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The Galapagos

Co Authors:

Nancy A. Schiller
University Libraries / National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science
University at Buffalo

Clyde Freeman Herreid
Department of Biological Sciences
University at Buffalo


Using problem-based learning and role-playing, students analyze the geological origins of the Galapagos Islands, their colonization, species formation, and threats to their biodiversity in this story of a graduate student caught between local fishermen and government officials fighting for control of the islands’ natural resources. The case was designed for an introductory biology course where the focus is on evolution. It would also be appropriate for courses in ecology, conservation biology, and natural resources management.

  • To examine the geology and the formation of volcanic islands and how they are colonized.
  • To consider the process of species formation on islands and island biogeography.
  • To study the process of adaptation.
  • To consider how competition leads to character displacement and resource partitioning.
  • To compare the effects of natural selection and sexual selection with genetic drift as driving forces in evolution.
  • To learn how DNA technology is used to develop a species phylogeny and individual genealogies.
  • To grapple with questions of extinction and our obligation to preserve biodiversity.
  • To evaluate the impact of people on fragile ecosystems and examine how the competing interests of people can determine whether a habitat will survive or be destroyed.
Keywords: Galapagos; volcanic islands; evolution; species formation; natural selection; adaptation; genetic drift; Charles Darwin; biodiversity; Peter Grant; Rosemary Grant; finches; birds; tortoises; sea cucumbers; extinction; ecotourism; South America; Ecuador
Topical Area: Ethics, Policy issues, Social issues, Social justice issues
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Problem-Based Learning, Role-Play, Jig-Saw, Dilemma/Decision
Language: English
Subject Headings: Evolutionary Biology   Biology (General)   Ecology   Earth Science   Environmental Science   Natural Resource Management  
Date Posted: 12/1/99
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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