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The Galapagos Working Group


The Galapagos Science Center (GSC) was founded in 2011 as a hub for scientific research projects to benefit the Galapagos and the world of science. The GSC is the first and only academic research center on the Galapagos archipelago. In response to opportunities offered by the GSC, a working group of NC State faculty interested in Galapagos research, sustainability, training and education formed to pursue projects of interest on the Islands.

Members of the Galapagos Working Group are based in seven NC State colleges, and focused on preserving the Galapagos Islands for future generations as well as sustaining their inhabitants.  Working Group members bring expertise in animal health, tourism, sustainable farming, coastal resilience, rodent, insect and microbial infestations, ecology, marine science, STEM education, and geology.

This web page will feature key NC State efforts on the Galapagos Islands as well as news items of relevance. A quarterly newsletter will be distributed to any NC State faculty, staff, and students who would like to join the working group and receive important updates.

  • Subscribe to the Galapagos Newsletter here.
  • View historical posts and news here.

NC State Joins the International Galapagos Science Consortium

On June 26, 2022, NC State became a formal member of the International Galapagos Science Consortium (IGSC).

The IGSC is a network of collaborating institutions and scientists with the shared goal of studying and preserving island ecosystems. NC State’s membership will allow faculty, staff, and students to take full advantage of the Galapagos Science Center’s resources and dedicated personnel.

Research Spotlight: Dr. Yu-Fai Leung

Dr. Yu-Fai Leung is a Professor in the College of Natural Resources and Director of Graduate Programs in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management. Dr. Leung´s research focuses on the advancement of the science and practice of sustainable visitor (recreation and tourism) management in parks, protected areas, and wild places globally.  Dr. Leung is particularly interested in developing and evaluating visitor use and impact indicators, monitoring protocols, and management strategies. In addition to his work in the Galapagos, Dr. Leung is active in research, education and training programs on several continents, including Antarctica.

Dr. Leung is an active participant in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  He is also a member of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas and coordinates a biodiversity working group under the Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group. He serves on the Standing Committee on the Humanities and Social Sciences (SC-HASS) of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), co-leading the Tourism Action Group. Dr. Leung also served as the Chief Editor for the IUCN Best Practice Guidelines on sustainable tourism in protected areas.

When asked how he began working with the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) on concerns relevant to the Galapagos Islands, Dr. Leung shared that his work on sustainable tourism and visitor management in international protected areas provided him with opportunities to interact with academic and professional colleagues around the world throughout the year.

He met with USFQ researchers at the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii, where they engaged in an informal discussion on Galapagos’ tourism issues, monitoring needs and management practices. That initial exchange, along with the Best Practice Guidelines he was developing for IUCN, led to his invitation to collaborate with his USFQ colleagues to evaluate and enhance the tourist use and impact monitoring program for the Galapagos National Park.

Regarding what he’s learned in his work at USFQ about implications for local wildlife/ecosystems, Dr. Leung explained that tourism and local recreation are a key human activity in the Galapagos that have both positive and negative impacts on the wildlife and ecosystems. He added that having learned a lot about the complexities of tourism-conservation connections in the Galapagos, he has come to appreciate the value and limits of monitoring and science in shaping tourism and visitor management strategies and practices.

As for the future of his work, Dr. Leung is hopeful that with better understanding of tourism and recreation impacts, timely monitoring data, and new conservation policies and actions, tourism and visitor use in the Galapagos will continue on a more sustainable path in the post-COVID era.

For more information about Dr. Leung and his background, teaching, research and service, please visit

News from the UNC Center for Galapagos Studies

The UNC Center for Galapagos Studies (CGS) administrates the joint UNC/USFQ Galapagos Science Center, located on San Cristobal Island. Recent news from the CGS will be shared here for the NC State community to view.

Researchers at the Galapagos Science Center are creating a biobank of samples to help with the preservation of the archipelago and provide new opportunities for study.

Carolina researchers are conducting studies on the Galapagos Islands to better understand global issues, such as climate change and freshwater security.

Dr. John Bruno of UNC and Dr. Margarita Brandt of USFQ are partnering on a three year, one million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation to understand the effect that temperature has on patterns and processes in upwelling systems.