International Study: Ecology and Evolution of the Galapagos

420.673 Ecology and Evolution of the Galapagos

This course also fulfills the ESP Residency Requirement
420.673 Ecology and Evolution of the Galapagos

2018 Trip near Mindo

Eligibility and Prerequisite

Principles and Methods of Ecology, Population Ecology, Conservation Biology, experience or permission from the instructor. This course is open to all JHU graduate Students, and undergraduates that are EPS or GECS majors in their Junior or Senior year.


Johns Hopkins University (AAP-ESP), is pleased to announce plans to teach an in-field class centered around the remarkable Galapagos Islands. The Ecuadorian Amazon is one of the most bio-diverse areas on the planet. Six hundred miles off the coast of Ecuador lie the volcanic islands of the Galápagos, famous for a wealth of unique plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. The combination of these two areas makes for a unique educational opportunity. Since Darwin’s famous journey on the Beagle, the Galapagos Archipelago has been synonymous with diversity, both marine and terrestrial, with 50 endemic species of fish, 28 endemic bird species, and unique tortoises, marine iguanas, sea lions, and the world’s only tropical penguins. The Galapagos Islands have often been called “laboratory of evolution”, where scientists have been able to study in detail many of the processes that have shaped the face of life on our planet. There are few places in the world, where it is possible to find such a variety of species, both animal and plant, which show so many degrees of evolutionary change, in such a restricted area.

During the online portion of this course, we will examine the biodiversity and biogeography of Ecuador and the Galapagos islands will be discussed followed by an analysis of rainforest and aquatic ecosystems. There will be recorded lectures and online reading assignments, discussion boards and a pre-trip quiz.

The field trip component of this trip will take us to Ecuadorean cloud forests and the Galapagos Islands, essentially recreating the portion of Charles Darwin’s voyage to South America, which led to the development of his ideas on Natural Selection.

420.673 Ecology and Evolution of the Galapagos

Bellavista Lodge

Bellavista Cloudforest is a private reserve at the top of the famed Tandayapa Valley, near Mindo, in an area that has won the highest 24-hour bird count in 2006, 2007, and 2008 in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count for the Americas. This is a 55-hectare reserve that is a certified ecolodge with a 700-hectare private reserve. For anyone who seeks to immerse him or herself in its mysteries, soak in its vast views, anyone who wants to discover its rare and endemic birds, orchids and other species, anyone who wants to discover true peace and wild places, anyone who loves forests, there are few places like it so easily accessible!

420.673 Ecology and Evolution of the Galapagos

Typical Sights near Bellavista


This course will run during the Summer of 2020 with the course meeting intensely from July 5 to July 13, in Bellavista, Quito and the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

Galapagos Tortoise

Galapagos Tortoise

Course Description

The Galapagos Islands have often been called the laboratory of evolution, where scientists have been able to study in detail many of the processes that have shaped the face of life on our planet. There are few places in the world, where it is possible to find such a variety of species, both animal and plant, which show so many degrees of evolutionary change, in such a restricted area. This course will be focused on experiencing the biodiversity and geology of the Galapagos in the field with supplemental information provided online. This is a highly managed area, but we will try to experience as many wildlife habitats as possible. As a field course, natural communities will be a major emphasis.

420.673 Ecology and Evolution of the Galapagos

Sally Lightfoot Crab – Galapagos

On land (the Islands and the Amazon), the focus will be placed on the tectonic development of the Islands and of the origin, evolution, and ecology of flora and fauna, and the reasons for the concentration of threatened and endangered species in the forests and on the Galapagos. In the marine environment, emphasis will be placed on the ecological processes that maintain biodiversity, community organization, and the impacts of climate change on coral reefs which are threatening their extinction.


Galapagos Islands

Course Schedule

This course will be taught during the Hopkins Summer 2020 term
May 15, 2020 Preparatory materials made available online
July 5 to July 13, 2020 Intensive study in Ecuador and the Galapagos
August 20, 2020 The due date for the final project
August 22, 2020 Last day of the Course
420.673 Ecology and Evolution of the Galapagos

Galapagos Sea Lion


Jerry L. Burgess, Ph.D.

