A Galapagos Youth and Her Passion for Conservation

Patricia Tapia helping classify seeds for Galapagos Verde 2050.

The scholarships at the Charles Darwin Foundation help train talented students from Galapagos.

Patricia Isabela Tapia, a 20-year-old Galapagos youth, is currently following her passion and studying abroad. After participating in a challenging selection process that gives scholarships to two students from Galapagos each year, she received a partial scholarship from the Charles Darwin Foundation for her Bachelor’s degree in Biology at the University of Newcastle (England) and a scholarship from the Dutch COmON Foundation for both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.

Patricia was the best student of her class in secondary school and received the highest marks for the Ecuadorian baccalaureate at the Unidad Educativa Nacional Galápagos. She also obtained a diploma from the International Baccalaureate with the highest scores in Galapagos. Currently, she finds herself in her fourth semester in England and during her summer vacations she travels to Galapagos to volunteer at the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS).

Ever since she was a child, her goal and dream was to study at a British University. Since then, every decision she took revolved around that dream, which sometimes seemed too utopic and optimistic. However, today, she is living her dream and has already established bigger goals that she is certain she will fulfill. It is true that everything you dream of is achievable:

“It is important to focus on the things we are passionate about in order to reach our dreams. It’s not like when we were kids and believed by wishing something it will magically occur. It’s a bit more complicated that. Goals can be reached only by working hard every day, having perseverance and not allowing any obstacle stop us. It’s important to ignore anybody who thinks you’re not capable. We must also constantly give ourselves greater goals. Additionally, it’s important that we help others as we advance, because life is about that: sharing and having empathy for others. But mainly it’s about loving what we do,” stated Patricia Tapia.

Her experience at the Charles Darwin Research Station is helping her discover which area in Biology she is most passionate about, but at the moment she wants to focus on ecology and conservation, even though she still has time to decide.

Patricia volunteering at the Charles Darwin Research Station in the summer of 2017.
Patricia volunteering at the Charles Darwin Research Station in the summer of 2017. Photo by: Patricia Jaramillo.

Last summer she helped scientist Inti Keith with her marine invasive species project. She went into the field and followed various transects to take data points and photos of invasive algae of the Caulerpa genus. This information will be used to compare with data in the hot season and identify changes in behavior during different seasons. In addition to helping with data analysis, during the Open House at the Research Station, she gave presentations about the project to inform the community about cutting-edge science. “I loved being able to explain to the community what we do at the Research Station and what I could be doing in the future,” Patricia explained.

Patricia Tapia presenting information about marine invasive species at the Open House in 2017.
Patricia Tapia presenting information about marine invasive species at the Open House in 2017. Photo: CDF Archive.

Patricia also worked for the ambitious Galapagos Verde 2050 ecological restoration project, which has planted more than 7,500 plants with water saving technology. At GV2050, Patricia was involved in the classification of seeds extracted from the excrement of land iguanas from Plaza Sur. She will probably write her thesis based on the data that she will collect next summer when she returns to Galapagos to volunteer with CDRS again. At the moment she is interested in focusing her thesis on the diet of Chelonoidis donfaustoi, a recently identified species of giant tortoise from Santa Cruz Island.

Patricia at the Open House of the CDRS in 2017.
Patricia at the Open House of the CDRS in 2017. Photo by: Sergio Zamora.

Patricia’s second passion is dance. In addition to her academic studies she is part of the society of dance at the University of Newcastle. Additionally, beginning in her first year at university, she has been part of the dance teams that represents them at student competitions around the UK.

Patricia participating at a dance competition in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she was representing her university.
Patricia participating at a dance competition in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she was representing her university. Photo by: Newcastle University Dance Society.
Patricia Tapia with the water saving technology of Galapagos Verde 2050.
Patricia Tapia with the water saving technology of Galapagos Verde 2050. Photo by: Patricia Jaramillo.

Patricia feels very grateful for the opportunity to study abroad and getting to know a new culture that “represents the individuality of every person” and where there is great acceptance of foreigners. She misses the joy of Latinos, Ecuadorian food, her mother tongue, sunny weather, island lifestyle, her friends and her family’s affection. Although it has been difficult for her, she is aware of how lucky she is and sees this as an opportunity for growth and gaining academic, social and cultural knowledge.

Patricia wishes to return to Galapagos to contribute to the conservation of the archipelago. Although she is very grateful for the quality of education she receives in England, she doesn’t wish to stay because she feels a great responsibility and love for her home, the Enchanted Islands.

“What inspired me was to be born and grow up in Galapagos, where I was surrounded by nature and very connected to it. My parents have showed me to love the place I live and that’s what I felt inspired me….one of the various reasons I decided to go so far from home was so that I could gain preparation and obtain the necessary tools to return to the place I was born and give back a little of what that paradise gave me and which I hope to protect” – Patricia Tapia

Patricia Tapia at the University of Newcastle.
Patricia Tapia at the University of Newcastle. Photo by: Gautham Suresh.

The Charles Darwin Foundation’s scholarship program is an essential part of its mission because the training of local people will assure a sustainable future for the islands. This project, like all of the others at CDF, is financed entirely by the generosity of our supporters. Please donate today.

The “Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands”, in French “Fondation Charles Darwin pour les îles Galapagos”, Association International sans but lucratif (“AISBL”), has its registered office located at Drève du Pieuré 19, 1160 Brussels, and is registered under the trade registry of Brussels under the number 0409.359.103.

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