The Microbiology and Biomolecular Lab provides the equipment researchers need to work with different biological samples for clinical, microbiological, and genetic studies.

Researchers can isolate microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria; process blood, feces and urine samples; and extract DNA or RNA from samples – whatever is needed for research or health purposes.

This lab also supports the Galapagos National Park by conducting health assessments of giant tortoises to help safely release this iconic species back into the wild and save them from the brink of extinction.

In Galapagos 36 giant tortoises return to their natural habitat

In the project of Dr. Greg Lewbart (NC State University), his team collaborates with the La Galapaguera, which is the Galapagos National Park (GNP) tortoise breeding center in San Cristobal Island. Each year La Galapaguera has to release tortoises between 8 to 10 years old to the wild with the objective to increase the number of giant tortoises on the island. The GSC has been helping the GNP with this important activity each year since 2016. During the health assessments, they take baseline measurements and blood samples to know if tortoises are healthy so they are prepared to survive in the wild.

Dr. Todd Vision (UNC) is leading a project titled “Introgression and hybridization between endemic and invasive plants in the Galapagos Islands”. The main objective of this project is to study five genders (Psidium, Lantana, Passiflora, Gossypium, and Pennisetum) of invasive and endemic plant populations that live together in the same area to demonstrate hybridization. This project uses genetics and molecular biologic techniques to show how native species came to the island, become endemic, and how they can hybrid with native species affecting their evolution and with it changing the flora and environment of the island.

Dr. Jaime Chavez is conducting a project titled “Phytogeography and origin of native and introduced species in the Galapagos Islands”. This project explores evolution patterns in less studied species in the Galapagos Islands using molecular biology techniques. There is not much information about many species on the island such as worms, which are part of the food chain and are important to maintaining environment stability. 

Dr. Antonio León (USFQ) is leading the project “Molecular characterization of pathogenic fungal as a biological control strategy for invasive blackberry (Rubus niveus) in the Galapagos Islands”. Blackberry (Rubus niveus) is one of the most aggressive and invasive species in the Galapagos Islands. Using microbiology and molecular biology techniques, researchers isolate pathogenic fungal from blackberry plants to characterize them. They then test if they can kill the blackberry plants while protecting the endemic plants, using them as a biological control strategy for the future.

The Microbiology and Biomolecular Lab at the GSC is equipped with the following:

  • Incubator (20 to 50 degrees C)
  • Quantity tray sealer
  • Analytical balance
  • Microwave
  • Sand bath (regulates incubation of
    samples up to 40 degrees C)
  • Micropipettes
  • Electrophoresis chamber and power supply
  • Vacuum pump
  • Gel documentation system BIO-RAD
  • NanoDrop 2000
  • Qubit Fluorimeter
  • Microplate reader ELX808
  • Centrifuge
  • Mini bead beater
  • DNA carry over blocking cabinet
  • Water bath GEMMY
  • Vortex-Genie
  • Biological safety cabinet IIAZ
  • Thermal Cycler Biometra
  • pH Metter Toledo
  • Tissue homogenizer
  • Compound microscope
  • Fume hood
  • Vet Test 8008 IDEXX
  • Block heater (incubates samples for DNA and RNA extraction from 5 to 130 degrees C)


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In 2022, the Galapagos Science Center (GSC) and the broader UNC & USFQ Galapagos Initiative will celebrate its 10th Anniversary. We are proud to announce the World Summit on Island Sustainability scheduled to be held on June 26–30, 2022 at the Galapagos Science Center and the Community Convention Center on San Cristobal Island.

The content of the World Summit will be distributed globally through social media and results documented through papers published in a book written as part of the Galapagos Book Series by Springer Nature and edited by Steve Walsh (UNC) & Carlos Mena (USFQ) as well as Jill Stewart (UNC) and Juan Pablo Muñoz (GSC/USC). The book will be inclusive and accessible by the broader island community including scientists, managers, residents, tourists, and government and non-government organizations.

While the most obvious goal of organizing the World Summit on Island Sustainability is to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the GSC and the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, other goals will be addressed through special opportunities created as part of our operational planning of the World Summit.

For instance, we seek to elevate and highlight the Galapagos in the island conservation discourse, seeking to interact with other island networks in more obvious and conspicuous ways to benefit the Galapagos Islands, the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, and the world. We will seize the opportunity to further develop the I2N2 – International Islands Network-of-Networks. Further, we wish to highlight and emphasize multiple visions of a sustainable future for the Galapagos Islands and we cannot do this alone. Therefore, engaging the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Tourism, the Government Council of Galapagos, the Galapagos National Park, and local Galapagos authorities, including government and non-government organizations and local citizen groups, is imperative.

The Galapagos Science Center on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

Borrowing from Hawaii’s and Guam’s Green Growth Program and the Global Island Partnership, we wish to examine existing global programs that emphasize island sustainability and their incorporation into life, policies, and circumstances in the Galapagos Islands. We will also seek to enhance our connections with the institutional members of our International Galapagos Science Consortium and expand the Consortium through the recruitment of other member institutions. We will also work to benefit islands and their local communities by working with citizen groups as well as important NGOs who seek to improve the natural conditions in the Galapagos and diminish the impact of the human dimension on the future of Galapagos’ ecosystems.

Lastly, we will use the World Summit to benefit UNC & USFQ and our constituencies through a strong and vibrant communication plan about the World Summit, creating corporate relationships as sponsors, identifying funding goals through donors, and benefiting our study abroad program for student engagement in the Galapagos Islands. We plan to develop and issue a Galapagos Sustainability Communique after the World Summit that includes the vision and insights of all its participants for a sustainable Galapagos with applicability to global island settings.

We are eager to hear your perspective and have you join us at the World Summit on Island Sustainability!