishes.
We were able to do amazing things on this trip. It's hard to describe how incredible the views and animals are on this trip. My absolute favorite thing was getting to snorkel as many times as we did. We saw incredible marine life from huge sea turtles, reef sharks, sea horses, golden rays, various types of fish and more. The terrain and plant life was very fascinating as well. I can't wait to go back sometime in the future! - Victoria, 2019
This program is most definitely a once in a life time trip. I saw things you can't see anywhere else in the world and had some of the best views in a lifetime. Whether it be the amazing clear water all around the Galapagos to the beautiful wildlife that was living there it was always something new and exciting to see. One of my favorite parts of something I may not see for a long time was the night sky on Isabela Island. Since it has such low light pollution you could see everything up in the nighttime sky, from all the stars to galactic dust and nebulas, it was something. I would recommend this trip to anyone who is down to see a lot of new things and isn't afraid to try something new.. . . This is definitely a trip I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life and I can guarantee I will go back someday and explore the rest of the Galapagos as it has so much to offer and has such an amazing way of showing how it is different from the rest of the world. - Logan, 2019
Peter Berendzen, Professor
Campus Address: MSH 93
Peter has led study abroad programs to Taiwan, New Zealand, and the Galapagos and has traveled extensively throughout the world for both education and pleasure. His academic expertise is in biodiversity and conservation, which will be the focus of the Capstone on the Galapagos program. Peter loves to go "off the beaten path" and have authentic travel experiences abroad. He is looking forward to leading students once again on this exciting journey to the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador!
CAP 3140: Environment, Technology, and Society Capstone (2 credit hours) + BIOL 3174: Field Biology: Galapagos (1 credit hour)
Participants will be enrolled in both courses listed above, totaling 3 credit hours.
Charles Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle, including his time in the Galapagos Islands, was the inspiration for his theory of evolution by natural selection, or descent with modification, that is the unifying principle of all of biology. The Galapagos Islands are rich in species and contain some of the most unique and isolated ecosystems on the planet. Past human activities, however, as well as the recent increase in ecotourism, has greatly impacted the islands and threatens their biodiversity. You will walk in Darwin’s footsteps while experiencing the geology, climate, unique flora and fauna, and human and evolutionary history of these isolated and fascinating equatorial islands far off the coast of Ecuador. You will hike among giant tortoises in their native habitats, see blue-footed boobies courting their mates, bask with marine iguanas on the rocky shores, examine the fascinating plants of the islands (like trees that are closely related to dandelions), see the finches that helped inspire Darwin’s world-changing theory, observe chocolate being made, and snorkel with a great diversity of tropical fishes. You will also experience the impacts humans have had on the islands and the current efforts and technology being used to preserve their unique and fascinating ecosystems and species. Expect to learn a lot, have lots of fun, make new friends, and be amazed!
To view the course syllabus, click HERE.
Participation in this program requires several class meetings throughout the spring semester, although the courses are scheduled as summer courses. The Study Abroad Center will direct enroll participants in the courses during the spring semester. Please contact the program's course leader for more information on academic requirements.
Students who wish to participate in this program for only Field Biology credit (total of 3 credit hours) have the option to do so upon instructor consent. Students must have successfully completed General Biology: Organismal Diversity (BIOL 2051) with a grade of C- or higher in order to enroll in this option.
The program will require participants to walk several miles a day at a leisurely pace over uneven surfaces, along with a few cases of steep steps. All participants must follow instructions from naturalist guides at all times while in the Galapagos.
- In order to receive Capstone credit, program participants must have completed 60 credits hours prior to the program s course start date (i.e. be of Junior standing). Students who participate in capstone programs without meeting the credit hour prerequisite will receive elective credit. In this instance, students should consult with their academic advisor(s) regarding how the elective credit fits into their specific plans of study.
- Students planning to participate in the spring commencement ceremony in May can enroll in this summer term program, however, their degree will not be conferred until the end of the summer term and is contingent on the successful completion of the program and all required coursework.
- Students attending colleges and universities other than UNI are welcome to participate in this program. If you are not currently a UNI student, but would like to participate in this program, please contact the UNI Study Abroad Center prior to starting your program application.
- Capstone courses cannot be repeated. If you have previously taken this capstone course, please contact the UNI Study Abroad Center prior to starting your program application.
Tentative Program Dates: Monday, May 10 (depart the U.S.) - Monday, May 24, 2021 (return to the U.S.)
Sample itinerary is subject to change. Depending on a variety of factors, participants may either fly individually and pay the airline directly for their airfare OR fly as a group from Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport and pay a designated travel agency for their airfare. Program participants will be informed on how to purchase airfare once they are committed to participation, in the months prior to program departure.
Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Ecuador
Day 2: Excursions Near Quito
Visit the Equator, the "line" that marks the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, then explore the Pululahua Crater, one of the world's largest volcanic craters and part of the Incan Empire. We'll finish the day with a tour of Quito.
Day 3: Excursions Near Quito
Today, we will travel to San Pablo Lake, the “Plaza de los Ponchos” (indigenous market), Cotacachi “the leather town,” and Cuicocha Lake.
Day 4: Trip to Quilotoa Lake
Visit the Cotopaxi volcano (15,953 feet), one of the most active volcanoes of the Andes Mountains, then stop by the Toachi River Canyon, formed by pyroclastic flows. River otters can be seen along the rivers banks. Overnight near the lake.
