Unique Encounters at the Charles Darwin Research Station in Galapagos

A visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station on the Island of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos is a lifetime dream for our visitors, according to Dennis Ballesteros, a Senior Guide with Metropolitan Touring, an organization that brings thousands of tourists to the islands every year. “The expectation of meeting real people who work on the ground, and to learn about their work in conservation, is a highlight for many people who come to these magical islands,” he says.

The Charles Darwin Research Station is located on the edge of the town of Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz. The Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador in South America and a World Heritage Site located over 1,000 kilometres from the mainland. Established almost 60 years ago, the Charles Darwin Research Station was the first nonprofit working in the archipelago for science and conservation. The Station has more than 18 active research projects, ranging from marine conservation to land-bird research, and finding out how to rid the Islands of invasive species.

Enhancing the Visitor`s Experience

We opened the Charles Darwin Exhibition Hall a year ago, thanks to the support of generous donors. Here, visitors can see our unique exhibits, including the skeleton of a 13-meter Bryde´s whale and beautiful murals painted by Carlyn Iverson, an artist from the United States, who collaborated with two Galapagos artists. There is also lots of fascinating information about the conservation and science projects taking place in the Galapagos.

The Research Station is surrounded by beautiful gardens with plants that can be found only here in the Galapagos, and nowhere else in the world.

image003Artist and illustrator Carlyn Iverson, working on a mural in the Charles Darwin Exhibition Hall. Photograph by Paola Díaz, Charles Darwin Foundation.

In 1965 we started the Galapagos giant tortoise captive breeding program in our Research Station, which was also when we started collaborating with the Galapagos National Park. Together, we now have a successful breeding program that is managed by the Park authority. Visitors that come to our Research Station can visit the giant tortoise breeding centre right next door to us.

image005Visitors to the Charles Darwin Exhibition Hall, hear a talk about the marine biodiversity in the Galapagos. Photo credit, Charles Darwin Foundation

Juan Carlos Izurieta, from the Tourism Observatory of Galapagos, says that from the 175,000 visitors that come through Baltra airport every year, around 120,000 visit the Charles Darwin Research Station. This is an amazing opportunity for us to tell them about our conservation message.

image007Gardens are an important part at the Charles Darwin Research Station, which is working on a program to restore plants in parts of the Galapagos archipelago. Photo credit, Paola Díaz, Charles Darwin Research Station.

National Geographic Shares Storytelling Expertise

Among our newest visitors, was a group of National Geographic experts who came to our Research Station this week for a science storytelling bootcamp.

“It was inspiring for us to meet our colleagues here at the Research Station, to hear about their wonderful work and to work with them on a plan to communicate their conservation ideas and achievements with the rest of the world,” said David Braun, who is Director of Outreach for digital publishing at the National Geographic Society.

This post was written during the workshop in which we were so lucky to receive tips from the the Nat Geo team on how to communicate the amazing results of our work with a wider public.

image009The Research Station depends on donations to fund the important work to re-establish and protect the natural heritage of the Galapagos World Heritage Site. If you would like to support our work please visit our site: Photo credit, Paola Díaz

image011Paola Díaz Freire works as the Communications Manager for the Charles Darwin Research Station in Galapagos. She is from Ecuador and a permanent Galapagos resident. She has worked in Communications since 1999 in Galapagos and in Community Engagement since 2006 in Australia and the Middle East. She has an Environmental Science degree and a Master’s in Communications and Public Relations from the University of Westminster in the United Kingdom.