The Galapagos Science Center at UNC celebrates its 10th anniversary this year — with plans for a global photo exhibit on campus, a sculptures collaboration with Arts Everywhere and a "World Summit on Island Sustainability" in 2022.
The founding co-directors of the GSC are Steve Walsh, a UNC distinguished emeritus professor and research professor of geography, and Carlos Mena, who received his doctorate in geography from UNC in 2007 and is the director of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito's Institute of Geography.
GSC, located on San Cristobal Island, Ecuador, was created in a joint effort between UNC and its partner, USFQ, to promote education and science that will help protect island ecosystems and improve the lives of their residents.
"I think the main goal of the center is really to bring together researchers from all different research areas to look at issues," Amanda Thompson, GSC interim co-director, said. "As I said, around sort of social, marine and terrestrial systems, but in particular how they overlap."
Now, Thompson and interim co-director Diego Riveros-Iregui are leading the center just in time to celebrate its 10-year anniversary.
“I’ve taken a lot of students down to Galapagos, so when the opportunity came up, it was something that I was interested in," Riveros-Iregui said. "Simply because I knew the Galapagos, I have a research program there and it seemed like a fitting and natural step.”
To accomplish its goals, GSC has participated in a variety of projects on the Galapagos Islands, Thompson said. Some of these projects include tracking birds, recording the number of bird species and developing community gardens.
“One of the things that the center has done over COVID is provide research funding to local teams to be able to do what’s called citizen science, a whole range of different projects,” Thompson said.
With years of its work, GSC has served as the only university science facility of its kind in the Galapagos Islands — and the center has numerous projects planned throughout the upcoming year.
In February, GSC plans to hold a global photo exhibit in UNC's FedEx Global Education Center.
“There’s going to be around 30 photos over the course of the past 10 years showing pictures of Galapagos mostly that are taken by students that have studied abroad down there,” said Kelly Weaver, director of external affairs and communications at the Center for Galapagos Studies.
GSC and Arts Everywhere are working with local artists to create four to five sculptures of larger-than-life Galapagos animals made from recycled materials, which will be displayed later this semester.
“We’ll have QR codes that’ll be able to give more information about the artists and about us and about why it’s important to conserve,” Weaver said.
To conclude its anniversary celebration, GSC will host the invitation-based "World Summit on Island Sustainability" from June 26-30. The summit will be held at the GSC and the Community Convention Center with leaders and speakers across the globe, Weaver said.
“We have a lot of UNC leadership that’s coming down for that and different people from around the world that are global leaders in sustainability," Weaver said. "But we’re going to have a sculpture up for when they’re down there for that event to kind of tie it all together.”
Students who are interested in learning about future anniversary events can follow GSC on Facebook or Twitter. Students who are interested in working with GSC can apply for the study abroad program in the Galapagos Islands.
“We’ve kind of flown under the radar for a while because we are in a different country, and we haven’t really publicized much about what we’re doing," Weaver said. "And so I think this is a real celebratory time for us."
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