Day 5: Explore Quilotoa Lake and Return to Quito
We will spend the morning on the lake. Those who are interested can boat or kayak on the lake and ride on mules or donkeys. In the afternoon, we will return to Quito.
Day 6: Flight to Galapagos and travel to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island.
In the morning we will fly to the island of Baltra in the Galapagos and transfer to the town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. Puerto Ayora is the largest community in the Galapagos. After settling in the hotel and lunch, we will tour the Charles Darwin Research Station with a focus on its conservation efforts and observe the wildlife around the area.
Day 7: Excursion on Santa Cruz Island
Hike to Tortuga Bay where abundant wildlife is visible. Time spent on the beach! Free time for the remainder of the day or rest and relax day.
Day 8: Excursion to Bartolome Island
We will take a boat to Bartolome Island, famous for its barren volcanic landscape. We will hike to the top of the island and observe some of the first plant and animal colonizers of new volcanic islands. Afterwards we’ll snorkel around Pinnacle Rock and observe the incredible marine diversity including penguins (at the equator!), sea lions, batfish, sharks, and rays.
Day 9: Excursions on Santa Cruz and North Seymour Islands
We’ll boat to North Seymour Island for a half-day walk exploring volcanic craters. Later, we will return by boat then drive to the highlands, where we will visit Rancho Primicias to view giant tortoises in their natural habitat and walk through a lava tube. We will also hike around Los Gemelos, two large pit craters that were created by the collapse of empty magma chambers.
Day 10: First day of a three-day excursion on Isabela Island
In the morning we will take a boat to the town of Puerto Villamil. Isabela, the largest island, was formed by the joining of six volcanoes. We will settle in the hotel and in the afternoon and will visit the Tortoise Breeding Center, where giant Galapagos tortoises are bred for conservation efforts on all the islands. We will hike through Las Tintoreras where we will see marine iguanas, resting reef sharks, sea turtles, penguins, blue footed boobies and much more. Finally, we will see flamingos in Poza de Flamingos.
Day 11: Excursion on Isabela Island
We will travel to the lava tubes to explore unique lava formations and geology. Depending on water conditions, we might go snorkeling. After lunch, we’ll hike to the Wall of Tears, a historical site that was constructed between the years of 1945 and 1959 by prisoners in the penal colony on the island.
Day 12: Excursion on Isabela Island and Return to Santa Cruz Island
We will visit Sierra Negra Volcano, which is the second largest volcanic caldera in the world and one of the most active volcanoes in the Galapagos, and Chico Volcano, which has a moon-like landscape (itinerary subject to change depending on current conditions). We will then snorkel at Concha y Perla Bay and observe wildlife in the lagoons. In the late afternoon we will take a boat back to Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island.
Day 13: Flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador
In the morning we will have some down time to explore the fish market and Santa Cruz. We will then travel to the airport for a flight to Guayaquil. We’ll again spend the night in downtown Guayaquil near the Malecón overlooking the Guayas River.
Day 14: Excursion to Churute Mangroves Ecological Reserve & organic Cacao farm
The Churute Mangroves is one of the largest protected areas in Ecuador and well known for its diversity of birds. We will take a guided tour through a mangrove forest, canoe through the estuary, and hike in the dry tropical forest where we will learn about the wildlife and ecosystems and look for howler monkeys. In the afternoon we will visit an organic Cacoa farm to learn about agricultural practices and how to process chocolate. That evening, we will board our flight for home!
Day 15: Arrive in Iowa
*Expect to walk a couple of hours a day at a normal/average pace at times over steep terrain
Housing & Meals
Students will stay in hotels arranged by the Study Abroad Center and paid for before departure. Many meals will be paid for by students out-of-pocket while abroad. Breakfast while abroad as well as lunches while on the Galapagos islands are built into the cost of the program. Students are encouraged to try the local foods.
Capstone on the Galapagos Islands
Estimated Program Cost:
* estimated total cost of participation, actual amount depends on type of housing accommodation selected, actual airfare purchase price, personal spending habits, and other factors
Cost of studying on-campus*
*per semester, estimated, will vary per person
Tuition & Fees:
Room & Board:
Dates & Deadlines
The Study Abroad Center reserves the right to determine participants' eligibility to Study Abroad. Students must meet all of the following in order to be eligible to Study Abroad:
- Have a cumulative 2.5 GPA or higher at the time of application and maintain this cumulative GPA prior to departure and throughout the study abroad process
- If your cumulative GPA is lower than 2.5, submit the following to the Study Abroad Center (103 East Bartlett):
- Letters of reference from two academic contacts (e.g. academic advisor and former or current professor) supporting your pursuit of study abroad. If you are attending a faculty-led study abroad program, one of the letters must be from a course leader. However, if the program has two course leaders, only one of the letters can be from one of the course leaders.
- Must be over the age of 18 years old
- Must meet the course prerequisites (participation in the program is dependent upon meeting these)
- Must be in good standing with the University
- UNI's partner institutions may require additional eligibility requirements to be met, these vary from institution to institution. Please consult with the Study Abroad Center staff to discuss these additional requirements if applicable.
- Applicants traveling to a region of a country or a country with an overall Travel Advisory Level 3 (Reconsider Travel) or 4 (Do Not Travel) will not be eligible.
- All study abroad applicants must pass the Study Abroad Applicant Assessment with a score of 70% or greater.
- Applicants may be selected for an in-person interview before being accepted. Selection for an interview does not guarantee acceptance into the program. You will be contacted directly by the Study Abroad Center if selected for an interview.