The Galapagos Science Center hosts the World Summit on Island Sustainability

The World Summit on Island Sustainability was held June 26-30 in San Cristobal, Galapagos to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Galapagos Science Center, a collaboration between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of San Francisco of Quito. The purpose of the World Summit was to bring together voices from around the world to discuss and share various issues and best practices related to island conservation and sustainability. As part of the multi-volume book series on the Galapagos Islands (Stephen J. Walsh & Carlos F. Mena, Series Editors) published by Springer Nature, an 11th edited book will be developed by guest authors and others from papers and presentations delivered at the World Summit on Island Sustainability entitled “Island Ecosystems: Challenges to Sustainability”.

The World Summit hosted 150 participants from around the world, including Guam, Australia, Chile, French Polynesia, the United Kingdom and Hawaii, and featured featured speakers such as Carolina student Ashlan Cousteau, as well as leaders from the World Wildlife Fund, Re:wild and Galapagos Conservation Trust. During the welcome reception, graciously sponsored by Celebrity Cruises, we heard welcoming remarks from Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Chris Clemens and USFQ founder Carlos Montufar and Rector Diego Quiroga. We also celebrated the addition of North Carolina State University as the newest member to the International Galapagos Science Consortium, or IGSC. The IGSC is an alliance of international institutions, including universities and research organizations, with the aim of creating a scientific network that guides the biodiversity of thoughts, perspectives and innovations for the study of island ecosystems.

After 10 years of successful research, education and community outreach in the Galapagos, the GSC was inspired to organize and host the World Summit on Island Sustainability to elevate and highlight the Galapagos Islands in the conservation discourse and explore how they can we learn from others similarly challenged island ecosystems. The GSC is the only university research facility of its kind in the Galapagos and creates spaces for scientific dialogue and dissemination for policy makers as well as the local community.

Don Hobart, an associate vice chancellor for research, talks with Barbara Stephenson, Carolina’s vice provost for global affairs and global chief and Provost Chris Clemens after a tour of the Galapagos Science Center. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

During the World Summit, researchers, NGOs and global island experts presented their ideas and participants were able to learn from each other through both formal presentations and field trips to immerse themselves in the Galapagos flora and fauna. Dialogue and information sharing are vital to cope with a changing world. That’s why at GSC, we believe in promoting science and education that will help protect these fragile island ecosystems and improve the lives of their inhabitants.

GSC’s 20,000 square meter facility houses four state-of-the-art laboratories, each with a dedicated research focus: terrestrial ecology, marine ecology and oceanography, data science and visualization, and microbiology. The building also has office space for visiting health, social and physical scientists, as well as a multi-purpose space for community outreach and educational events.

The Galapagos archipelago includes 11 large islands and 200 small islands, with a total area of ‚Äč‚Äčabout 8,010 square kilometers. Free from human predators for most of their history, these islands developed unique species found nowhere else on earth that adapted to their environment and then lived in ecological isolation until the arrival of humans.

Since its discovery, the Galapagos Islands have been a source of research and study to learn more about evolution, environmental change, species adaptability and conflicts between nature and society.

The World Summit on Island Sustainability was an opportunity to bring together thought leaders from around the world to interact and share best practices, so we can not only help conserve the Galapagos, but the ecosystems of other similarly challenged islands around the world.

To learn more about the history of the Global Island Sustainability Summit and to view the program and biographies of the featured speakers, visit: https://www.globalisland.science/event/

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