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

The tiny remote islands of Galápagos have played a large and central role in the study of evolution. Not surprisingly, they have also become central to the study of conservation. The fascinating adaptations of organisms to the unique ecosystems of the archipelago have left them particularly vulnerable to human-induced changes underway in the islands today. But did you know that Galápagos is also an important proving ground for new approaches to environmental education, both for the people who live in the islands as well as for those who visit them?

Drawing on lessons learned in Galapagos from Darwin's time to the present, this seminar explores evolution, conservation, and education in the Galápagos Archipelago. Using case-study material on tortoises, iguanas, finches, endemic plants and more, we will explore current theory and debate about adaptation, sexual selection, speciation, adaptive radiation, and other topics in evolution. Similarly, we will explore the special challenges Ga more »
The tiny remote islands of Galápagos have played a large and central role in the study of evolution. Not surprisingly, they have also become central to the study of conservation. The fascinating adaptations of organisms to the unique ecosystems of the archipelago have left them particularly vulnerable to human-induced changes underway in the islands today. But did you know that Galápagos is also an important proving ground for new approaches to environmental education, both for the people who live in the islands as well as for those who visit them?

Drawing on lessons learned in Galapagos from Darwin's time to the present, this seminar explores evolution, conservation, and education in the Galápagos Archipelago. Using case-study material on tortoises, iguanas, finches, endemic plants and more, we will explore current theory and debate about adaptation, sexual selection, speciation, adaptive radiation, and other topics in evolution. Similarly, we will explore the special challenges Galápagos poses today for conservation, owing to both its unusual biota and the increasing impact of human activity in the archipelago. Relatedly, we will consider case studies of environmental education in the islands, involving residents as well as tourists, asking what can be done to make these efforts more effective?

This course includes, at no additional cost to students, an intensive eleven-day expedition to Galápagos to observe firsthand many of the issues and outcomes discussed in class. A chartered ship will serve as our floating classroom, dormitory, and dining hall as we work our way around the archipelago to visit as many as ten islands. For this portion of the class, undergraduates will be joined by a 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. Both on campus and in South America, the course emphasizes student contributions and presentations. Students will be asked to lead discussions and carry out literature research about the Galápagos related to key themes of the class. The final assignment for the seminar is to complete a seven- to ten-page paper on an approved topic of your choice related to one or more of the areas of evolution, conservation and education in Galapagos today, and to present the main findings of that paper in a joint seminar of undergrads and alumni as we travel in Galápagos.
Terms: Sum | Units: 2 | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)
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