Conservation Health in the Galápagos

A new selective taught by Dr. Greg Lewbart introduced a group of excited DVM students to the concepts of conservation health in a very special environment.  The new selective, ” Galápagos Zoology and Medicine” was offered for the first time, taught during what is for most students called Spring Break.


The course immersed students in the famous archipelago’s unique ecology, natural history, and culture during five days of intensive study.  A combination of lecture and field experiences kept students alert and excited.  The very intensive course was based at the Galápagos Science Center on the island of San Cristóbal.

At the Galapagos Science CenterMorning lectures at the science center covered both ecological and clinical subjects, ranging from the biology and medicine of sea turtles, marine iguanas, and sea lions to the impact of plastics pollution in the Galápagos, marine mammal citizen science, and the intricacies of performing field research in a foreign country.  Guest lecturers included Juan Pablo Muñoz and Dani Alarcón-Ruales, both researchers at the Galápagos Science Center who provided valuable insights about the islands and their ecology.

View From Cerro Chico

Students in the course also toured the Charles Darwin Research Center, the conservation-oriented research partner of the Galápagos National Park Service, and visited the Darwin Animal Doctors clinic on Santa Cruz island, which provides free veterinary care for the island’s companion animals and wildlife alike.

Doug Shoots Iguana

Students particularly enjoyed the daily learning excursions, which required hiking, biking, snorkeling, and scuba diving to fully explore the lands and waters of the Galápagos islands.  On these excursions students had the opportunity to come into close contact with the diverse and unusual wildlife of the Galápagos. Particularly exciting were spottings of hammerhead and Galápagos sharks, manta rays, bottle-nose dolphins, Galápagos sea lions, marine iguanas, and animals familiar to North Carolinians, green sea turtles.

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Though it was a highly condensed whirlwind of exploration and learning, the lucky DVM program students in the course returned to NCSU with both new knowledge and extremely valuable experiences that will help inform their future career directions.

The class on the Giant Tortoise Sculpture