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.
At the southern end of the Galapagos archipelago lies Española, with 60 km2 of volcanic rock, sandy shores and spectacular marine and terrestrial biodiversity.
As one of the oldest islands in the Archipelago, Española has been the scene of successful conservation efforts for several iconic species such as the Española giant tortoise, rescued from the brink of extinction, and the ongoing work with the waved albatross, with its only breeding ground on the coasts of the island.
More recently, Española once again became a natural laboratory where an ambitious project initiated the plant propagation of another Española endemic species, Opuntia megasperma var. orientalis, commonly known as the Española cactus.
The tropical heat of a sunny day in “The Enchanted Islands” fell upon the grey costume I was wearing. With blurry vision from the inside of my strange attire, I was watching how the visitors enjoyed, laughed, asked questions, and took photos of me. Children were terrified and cried as they were chased by a “shark”. However, when I took off the mask … bright smiles returned to their faces and made me smile too. “Happy Oceans Day”, I shouted. I had many unique days like this as a volunteer at Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS).
Want to get the secret sauce for effective communication of science? Three of National Geographic’s most famous explorers shared their advice and experience at the National Geographic Explorers Festival in Washington, D.C. today.
Filming large schools of sharks at Darwin and Wolf islands, in the Galapagos. These islands were declared a sanctuary due to the large biomass of sharks. How do we know? The shark team at the Charles Darwin Foundation Research Station uses underwater video-monitoring surveys at this remote shark haven to understand and assess shark aggregations. This is the story of the team’s week-long sharky trip.
The Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) is an endemic species, but that fact doesn’t save it from being threatened with extinction in its environment. Their nests can be found on Isabela, Fernandina, Bartolome and Floreana Islands, but their habitat is shrinking though time due to climate change and other threats.
The Galapagos population is a diverse kaleidoscope of people who share the love for their islands. However, many of them do not connect that relationship to daily activities that would be best for the Galapagos, such as consuming local products, reducing and recycling garbage, and respecting wildlife and locally unique plants. Now, through creative programs and activities, we are reconnecting the Galapagueno culture to a conservation ethic, helping to educate residents to their natural heritage through education and activities in their world-famous environment.
More than 700 naturalist guides accompany tourists who visit the islands. They enhance the naturalist experience for the visitors and play a major role in monitoring impacts throughout the archipelago.
Since I was little, I understood that being from the Galapagos was a unique privilege. Famous for its iconic flora and fauna that inspired Charles Darwin to conceive the theory of evolution, this place is a “must visit” for scientists and tourists from across the world. Indeed, the condition of the archipelago’s ecosystems and the efforts being made to preserve them are examples we are proud to share. But what does it all really mean for the people who live on the islands?
Successful conservation of sharks in the Galapagos lures thousands of tourists for an evening of sharks, ice-cream and education. Shark-diving tourism generates millions of U.S. dollars for the local economy, making a shark in Galapagos the most valuable on the planet.
Small-scale or artisanal fisheries on the Galapagos are legal and impact over 60 species, several of them only found in the Archipelago and at risk of extinction. In particular, the fin-fish fishery shows clear signs of over-exploitation and tends to catch many unintended species.
Often as veterinarians, we tend to focus on the immediate impact we can have on an individual animal’s health. However, through my journey, I have realized that I did not have to only care for any one animal by providing clinical treatment, performing surgery or preventing it suffered from diseases, but I could also have a bigger impact by working in the field of conservation, saving species populations, restoring their ecosystems, and helping human communities cohabit in balance with nature.
The Galapagos Islands are famous for their spectacular species of birds. They first came to the attention of the world after Charles Darwin first collected specimens on the archipelago in 1835, helping him later by providing clues to develop the theory of evolution. The islands’ birds have captivated the imaginations and inspiration of explorers, sailors, scientists, and tourists ever since. These iconic animals are one of the main reasons many thousands of visitors come to these islands each year. But having evolved into their Galapagos niches over countless generations, the birds of Galapagos are facing a deadly enemy, an invasive insect that preys on chicks in their nests.
Galapagos, the sharkiest place in the world–and one of the best diving destinations to see these remarkable animals! Sharks are one of the most charismatic species, but even though they have ecological and touristic importance, their bad public image remains. This is what motivates us to share the shark information we have with the Galapagos local community, to involve them in the shark world and encourage them to protect these wonderful species.
The colorful lizards of the Galapagos require the same consideration as the big iconic animals of the world-famous archipelago — such as giant tortoises, tropical penguins, and marine iguanas — yet no funds or regulations are earmarked for the protection of these small animals. One way to protect them within human settlements is to show people how to care for our tiny reptilian neighbors. It means changing our cultural and conservation customs.