There’s a reason why some of the world’s most famous scientists have visited the Galápagos Islands—now it’s your turn to discover one of the world’s most beautiful and biologically-diverse island locations. It’s here that you will get hands-on experience studying topics such as Biology, Ecology, Environmental Studies, Marine Ecology, and Sociology.
This direct enrollment program is organized through the Galápagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS), a remote campus of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) located on the island of San Cristobal. Before you head to the Galápagos, the program will begin with a month in Quito, where you participate in an orientation, classes at USFQ, and field study excursions. The remaining months are spent on San Cristobal in the Galápagos Islands, although additional field study excursions allow you to spend time in other locations, as determined by your chosen track: Evolution, Ecology and Conservation; Marine Ecology; or People, Politics, and the Environment.
The Galápagos Islands and Quito will be your classroom. Witness the famous land iguanas and giant tortoises as you study the evolution of these unique species. Visit indigenous and traditional Andean communities to better understand the relationship between humans and their environment. Dive into the Pacific to get close to the marine life you will be learning about. Welcome to study abroad!
We want you to feel at home in the Galápagos, so we will do everything we can to help you integrate into life in the Galápagos Islands.
After you are admitted, refer to the Travel Dates section of the Predeparture Information in your MyIESabroad account before booking travel.
IES Abroad’s mission is simple: to provide you with the best study abroad program possible—which includes the highest quality academic and cultural experiences. That is why we partnered with USFQ and GAIAS.
You take 15 credit hours per semester, and all courses are worth 3 credits. Courses are taught through USFQ in a series of five consecutive modules. The first module is taught at a USFQ campus near Quito and the other four are taught at GAIAS on the island of San Cristobal. All courses are taught in English.
The program offers the following tracks, which each consist of five course modules. You must take your first two courses in your track, and then select courses from any track for the three remaining modules, as long as you meet all prerequisites and there are no scheduling conflicts. Additional non-credit elective courses in disciplines such as Spanish and Photography may also be available.
Courses offered at GAIAS
(Course offerings vary by semester.)
Tropical Ecology .pdf
Techniques of Marine Research I .pdf
Evolutionary Ecology .pdf
Marine Life .pdf
Strategic Planning for Natural Resource Management .pdf
Phylogenetics & Molecular Evolution .pdf
Marine Ecology .pdf
Environmental Economics .pdf
Native & Introduced Plants of the Galapagos .pdf
Ecosystem Based Management .pdf
Political Ecology .pdf
Human Ecology & Maritime Communities .pdf
Techniques of Marine Research II .pdf
The Galápagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS)
GAIAS is a remote campus of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) that was established to further efforts in conservation and sustainable development in the Galápagos Islands. As a world-class academic and research institution, GAIAS attracts both local and international students from around the world.
GAIAS offers unparalleled courses that explore Ecology, Biology, and Environmental Studies through an in-depth and hands-on approach. The university’s world-class professors and course options enhance your academic experience and provide you with new perspectives each day in class.
Although your adventure begins in Quito and the Galápagos Islands, our field study trips take you to other great locations to provide contrast and context for what you are learning in your courses. Your activities and learning experiences in each location may vary based on the track in which you are participating.
See the Field Trips tab for locations and durations of field study trips.
Even though you’re directly enrolling in one of our partner universities, there’s something IES Abroad wants you to know: we’re here for you if you need us.
Choosing and directly enrolling in courses abroad can be confusing and overwhelming. This is why we offer you predeparture advising that’s specific to your needs. Our goal is to provide support and guidance throughout your application and enrollment process.
But our advising services don’t stop there. While you’re in Quito, and the Galápagos Islands our staff is available to help you transition into your new home.
The support services we offer IES Abroad direct enrollment students are specifically designed to help you achieve your study abroad goals as effectively and smoothly as possible. We know studying abroad is an adventure, and, at times, you may need help or just someone to talk to—that’s why our staff will be there for you.
We want to make sure that your greatest challenge is deciding which landmarks to see first or discovering the best café—not finding a place to live where you feel comfortable. We do our best to locate housing that is reflective of how the local students are living. Our goal is that when you leave the Galápagos, it will feel like home.
Homestays - While in the Galápagos, you live in a private homestay with a family or señora and receive breakfast and dinner each day. During your time in Quito, lodging and all meals, excluding lunch on the weekends, are provided.
