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Biodiversity and Evolution of the Galapagos Islands and Mainland Ecuador

Faculty Leader

Giorgia Pirino

Giorgia Pirino head shotGiorgia Pirino is a Continuing Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at UC San Diego. Dr. Pirino’s research background is in yeast microbiology, specifically the genetics of mating type and biofilm formation of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. She teaches several courses for biology majors and non-majors, including microbiology, microbial genetics, introductory biology, and laboratory in microbiology.

In 2017, Dr. Pirino became a National Academy of Sciences Scientific Teaching fellow. In 2023, she also became a Teaching + Learning Commons Community Engaged Learning Changemaker Faculty Fellow at UC San Diego. She is a first generation college graduate and is always eager to help students navigate through college.


Why you should go

These Global Seminars will take place in the Galapagos Islands and mainland Ecuador. The Galapagos Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage site, and represent a living museum and a showcase of evolution, which have inspired Charles Darwin to propose its evolutionary theory of natural selection. In mainland Ecuador we will visit the Ecuador Amazon rainforest, the Cloud forest, as well as the Highlands and Sierra, and experience the most diverse ecosystems and wildlife. Thus, students will have a unique opportunity to see the organisms and topics covered in textbooks materialized in front of them.

Who should go

A new upper division biology course will focus on evolution and ecology, with an emphasis on the different living organisms including ourselves, whereas BIMM 132GS will focus on the microbial communities that inhabit our planet. Therefore, this program will provide a unique opportunity to learn and appreciate evolution and biodiversity through both macroscopic and microscopic lenses. If you love biology, this course will give you credit for upper division electives and provide the experience of a lifetime! Prerequisite: BILD1 or equivalent.

Information Sessions

See the Info Session Calendar


Departure from U.S.: Sat., June 29, 2024
Arrival: Sun., June 30, 2024
Mandatory Orientation: Mon., July 1, 2024
First Day of Class: Mon., July 1, 2024
Last Day of Class: Fri., August 2, 2024
Departure for the U.S.
(or personal travel):
Sat., August 3, 2024

Flight Information

  • You will be responsible for purchasing your own airplane tickets, and your program coordinator will provide guidelines and resources during the pre-departure process to help you find an appropriate flight.
  • Do not purchase plane tickets until the program is confirmed. All approved applicants will be notified by e-mail when the program has reached minimum enrollment.

Global Seminar Fees

All fees subject to change. See for current tuition and campus-based fees.

  UCSD Other UC Non-UC
Program Cost:
(includes $500 administrative fee)
$6,955.29 $6,955.29 $6,955.29
Estimated Tuition and Campus-Based Fees:
$2,514.43 $2,564.43 $3,454.43
(not including airfare or personal expenses)
$9,469.72 $9,519.72 $10,409.72

Budget Sheet

Funding Options

See the funding options page to learn how financial aid and scholarships can help you pay for this program.

Local Site Visits

  • Half day excursion to the lab of Antonio Leon Reyes at the University of San Francisco in Quito. Dr. Leon studies the microorganisms associated to an invasive plant of the
    Galapagos Islands.
  • Cotopaxi National Park

Cloud Forest



San Cristobal

  • Cerro Tijertos (Frigate Bird Hill)
  • Guided visit to El Junco Center
  • Interpretation Center
  • Tortoise Breeding Center
  • Snorkeling at Kicker Rock (wet suits provided as needed)

Santa Cruz

Excursions are subject to change without prior notice. No refunds are possible.


  •  Housing in local homestays
  •  One to two students will be housed per homestay family.
  • Internet access is available in all homestays.
  • Housing arrangements are subject to change based on local circumstances without prior notice. No price adjustments are possible.

Included Meals

  • Welcome dinner upon arrival
  • Homestays will include two meals per day (breakfast and lunch or dinner).
  • Homestays families will make reasonable effort to accommodate dietary restrictions.
  • Meals included on overnight excursions
  • Farewell dinner at end of program

Classroom and Computer Access

  • Classroom space at on-stie partner's study center
  • Due to the experiential nature of this program, many program activities will take place outside of a formal classroom setting.
  • There is no computer lab available - plan to bring a laptop.
  • Wireless access may be intermittent due to local conditions. No refunds or price adjustments are possible.


  • Transportation by private bus to and from Mariscal Sucre Quito International Airport to the student housing is included in the program.
  • Transportation for all excursions including boat transportation between islands


  • Information about how to obtain a local SIM card will be provided at the pre-departure orientation.
  • Students will be responsible to purchase their own calling time/minutes.

Insurance, Health, and Safety

  • Comprehensive insurance package through on-site partner
  • An in-depth orientation will be given on the morning after arrival, including health and safety procedures.
  • Program partner staff will be available by telephone after hours.
  • All students will be registered for UC travel insurance This is free coverage, but registration is required prior to departure.