Jerry L. Burgess, Ph.D.

Professor Burgess received his doctorate in ecology from Johns Hopkins University and is the Director of the ESP program. He has research interests are highly interdisciplinary utilizing the disciplines of biology, ecology, geology, and soil science to explore community dynamics and invasive ecology in urban, rural and forested landscapes. Originally from the South, he became interested in the natural sciences after traveling into coal mines with his father. Trained as a metamorphic and structural petrologist, in his early research he has used petrologic and geochemical tools to investigate igneous and metamorphic rocks and relate their petrogenesis to the growth and evolution of the Canadian Appalachians.

Facilities and Costs

The Legend

The Legend

Tuition $4,091 (subject to change)
Trip fee ~$4,525 (firm, will not increase).
This includes a nature excursion trip to Bellavista (outside Quito in Ecuador), a 5-day cruise (shared room) on the luxury liner the Legend, flights from Quito/Guayaquil-Galapagos-Quito/Guayaquil, all transportation during the field portion of course as well as all lodging and food. Roundtrip flights to Quito and meals in Quito are not included as well as incidentals.
Travel Variable (current round-trip flights from DC to Quito are around $600.00)
Transportation from student home to Quito (and an overnight room) is student responsibility (which gives you a lot of flexibility about room type and duration of your stay. Roundtrip transportation from Quito airport to the Galapagos is included in the trip fee.

Brief Itinerary:
• 05-07-20: Arrival to Quito, transfer to hotel, overnight at Hotel Real Audiencia (Old Town Quito)
• 06-07-20: Free day in Quito, overnight at Hotel Real Audiencia (Old Town Quito)
• 07-07-20: Start Cloud Forest Orchid and Birds tour at Bellavista – overnight in Cloud Forest
• 08-07-20 June: Morning at Bellavista, afternoon transfer back to Quito, overnight Casa Joaquin
• 09-07-20: Flight to Galapagos, start cruise B Legend
• 09-07 through 13-07-20 June: Legend Cruise through the Galapagos
• 13-07-20: Flight back to Quito, end of the trip

We will be meeting in Quito on the 21st and will be spending two nights in Old Town Quito, which is a beautiful city full of adventure, Andean food, and history. The Nature trip the leaves via bus to visit the Bellavista Ecolodge where you will also be able to see orchids and an array of colorful hummingbirds for which the area is renowned. The day will be spent trekking through the cloud forest and with a local wildlife expert. On the 24th we will return to Old Town to be ready for an early morning bus to the airport to begin our Galapagos journey with a flight from Quito to the Islands.

420.673 Ecology and Evolution of the Galapagos

A truly delightful group of students ready to snorkel

Every day for the next 5 days we will be snorkeling and hiking the Islands. We will be cruising around several islands of the archipelago. Isabela and Fernandina have magnificent volcanic landscapes and wildlife which can only be found on that western side. To name a few: sea lions, flightless cormorants, penguins, marine and land iguanas, lava lizards, giant tortoises, sea turtles, sharks, brown pelicans, flamingos… and between Isabela and Fernandina Island you can find one of the best spots to see whales and dolphins. At Puerto Egas (Santiago Island) is the best place to see the Galapagos fur seals (endemic species!). On Rabida Island, you can see flamingos, Galapagos sea lions, blue-footed and Nazca boobies, among others.


Happy Gringo is managing our cruise


There will be 2-3 pre-trip lectures and a timed quiz on the assigned reading materials which will be based on journal articles that will be available in the e-Reserves.

Once in the field, there will be daily Journal assignments for each student to prepare. We will have the end of day discussions sessions and provide a specific prompt for you to address. We would like to see evidence that you are thinking about what you are encountering in a proactive and thoughtful way.

