The Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) was founded in 1988 as the first fully private university in Ecuador and has earned recognition from the government as one of the top three universities in the country. UNC and USFQ have worked closely to develop research and academic opportunities for students and faculty in the Galápagos Islands. The partnership began in 2006 through individual faculty collaborations and was solidified in 2011 with the dedication of the Galápagos Science Center on San Cristóbal Island.
Faculty, staff, and students from UNC, USFQ, and other institutions research the impacts and interactions among the social, terrestrial, and marine sub-systems of the islands’ fragile ecosystems. The range of personnel engaged reflects the diverse research undertaken and the emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration: anthropology, biology, city and regional planning, computer science, dentistry, economics, environmental sciences and engineering, geography, geological sciences, journalism, marine sciences, medicine, nursing, nutrition, pharmacy, political science, public policy, and sociology.
Students from both universities attend study abroad programs at the center that encourage movement between the classroom, field, and laboratory. Since 2011, more than 150 UNC students have studied in Galápagos programs, and a number of graduate students have conducted research. The center also provides education and outreach to the community and engages in research and service that will directly benefit the area. Other center partners include the World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, and the Galápagos National Park.