• Isla Bartolome

    Capstone on the Galapagos Islands

  • Underwater picture of a sea lion

    Capstone on the Galapagos Islands

  • Underwater photo of a lizard

    Capstone on the Galapagos Islands

  • Group photo

    Capstone on the Galapagos Islands


“…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.

My overall experience on this trip was great.  The naturalist guides were extremely knowledgeable on the islands and ecosystems and the islands were beautiful. -Caitlin, 2018

I would give this program more than five stars. This program was incredible and I hope everyone who is taking a capstone, whether this one or not, has the same amazing outcome as I did. -Sarah, 2018


Video by Berendes Media! Check out his work at: joshberendes.com


Course Leaders

Steve O'Kane, Professor

Department: Biology
Phone: 319-273-2219
E-mail: steve.okane@uni.edu
Campus Address: BRC 59

Steve is an avid traveler and has conducted botanical field work throughout the western United States and Alaska, and in Canada, Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, Romania, England, and Ireland. In May, 2017, Steve led 21 UNI Capstone students in the New Zealand program. He looks forward to leading students abroad again! 


CAP 3140: Environment, Technology, and Society Capstone (2 credit hours) + BIOL 3174: Field Biology: Galapagos (1 credit hour)

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 during the spring semester as well as an on-campus presentation following the program. Please see the course syllabus for more information regarding these meetings.

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: Wednesday, May 15 - Sunday, May 26, 2019 

Sample itinerary is subject to change.

Day 1: Arrive in Guayaquil, Ecuador

Day 2: Excursion to Santay Island, with more than 4,000 hectares of protected wetlands.

We’ll tour the preserves, observe conservation efforts, and see crocodiles and many species of birds and plants. In the afternoon, we’ll have time in Guayaquil to explore local craft markets and visit the Malacon (boardwalk) and Iguana Park.

Day 3: Excursion to Churute Mangroves Ecological Reserve and to an organic Cacao farm.

In the morning we will take a bus to the ecological reserve. 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 where we will learn about agricultural practices and how to process chocolate.

Day 4: 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 5: Full-day 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 6: Excursion on Santa Cruz Island

We will we will 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. Later we’ll boat to North Seymour Island for a half-day walk exploring volcanic craters.

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: 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 and visit the Wall of Tears.

Day 9: All-day 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 visit Sucre’s cave to view volcanic formations and learn about reforestation and other conservation efforts.

Day 10: All-day excursion on Isabela 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 11: Return to Guayaquil

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 return flight to Guayaquil. We’ll again spend the night in downtown Guayaquil near the Malecón overlooking the Guayas River.

Day 12: Return home

*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.

Program Costs

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

Click Below to View Detailed Budget Sheet:

Cost of studying on-campus*

*per semester, estimated, will vary per person

Tuition & Fees:


Room & Board:




Personal Expenses:






Source: https://admissions.uni.edu/costs

Dates & Deadlines


App Deadline: 
Friday, February 15, 2019
Program Dates: 
Wednesday, May 15, 2019 to Sunday, May 26, 2019

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 GPA prior to departure and throughout the study abroad process
    • If your cumulative GPA is between 2.40 to 2.49, submit the following to the Study Abroad Center (28 Gilchrist):
      • A letter of reference from your academic advisor supporting your pursuit of study abroad
      • An essay, which should explain why your cumulative GPA is below a 2.50, include how your cumulative GPA is stable or improving, a detailed plan for improving your academic performance a strong academic and/or personal interest in your study abroad location and/or course, and a compelling academic rationale for studying abroad.
  • 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.