Teaching the tourists in Galápagos: What do Galápagos National Park guides know, think, and teach tourists about evolution?

Sehoya Cotner, Clayton Mazur, Tiffany Galush, Randy Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Evolution is everywhere in Galápagos, especially regarding the role the islands have played in the history of evolutionary thought. In turn, the Galápagos National Park guides are in a unique position as informal science educators, as they are the primary points-of-contact for the islands' ~ 200,000 tourists per year. Our goal was to assess the guides' knowledge and acceptance of the theory of evolution, in addition to learning more about their perceptions of the connection between the islands and evolution. Methods: We surveyed 63 guides in three towns on three of the archipelago's populated islands. Surveys included items targeting the guides knowledge of evolution (via the Knowledge of Evolution Exam, or the KEE) and acceptance of the theory of evolution (via the Measure of Acceptance of the Theory of Evolution, or the MATE). Additional, novel items gauged the guides' perceptions of the islands, insofar as Galápagos is connected to evolution and the history of evolutionary thought. Results: Although acceptance of evolution was high, knowledge was relatively low. However, the guides are proud of the islands' association with the history of evolutionary thought, and enjoy talking about evolution while giving tours. On open-ended responses, guides claimed to especially enjoy talking with tourists about geology and island culture, and a few voiced concerns about the conflict between evolution and religion. Finally, the overwhelming majority of the guides agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, "I would like to learn more about Galápagos and the history of evolutionary thought." Conclusions: Galápagos guides display a disconnect between what is felt about evolution, and what is known about how evolution actually works. We can probably trace their fondness for, and acceptance of, evolution to the clear connection between evolution, tourism, and the guides' livelihoods. We can trace their lack of knowledge to their schooling, as prior work detected similarly low knowledge of evolution in the islands' schoolteachers. However, the guides are a receptive audience for professional development pertaining to our contemporary understanding of the mechanics of biological evolution. Improving guides' understanding of biological evolution could, in turn, inform the evolutionary understanding of thousands of tourists each year.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9
JournalEvolution: Education and Outreach
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 15 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).


  • Charles Darwin
  • Galápagos Islands
  • Galápagos National Park
  • Knowledge of Evolution Exam (KEE)
  • Measure of Acceptance of the Theory of Evolution (MATE)


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