The Galápagos Islands are one of Earth's greatest natural laboratories. With their arid climate and bizarre biota, these volcanic islands strike us as forbidding and inhospitable. But the accessibility of this volcanic landscape and its inhabitants makes it a setting for a truly life-changing natural science tour.

The approachability of their fearlessly naive wildlife facilitates unique opportunities to observe unusual land and sea birds, giant tortoises, marine and land iguanas, and other unique creatures up close. Equally significant are the islands themselves. Nowhere else are the characteristics of active oceanic hot-spot volcanism expressed in as accessible a locality. Indeed, the islands' aridity and sparseness of vegetation gives them the same kind of appeal to geologists as the American Southwest, however nowhere on any continent can you see the effects of deep-seated volcanic activity that are on display in the Galápagos.

Link to web site for our most recent Galápagos travel study.


Students spend eight days in the islands aboard the Estrella del Mar II. A typical day involves two stops for hiking or snorkeling. Destinations include:

  • Santa Cruz and the Charles Darwin Research Station
  • San Cristóbal
  • Española
  • Floreana
  • Isabela
  • Bartolomé
  • North Seymour
  • Plazas
  • Santa Fe

Transit to and from the islands includes overnight stays in Quito, Ecuador. Before our return, we will tour this site of the world's finest surviving Spanish colonial architecture.


Dr. Thomas Holtz is director of the College Park Scholars-Earth, Life & Time program and senior lecturer in Geology. Holtz is a well-known vertebrate paleontologist and evolutionary biologist and the author of numerous scholarly and popular publications. He will be joined by fellow paleontologist Dr. John Merck, associate director of the Earth, Life, and Time program, and Undergraduate Director for the Department of Geology, and by an expert official naturalist guide from the Ecuadorian National Park Service.


Students will enroll in GEOL 388: Field Studies II (3 credits).

Students meet for 10 classes on campus (June 9 - 20) covering major aspects of Galápagos Zoology, Botany, Geology, Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and human issues, and to handle organizational details of the trip. An exam constituting 50% of the overall grade will be administered prior to departure. Upon return, students will submit a paper discussing their personal observations of the scientific and conservation issues covered in lecture.


The program fee of $4,260 includes tuition, lodging in Quito, air fare from Quito to and from the Galápagos, passage and meals aboard the Estrella del Mar II, Galápagos National Park entrance, and Quito city tour. Students are responsible for personal expenses, meals on shore, and their own international airfare. Additionally, students are responsible for their own room and board during the two weeks on campus prior to the travel portion of the course. The study abroad office will suggest a group flight itinerary that each student is responsible for purchasing directly from a travel agent. Although flight costs are not guaranteed and will vary, we estimate round-trip airfare for this program from the Washington, DC area to Quito will be approximately $900 Once admitted, you should expect to purchase the flight for the program a few weeks later, by the beginning of April.


The Study Abroad Office offers scholarships for undergraduate UM students to attend Summer Term programs. They are awarded based on academic achievement and financial need. The last day to apply for scholarships is Friday, February 15, 2008.


This program is designed for students who are highly motivated, both academically and personally, and who are seeking a life-changing experience in a unique learning environment. Students must have a strong interest in Botany, Zoology, Geology, the natural history of island faunas, the dynamics of evolution, the history of science, and/or wildlife conservation.

Knowledge of Spanish is not required. Applicants should have a 2.5 GPA or higher. Preference will be given to students in CPS Earth, Life, and Time or in the Department of Geology, although the program is open to all University of Maryland, College Park undergraduates.


Applications will not be processed or reviewed by the faculty director until they are complete. Please turn in all application materials simultaneously to:

The Study Abroad Office
University of Maryland
1101 Holzapfel Hall
College Park, MD 20742
Phone: 301-314-7746
Fax: 301-314-9135

Application instructions


A complete application includes:

  • Completed Application Form (available at
  • Official transcript from each college or university and from which you earned at least nine (9) credits. (Freshmen: please submit high school transcript)
  • 150-300 word personal statement about yourself and what attracted you to this course. Please demonstrate how participation in this program contributes to your overall academic planning, short- and long-term goals.
  • The name, telephone number and email address of a University Faculty or TA who may act as reference
  • Non-refundable application fee - check or money order for $30 made payable to the University of Maryland
  • Passport number, if available. (If you don't have a passport you should apply for one soon.)

Note: A $30 application fee is due with the application. If admitted to the program, a $270 non-refundable deposit will be charged to the student's UM account or billed to non-UM students. The remainder of the program fee will be charged to the enrolled students' UM accounts in April.

The last day to apply is Tuesday, March 4, 2008.

For program and course information, please contact Dr. Thomas Holtz at