Part of making you feel at home in the Galápagos Islands is doing our best to help you feel safe and cared for. Whether it is an orientation program that makes you feel prepared, housing that is well-located and comfortable, or the field trips that take you to places off the beaten path—we’re all about our student services. This is just one of the things we’re known for.
When you arrive in Ecuador, you participate in an introductory orientation with IES Abroad and Galápagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS) staff members. Designed specifically for direct enrollment students, the orientation program introduces you to your program, your fellow students, to Ecuador, Quito, and the Galápagos. You will also find out more about topics such as academics, housing, transportation, and health and safety.
Additionally, CORE™, IES Abroad’s Comprehensive Orientation & Re-entry Experience, begins during orientation and continues throughout the semester with activities focusing on cultural adjustment, goal achievement, and preparing for the return home.
You have the option to participate in approximately two to three SCUBA dives in different marine environments throughout the semester, at an additional cost paid on-site. Though these activities are not required as part of the academic program, they are coordinated and led by GAIAS faculty. Please note that dives are not guaranteed and are subject to change based on student interest, instructor availability, and local safety conditions.
IES Abroad students that wish to participate in dives must have Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) Open Water Diver Certification in order to participate on any GAIAS-organized dives. Proof of PADI Open Water Diver Certification must be provided to IES Abroad prior to the start of the program.
Although your adventure begins in Quito and the Galápagos Islands, our field study trips take you to other great locations to provide contrast and context for what you are learning in your courses. Your activities and learning experiences in each location may vary based on the track in which you are participating. IES Abroad shares a portion of all field study trip costs with you. Past destinations are listed below.
Amazon Rainforest | Tiputini Biodiversity Station
Explore the largest and most bio-diverse rainforest in the world.
Ecuador’s Coastal Regions | Machalilla National Park -Manab í Province
Visit a number of coastal ecosystems and study the animals that live within them. Available for Marine Ecology track students only.
Maquipucuna Cloud Forest | Pichincha Province2 DaysDiscover the beauty of this unique ecosystem.
Galápagos Islands Boat Cruise
Tour the islands by boat as you further your knowledge of environmental studies.
Paluguillo Paramo Preserve
Explore the diverse flora and fauna of an alpine forest.
Mitad del Mundo
Straddle the equator and enjoy views of picturesque snow-capped mountains.
IES ABROAD Quito
Av. República de El Salvador N34-229 y Moscú | Edificio San Salvador, Piso 3 | Quito, Ecuador
Situated near Quito’s financial district, the IES Abroad Center is housed in a new, modern building. Features include:
Eduardo OrtizIES Abroad Director
Through LASPAU (Latin American Scholarship Program of American Universities), Eduardo Ortiz, a native of Quito, received a Fulbright Scholarship to obtain both his B.A. and his M.A. in Psychology at SUNY Geneseo in New York. After receiving his degrees, Eduardo returned to Quito, where he worked as Senior Official in the Ecuadorian Institute of Educational Loans and Scholarships (IECE) and as Ecuadorian Coordinator for an international educational exchange program (Canada World Youth). He also worked as Associate Professor in two leading Ecuadorian Universities (Catholic University of Ecuador and Army Polytechnic University). Eduardo also has experience as a project manager for USAID (United States Agency for International Development) in Ecuador where he managed projects in tax administration and education. Additionally, Eduardo has international consulting experience in training, organizational development, human resources management, and institutional strengthening in several International Development Agencies including IDB, the World Bank and Universalia Management Group from Canada.
IES Abroad Staff
Gladys ArgotiStudent Services Coordinator
Rene BuenoAcademic Coordinator
Juan Carlos SanchezAdministrative Support
TBDStudent Services Coordinator - Galapagos Islands Program
IES Abroad FacultyChristopher Minster, Ph.D.
Angélica Ordóñez, Ph.D.
Diego Quiroga, Ph.D.
Ana Rodriguez, Msc.
Evelyn Rodriguez, Msc.
Gabriela Rota, Msc.
Iván Ulchúr, Ph.D.
Hugo Valdebenito, Ph.D.
Marcelo Varela, Msc. MBA
Esteban Suarez, Ph.D.
Juan Aulestia, Ph.D.
Pablo Dávalos, Ph.D.