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HUMBIO 17SC: Evolution and Conservation in Galápagos (ANTHRO 10SC)

The tiny remote islands of Galápagos have played a central role in the study of evolution. Not surprisingly, they have also been important to theory and practice in biodiversity conservation. The fascinating adaptations of organisms to the unusual, isolated ecosystems of the archipelago have left them particularly vulnerable to perturbations and introductions from the outside. Drawing on lessons learned from Darwin's time to the present, this seminar explores evolution, conservation, and their connection among the habitats and organisms of Galápagos. Using case-study material on tortoises, iguanas, finches, Scalesia plants, penguins, cormorants and more, we will explore current theory and debate about adaptation, speciation, adaptive radiation, sexual selection, and other topics in evolution. Similarly, we will explore the special challenges Galápagos poses today for conservation, owing to both its unusual biota and to the increasing impact of human activity in the archipelago.This cou more »
The tiny remote islands of Galápagos have played a central role in the study of evolution. Not surprisingly, they have also been important to theory and practice in biodiversity conservation. The fascinating adaptations of organisms to the unusual, isolated ecosystems of the archipelago have left them particularly vulnerable to perturbations and introductions from the outside. Drawing on lessons learned from Darwin's time to the present, this seminar explores evolution, conservation, and their connection among the habitats and organisms of Galápagos. Using case-study material on tortoises, iguanas, finches, Scalesia plants, penguins, cormorants and more, we will explore current theory and debate about adaptation, speciation, adaptive radiation, sexual selection, and other topics in evolution. Similarly, we will explore the special challenges Galápagos poses today for conservation, owing to both its unusual biota and to the increasing impact of human activity in the archipelago.This course includes, at no additional cost to students, an intensive eleven-day expedition to Galápagos, provided that public health conditions permit. The goal of the expedition is both to observe firsthand many of the evolutionary adaptations and conservation dilemmas that we have read about, and to look for new examples and potential solutions. A chartered ship from Lindblad Expeditions, with the highest levels of COVID protection protocol, will serve as our floating classroom, dormitory, and dining hall as we work our way around the archipelago to visit eight different islands. For this portion of the class, undergraduates will be joined by a small group of Stanford alumni and friends in a format called a Stanford "Field Seminar." Because our class time on campus is limited to one week before travel, students will be required to complete all course readings over the summer.The course emphasizes student contributions and presentations. Students will be asked to lead class discussions and to carry out a thorough literature review of some aspect of the evolution and/or conservation of one or more Galápagos species. The final assignment for the seminar is to complete a seven- to ten-page paper about that review and to present its main findings in a joint seminar of undergrads and alumni as we travel in Galápagos.
Terms: Sum | Units: 2
Instructors: Durham, W. (PI)
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