Study Abroad


Discovering the Origins of Evolutionary Thought: Charles Darwin, Ecuador, and the Galapagos Islands

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This course is now accepting applications for the Winter 2015-16 term.

UMAIE Course Number: T4660
SAU Course Equivalency: BIOL 108, Principles of Evolutionary Change (four credits)
Instructor: Cynthia Norton and Amy Hiden, St. Catherine University
Dates: January 4-27, 2016. (NOTE: SAU classes begin January 20)
Location: Quito, Mindo, Cotopaxi, Punta Ahuano, Riobamba, Cuenca, Guayaquil, and the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador 
Price: $6,925-$7,225 (subject to change)

Program description

Charles Darwin was one of the most revolutionary thinkers of his time, and his work forever changed the way we think about the world. This course aims to familiarize students with Darwin and his work by examining his thought processes, reading what he read, visiting sites which were instrumental in the formulation of his theory, and gaining hands-on experience with the theory and practice of evolutionary biology and natural history.

We begin the course in Quito, where we will explore the rich cultural, artistic, political and religious history of this area through walking tours of the city, visits to religious sites, and museums. We will also read about and discuss pre-Darwinian natural philosophical thought and world views - including selections from William Paley, Thomas Malthus, and other scholars whose work Darwin read. In addition, we will examine scientific thought and methodology, specifically addressing the nature of scientific reasoning and its historical development from natural philosophy.

Upon leaving Quito, we will visit Inti Nan (the equator museum), the Mindo Nambillo Cloud Forest, the Cotopaxi Volcano (a young active volcano) and surrounding glaciers, and the Amazon basin. We then travel to Guayaquil, for departure to the Galapagos Islands, where we will study how the islands played a part in Darwin's ideas, and will also learn about current work there which adds to our understanding of evolutionary processes. Throughout the course, we will study not only the scientific evidence that Darwin so meticulously provided to support his theory of evolution by natural selection, but will also look at modern biological techniques and discoveries that support his work. In this process, students will gain hands-on experience in the field, learning for themselves the power of the scientific method.

What is included

  • Round-trip airfare from Moline, Chicago or Minneapolis 
  • Hotel accommodation in double and triple rooms
  • Continental breakfast (subject to change)
  • Some additional meals 
  • Travel assistance
  • International health insurance


What is not included

  • Passport fees
  • Transportation to/from airport
  • Fees for textbooks and materials
  • Meals not included in program fee - estimated cost is $180.
  • Personal baggage fees and spending money


How to apply

Application deadline - October 1, 2015
Step 1: Complete the online application.
Step 2: Fill out a Liability Form. Upload the form into your online application or submit it to the Center for International Education (Lower Cosgrove).
Step 3: Choose an airport and fill out a Deviation Form (pdf).
Step 4: Submit a $500 application deposit to the Center for International Education (Lower Cosgrove). Make checks payable to SEMINARS INTERNATIONAL.
Step 5: If your application is approved, follow the next steps for accepted students.

Payment deadlines and instructions

  • October 1, 2015: $500 deposit due
    Turn in your deposit to the Center for International Education (Lower Cosgrove). 
    Deposit checks should be made payable to SEMINARS INTERNATIONAL. 
  • November 1, 2015: remaining balance due
    Turn in your final payment to the Center for International Education (Lower Cosgrove).
    Make checks payable to St. Ambrose University or pay online with credit card.
    Credit card users - Indicate that the payment is for the SPRING 2016 term.

Payment details

  • Read the UMAIE Rules and Procedures regarding additional payment policies.
  • The $500 deposit is refundable ONLY if you are not accepted or if the program is canceled.
  • If you are accepted, all payments are non-refundable after each payment deadline.
  • All payments are deducted from the total program cost.
  • Failure to meet payment deadlines may jeopardize your place in the program.
  • Credit card users will incur additional service fees.
  • The final payment is non-refundable after November 1.