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The Galapagos Islands, my home and living laboratory that inspires millions

Being a biologist and reading so many books on the origin of life, evolution and unique species, has so much meaning when choosing a place to live, and even more if this place becomes your home. For me, the Galapagos Islands were always only a dream, just like for millions of people worldwide.

I arrived at the Galapagos Islands more than 20 years ago, after obtaining a scholarship that was the product of a national contest, and started my research work for my thesis knowing absolutely nothing about the unique flora and fauna of this archipelago. This was a challenge for me, because I had to learn a lot about the unique biology of the islands.

I also had to conquer my fears and show that everything in life is possible, even goals that were sometimes harder to achieve. After almost three years, I had to return to the mainland of Ecuador to graduate, but first I applied for a position at the Botany Department. Then, Dr Robert Bensted-Smith, who was the Director of the CDF, and Dr Alan Tye, who was the head of the Charles Darwin Foundation´s Botany department, informed me that I had won the contest and that I was being given a job in the new conservation program of threatened species and invasive species control in the plants area. This was a dream come true! It was an opportunity to directly see the same ecological and evolutionary processes that Charles Darwin saw during his visit to this archipelago.

Building local capacities through the teaching of plant-animal-interaction projects at San Cristobal, Patricia Jaramillo and Diana Flores and local students. Photograph by Lenyn Betancourt.

The Galapagos became my home and I had two wonderful children with whom I discover every day how fortunate we are to live in such a unique place. My children value the place where we live. For example, my daughter a few months ago left the islands to study Biology at a University in England. Although she has crossed the world for her studies, she is getting prepared to return home and work to make a contribution for the conservation of this ecosystem that unfortunately every day presents new problems. These problems are caused by both humans and introduced species, like blackberry, guava and feral goats. All of these are considered by the Galapagos National Park Service as invasive species and, therefore, under control or eradication programs.

My background in Botany is what makes me work hard every day, and I understand now that I must do research and at the same time interact with the local community to share with them the fact that Galapagos is no longer just a living laboratory. Nowadays, it is a paradise in danger that needs to be protected. That requires conscious human beings who not only live on the islands, but also contribute to its conservation.

Andrés Tapia identifying pollen and spores, in a program designed for children in the community. Herbarium Charles Darwin Research Station in 2005. Photograph by Patricia Jaramillo.

Nowadays, I have the opportunity to contribute to both the conservation and the sustainable development of our province. Through the Galapagos Verde 2050 project I work both in the ecological restoration of degraded ecosystems and in the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices, using water-saving technologies; as well as bringing the benefits of science to the community.

I still remember when Mr Wijnand Pon, president of COmOn Foundation and main sponsor of the Galapagos Verde 2050 project, visited the islands in 2013. He received a briefing of the results of a pilot project, including an intervention by Patty Isabela Tapia, my daughter, who was very excited about having someone that was interested in supporting science and restoration projects here in our home. After she explained why the community thought it was so important to develop and support this type of initiative in Galapagos, Mr Pon said, “I am convinced”. That was the beginning of what today is one of the most ambitious projects of ecological restoration developed in the Galapagos Islands.

Bottom left Pien Pon (Mr Pon’s daughter), Mr. Wijnand Pon, founder and chairman of COmOn Foundation, Hans van Poelvoorde and Patty Isabela Tapia. Photograph by Patricia Jaramillo.
Ancillary seed collections, Herbarium Charles Darwin Research Station. Photograph by Diana Flores

Everything is possible as long as we have the strength and positivism to do it. Small actions generate big results, and for that reason I will continue fighting to conserve this unique paradise for our future generations so that you can come and experience my home with your grandkids and they can come with their grandkids one day to fall in love with this place in the same way I did. My contribution to the Galapagos Islands is what makes me happy.

Patricia Jaramillo studies seedlings of Lecocarpus lecocarpoides at Española Island (Manzanillo), a species that had been thought to be extict. Photograph by Cristina Georgii.

Dr. Patricia Jaramillo is a biologist who arrived in the Galapagos in 1996 with a scholarship. She later became part of the staff of the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF), working in its Research Station. She is currently the leader of the “Galapagos Verde 2050” project and is the coordinator of the Collections of Natural History at CDF. She has written books and scientific articles on botany and conservation of threatened plants, for general and scientific audiences. She is also the creator of the first pollen and seed collections of Galapagos and Ecuador. She has received several awards and recognition from local and international institutions for her continued work for the conservation of these wonderful islands.

Linkedin: Patricia Jaramillo Díaz
Researchgate: Patricia Jaramillo Díaz
Twitter:@pjaramillod
Skype: Patricia.Jaramillo1

Comments

  1. Everod Moodie
    USA mass
    August 3, 12:23 pm

    You are doing a good work for us all but even more so for the next many generation after us of whom will be very greateful for this efforts,thanks for the studies that went in to all of this endevous to make our enviroment a better place to live also for the facelitation of the Charles Darwin Foundation. Good job .