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2018 Seminar


This course views the Galapagos Islands as a “living laboratory” for the study of evolution and conservation.  We will explore this laboratory through both the scientific literature about Galapagos and its unusual flora and fauna, and through our first-hand visit to the archipelago.  Part of the course will be historical, focused on the history of scientific research in Galapagos ever since Darwin, and part will be contemporary, assessing ongoing research on evolution and conservation in the Galapagos today.  Readings and class discussions will be fairly evenly divided between these two dimensions.  A key theme of the class is that evolution and conservation are closely related sciences in Galapagos:  time and time again, we will see how the evolution of Galapagos-specific adaptations has left indigenous organisms with special vulnerabilities that are a big conservation challenge today.

Trip Leaders

Bill Durham

William Durham received his Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Michigan before joining the Stanford faculty in human biology and anthropology.  His current research focuses on conservation and development issues in Latin America, especially in the Amazon and Galápagos, and on connections between environmental change and emerging infectious diseases.  Winner of the MacArthur Prize and several awards for research and teaching, Durham is author of Scarcity and Survival in Central America and Coevolution: Genes, Culture, and Human Diversity

Caroline Ferguson (SCA)

Caroline Ferguson is a PhD student in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER), advised by Bill Durham. Her research takes place in Palau and the Marshall Islands, two independent island nations in the Pacific Ocean once colonized by the United States. Her interests include environmental justice, women's fisheries, and protected areas. Caroline was also a Stanford undergraduate, where she received her BA in Human Biology and her MS in Earth Systems. Her fondest memories of are of hanging-out on the trampoline at Synergy and studying abroad in Australia and Palau. 

Neil Nathan (SCA)

Neil is a rising senior majoring in Earth Systems on the Biosphere track. He has spent time studying at the Hopkins Marine Station and conducted research and assisted with coral conservation projects in Palau. Neil hopes to find a career in global conservation through international policy and advocacy with NGOs. He’s also incredibly excited to explore the Galápagos with the amazing sophomores and alumni!


Click on the links in the sidebar for introductions to trip participants. 

Student Projects

Margot Bellon: The Mysterious Diet of Sharp-Beaked Ground Finches

Audrey Bennett: Where did they come from, and where did they Galápa-go? The fascinating story of speciation in Bulimulid land snails

Foster Birnbaum: The Scalesia Genus as an In Situ Model for Evolutionary Theory

Rhys Duarte: Are You Finching Kidding Me? The El Niño Booby Trap

Rozy Eastaugh: A “Natural Laboratory” of Conservation Discourse: The Interaction between Global and Local Communities in the Galápagos

Jonathan Hernandez: Are You Lichen The Food? The Tortoise Diet

Peter Kwak & Lorenzo de La Puente: Galápagos Tourism: Is it Sustainable?

Sammy Price: Chionophiles in the Tropics: The Population Decline of the Galápagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus)

Maisam Pyarali: Co-existing with the crustaceans : What Galapagos lobster fishing teaches us about marine conservation

Claire Smythe: The Changing Climate, ENSO, and it’s Effects on the Wildlife of the Galápagos Islands

Zoe von Gerlach: Why do Nazca Boobies (Sula granti) perform NAV behavior?

Bocar Wade: Living on the Edge The Unique Coastal Adaptations of Galapagos Mangroves

Shannon Yan: Feeling Blue? The Effect of El Nino on Blue-Footed Booby Breeding Rates


Helpful Links

There are two kinds of resources provided below: some for travel preparation and photography, and others related to the themes of the course. These links are provided as supplements to, and not replacements for, content you will receive directly from Stanford Travel-Study.  Some of the information provided below may be been updated in more recent documents.

Trip Preparation and Photography

Trip Preparation

Click here to review the packing list from 2009. 

Click here for a short presentation on  Responsible Tourism from 2015.

Click here to find more travel information from 2009. 

Click here for a list of health and medical considerations from 2009.

Click here for snorkeling tips from 2009. 

Click here for information about La Pinta from 2009.


Click here for Professor Durham's introduction to photography.

Click here to learn some tips for using f-stops.

Click here to learn some tips for using ISO.

Click here to learn some tips for shutter speeds

Course Themes

Charles Darwin

The Complete Works of Charles Darwin

Darwin Correspondence Project – most of his letters, with detailed timeline and searchable for key terms!

Darwin General Info & Darwin Manuscripts Project

Darwin’s Own Library

Timeline of Darwin’s Life

Emma Darwin’s Diary

Darwin and Religion

Darwin and Gender

Six things attributed to Darwin that he never said

Voyage of the Beagle

American Museum of Natural History

Darwin’s book, The Voyage of the Beagle (searchable)

Darwin's book, A Naturalist's Voyage Around the World

Darwin’s Beagle Diary

Alfred R. Wallace

The Alfred Russell Wallace webpage

Wallace Letters online

Essay on Varieties


Understanding Evolution

National Academies Evolution Resources

Tree of Life Project 

The Talk Origins website & Archive

Example of Atavisms

Synthetic Theory of Evolution: An Introduction to Modern Evolutionary Concepts and Theories

Evolution, A Journey... (PBS)

PBS page on Evolution

National Center for Science Education (specializing in evolution and climate change)

Pew Forum on Conflict in US between Religion and Science


Encyclopedia of Creation Sciences

Creation Museum (Kentucky)

Creation Evidence Museum (Texas)

Science of Galápagos

Galápagos Geology

Plate Tectonics of the Galápagos Islands

A Brief Introduction to the Geology of the Galápagos

The Galápagos Archipelago - Geology

Galápagos Climate

Galápagos Invasive Plants 

Galápagos plants – pictures and collection by Ana Mireya Guerrero

“Datazone” – collection of data bases, including meteorology for Galápagos

Galápagos National Park

Human and Cartographic History of the Galápagos Islands (John Woram)

Charles Darwin Foundation: Science for Galápagos

Galápagos Research  (leading journal of Galápagos research, years of archived PDFs)

Galapagos Report – in-depth research articles, every two years

Agencia de Regulacion y Control del la Bioseguridad y Cuarentena para Galápagos (ABG)

Galápagos Tour Operators Association

UNC Center for Galápagos Studies

Conservation in Galápagos

Galápagos as World Heritage Site

World Wildlife Fund, work in Galápagos

World Wildlife Fund, Conservation in the Galápagos


IUCN Red List – with easy search for Galápagos species

Galápagos News – twice yearly news, reviews, and updates: Good for paper topics!

On birds

Galápagos Conservancy

Galápagos Conservation Trust (UK)

Main conservation challenges