Note: Before the field portion of class begins, please each purchase (1) one Rite in the Rain All-weather Journal Notebook No. 393, 4-5/8” x 7” size ( or

Once the field portion of the class is completed, you will prepare a final research paper. The final data analysis paper (due during Finals week) will be a 5 page (single-spaced) short-communication (Research Note) paper strictly following guidelines in Conservation Biology. It should be based on a biological topic and you should have the topic approved by one of the faculty before we return from Ecuador.


Registration is first come first served and we will limit the class size to 14 students. Registration for the course will open on July 1st, 2019, and close on October 31, 2019. Students will register for this course in SIS. Payment of trip fee and tuition is due at the time of registration. If a student decides to drop this course, $500 of the tuition is non-refundable, regardless of a student’s payment method choice (financial aid, employer assistance, tuition remission, etc.). Please note: this course does not follow the regular tuition refund schedule and ALL tuition and fees for this course are NON-REFUNDABLE after the source closes at the end of October.

The course needs 14 people to run. Full refunds will be made if there are not enough people to run the course. The maximum number of people for the course is 14. Registration will be on a first-come, first-served basis with priority given to ESP degree candidates. Do not purchase travel or make other investments in your trip until you hear from the course Point of Contact that there are enough participants to run the trip. This will be determined by November 1 or possibly earlier.

Exclusions (not part of the trip fee)

  • Galapagos Park Entrance Fee (US$100 per person)
  • Transit Control Card (US$20 per person)
  • Wetsuits rental (US$25 per person)
  • Roundtrip airfare to Ecuador
  • Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages
  • Personal expenses
  • Tips to crew and guide
Blue Footed Boobies on The Galapagos Islands

Blue Footed Boobies on the Galapagos Islands

Health and Travel Insurance

Well before departure, check with your doctor to see if you need any immunizations or medications before traveling. Immunization information can also be found at the sites for the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization International Travel and Health. Click here for the Johns Hopkins University Travel Resources.

Participants should make sure their health insurance and accident insurance covers them while traveling abroad. Additional coverage can be purchased through a variety of travel insurance options. To compare policies and for further information, visit a travel insurance comparison site such as Insure My Trip or Square Mouth.

HX Global, Inc.

Johns Hopkins is a member of HX Global, Inc., which covers JHU students while participating in international courses. HX Global, Inc. is medical and emergency evacuation assistance, it is NOT health insurance. Students are encouraged to review HX Global, Inc. benefits/information by going to MyJH, selecting Travel, then Travel Program. If you cannot access it through JHU’s website go directly to the HX Global website. First-time users will need to register and enter the Policy Number JH18492. Members can use the site to access medical and travel safety information.

For more travel information please visit the AAP Student Travel page.

420.673 Ecology and Evolution of the Galapagos

Hopkins Students pretending to be a Galapagos Tortoise

Student Emergency Contact Information

Students must update their emergency contact information in SIS by following these instructions:

  1. Log in to
  2. Hover over the “Personal Information” tab
  3. Select “Emergency Contact”
  4. Complete “Emergency Contact” information

Important Forms for the Field Study

Note: For the International Travel Registry, you will need to log-in using your JHED ID. Click on the “My Travel Profile” in the upper left-hand corner. Please complete the “My Travel Profile” form in its entirety.

These forms all need to be completed by March 30, 2020.

Note: Emergency Contact Information in Ecuador will be provided before departure.


Students will make their own travel arrangements to and from Quito Ecuador airport for the field component of the course. The university is not responsible for refunds, penalties, or other fees that may be incurred or lost for changes or cancellations of airfare. Trip insurance is recommended.

Each student must have a valid, signed, US passport, one that has an expiration date that is at least 6 months beyond the date of arrival in Ecuador (i.e. later than December 29, 2020), carried on their person, in order to enter and leave Ecuador. Students should allow plenty of time to obtain a new passport or renew one that is set to expire. Expedited service is recommended. No visa is required for US citizens; non-US citizens should contact the Embassy of Ecuador to find out about visa requirements.