On 31 July 2017, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was entered into between the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF), Ecoventura and Eliecer Cruz Bedon to create a Galapagos Biodiversity and Education for Sustainability Fund. The purpose of the agreement is to raise funds in support of conservation of the Galapagos Islands. Specifically, this fund will support marine and terrestrial conservation and education efforts of the CDF, and patrolling, surveillance and management support to the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD). It was agreed that Ecoventura will provide the funds and they will be managed by CDF.
The funds have been successfully distributed through different projects that support important science and educational work of Galapagos and beyond.
Seamounts are underwater mountains that rise from the seafloor but never reach the sea’s surface. The Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) has explored 27 Galapagos seamounts, mapped 70 seamounts with satellite bathymetry, recorded over 40 hours of video transects, and collected more than 300 specimen samples of deep-sea organisms. This research project started in 2015, led by the CDF in collaboration with the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD), with the principle aim of characterizing the biodiversity and ecology of seamounts and other deep-sea ecosystems in the Galapagos Marine reserve (GMR). They have currently identified almost 50% of all physical samples and are collaborating with taxonomy experts from all over the world. Additionally, based on images taken from the video transects, they are developing the first comprehensive inventory database of deep-sea invertebrates for the GMR and Eastern Tropical Pacific region. Once the database has been completed, it will be made accessible on the online open source Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS).
Science: Population studies of seabirds
The CDF conducts long-term ecological monitoring of sea birds to ensure the survival of the Galapagos penguin, flightless cormorant and waved albatross, which are faced with threats like climate change, introduced species and pathogens, human interaction and non-infectious diseases. The primary objective of monitoring sea bird health and population status is to improve management plans to protect these unique and fragile species. In 2018, a monitoring trip was conducted in May to monitor Albatross and two monitoring trips are planned for July and September to monitor the status of Penguins and Cormorants. This data will be analyzed later in the year. Two academic publications have already been submitted this year based on the results to date of this project.
Science: Management of Tourism in the GMR and ETP
In 2016 the Charles Darwin Foundation and the WWF, in collaboration with the Galapagos Tourism Observatory and the Galapagos National Park Directorate, created an innovative tool to monitor touristic diving activities in order for the Galapagos National Park to have more information on the impacts of diving and changes in biodiversity. The webpage www.observatoriogalapagos.gob.ec/divestat allows us to gain in-depth knowledge which can be used for improving the management of the Galapagos Marine Reserve. To date, over 4,000 citizen science observations have been collected. DiveStat also includes the production of tools to ensure responsible diving in the Galapagos Marine Reserve and the training of guides. In the long term, we would like this data to help the Galapagos National Park Directorate make decisions about the appropriate management of diving activities. We intend to continue training guides on DiveStat and plan to extend this project to other marine world heritage areas within the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor in order to contribute to the sustainable management of tourism in these areas.
Education: Shark Education Program
CDF’s current educational program encourages the involvement and participation of the Galapagos community. This project is the first marine education program for the Galapagos Islands which is focused on sharks. Sharks suffer from a poor public image that makes their conservation somewhat difficult. However, sharks are hugely important in Galapagos. The aim of this project is to transmit knowledge through experience to local children who are the future of the Islands and the next agents of change. The knowledge and experience they acquire will be passed to the next generation, allowing them to understand the importance of protecting one of the last remaining, pristine places on the planet.
Galapagos National Park Directorate: Surveillance and Management
The funds corresponding to the Galapagos National Park Directorate for surveillance and management needs will be provided to the GNPD under request and following transparent procedures. A recent MoU between the GNPD and CDF will allow for the agile use of these funds.
Notable dates in Galapagos history:
1935 Ecuador declared the Galapagos Islands a Wildlife Sanctuary.
In 1959 The Charles Darwin Foundation was established and marked the centennial celebration of the publication of Darwin’s Origin of the Species. That same year Ecuador designated 97% of the total land area of the archipelago as Galapagos National Park that shoulders the responsibilities of wildlife conservation projects including the protection of endangered populations, the eradication and control of introduced species, and the management of recreation and tourism.
In 1964, the Charles Darwin Research Station, the field branch of the Charles Darwin Foundation, opened its facilities in Puerto Ayora. In 2007, the station was renamed the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Breeding Center and in 2017 a new exhibit was opened to honor Solitary George or “Lonesome George.”
It’s been almost 60 years since the Galapagos National Park Service joined forces with the Charles Darwin Station to dedicate their services to the use, conservation, and protection of the Galapagos Islands.
The Charles Darwin Research Station, an international non-profit organization, acts as the scientific arm of the Park Service. Scientists at the Station conduct conservation-based research and also train naturalist tour guides.
These are related conservation efforts to take care of the Galapagos Islands:
- Charles Darwin Foundation (https://www.galapagos.org)
- GalapagosConservacy (www.galapagos.org)
- Galapagos National Park (www.galapagospark.org)