Charles Darwin Foundation strengthens ties with Ecuadorian Embassy in the U.S.

The Board of Directors of the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands and the Ambassador of the Republic of Ecuador to the United States, Ivonne A-Baki, held a meeting to strengthen ties between the two organizations.

From left to right: Ivonne A-Baki, Ambassador of Ecuador to the United States; Ronnie Stewart, CDF Board Member and Hans Poelvoorde, CDF President. Photo: Juan Manuel García, CDF.
From left to right: Ivonne A-Baki, Ambassador of Ecuador to the United States; Ronnie Stewart, CDF Board Member and Hans Poelvoorde, CDF President. Photo: Juan Manuel García, CDF.

The event highlighted the importance of science for the conservation of the islands, which CDF has been carrying out for more than 62 years at their field Research Station together with various partner organizations. The role of the embassy in the recent creation of the new Galapagos marine reserve "Hermandad" was also highlighted.

Ivonne A-Baki, Ambassador of Ecuador to the United States, receiving a gift from CDF Board member Gabriela Sommefeld. Photo: Juan Manuel García, CDF.
Ivonne A-Baki, Ambassador of Ecuador to the United States, receiving a gift from CDF Board member Gabriela Sommefeld. Photo: Juan Manuel García, CDF.

A friend of Ecuador, Sylvia Earle, told me "Galapagos encloses innocence, the child all of us have. This is the kind and strong message Ecuador brings to the World." expressed H. E. Ivonne Baki.

Ambassador of Ecuador to the United States, Ivonne Baki. Photo: Juan Manuel García, CDF.
Ambassador of Ecuador to the United States, Ivonne Baki. Photo: Juan Manuel García, CDF.

Rakan Zahawi, CDF Executive Director, explained to the attendees the projects currently being implemented and the progress achieved so far on some of the critical conservation efforts underway today. "The CDF is overseeing more than 25 major research project in Galapagos at present, many of which are in partnership with other international institutions. And with the declaration of the new marine reserve, Ecuador has taken on a leadership role for conservation efforts in the world," he said.

Rakan Zahawi, CDF Executive Director. Photo: Juan Manuel Garcia, CDF.
Rakan Zahawi, CDF Executive Director. Photo: Juan Manuel Garcia, CDF.

This event is expected to raise awareness of CDF's work in the Galapagos Islands, which aims to generate research that can advance conservation of critical habitat and the unique species that inhabit the archipelago.

Part of the CDF Board of Directors with the Ambassador of Ecuador to the United States, Ivonne Baki. Photo: Juan Manuel García, CDF.
Part of the CDF Board of Directors with the Ambassador of Ecuador to the United States, Ivonne Baki. Photo: Juan Manuel García, CDF.
Working with Galvezia leucantha var. leucantha at the GV2050 study site in Tortuga Negra beach, Isabela. Left: Liliana Jaramillo, Anna Calle, Paúl Mayorga. Photo: Liliana Jaramillo, CDF.

For years, I have dedicated my work towards plant conservation in urban areas. However, a few months ago, my life had a sudden turn that brought me to the Galapagos islands. This archipelago, unlike big cities, has a major part of its territory devoted to conservation. Urban development is restricted to specific places on only four islands. Even though this is a dramatic change in my workplace, from a pavement jungle to remote places (such as this study site of the Galapagos Verde 2050 (GV2050) of the Charles Darwin Foundation, in the north of Isabela Island). In reality both experiences have similarities as: working with people, understanding plant ecology and developing propagation experiments. In this way, we can say there are very important activities for species conservation in any place of the world.

The experience that I am going to share, happened on a recent field trip where we went to monitor the only known population of Galvezia leucantha var. leucantha, on Isabela Island. Since 2016, GV2050 project has developed actions to prevent the extinction on Isabela island of this unique species from Galapagos. We learned that its main threat was introduced herbivores, goats (Jaramillo & Tye, 2018; León-Yánez, S., Tye, 2019). Goats were responsible for just a few remaining individuals Galvezia on the island. The goats were eradicated by 2005 by the GNPD (Galapagos National Park Directorate). Since the first actions, the GV2050 has taken the challenge to develop activities toward the conservation of this species, despite having a remnant population of only four individuals on the west side of the island, close to Tortuga Negra beach (Jaramillo et al., 2020). The work that these actions involve is arduous. For example, getting to this place is not an easy task. It is located 150 nautical miles from Santa Cruz Island, where the Charles Darwin Foundation is located (Dirección del Parque Nacional Galápagos, 2016), which demands an estimated time of more than 8 hours, depending on the boat travelled.

Galvezia leucantha var. leucantha flower. Photo: Liliana Jaramillo, CDF.
Galvezia leucantha var. leucantha flower. Photo: Liliana Jaramillo, CDF.

To fulfill this job, we have done several field trips, which despite being limited, have allowed us to make progress toward our goal: contributing to the recovery of this species population. In fact, after three years, the size of this small population has increased, slowly, but successfully, it has grown more than 5 times its original size. At the time, we have 23 individuals in the site, obtained through ex situ reproduction and repatriation of seedlings (Jaramillo et al., 2020) from the lab to the original site.
To organize and carry out these trips, we have different transportation means. To achieve this, we need close internal and external collaboration. Joint efforts between institutions facilitate our transportation and the successful activity execution at this remote site.
On this occasion, we were three members of the GV2050 research team in a motorboat from the GNPD, our most important partner and entity always willing to collaborate with our work. This field trip was coordinated during one of the routine trips that the GNDP does for the changing of the park rangers guard at Canal Bolivar. At this place the GNPD has an operations base. Our trip took approximately 9 hours, a bit more than estimated, due to a couple of unexpected events during the navigation.

Galapagos National Park and Navy personnel at the GNPD motorboat. Photo: Liliana Jaramillo, CDF.
Galapagos National Park and Navy personnel at the GNPD motorboat. Photo: Liliana Jaramillo, CDF.

During this trip, I had the chance to see a new side of the archipelago. Isabela is an island that presents evidence of recent eruptions. We can see there a very diverse territory, which integrates lava flows and areas where the vegetation still remains. In this setting we can see the contrast between the green vegetation and the black dry lava. Cliffs can be seen; in these places the sea endlessly crashes against the rocks, shaping this beautiful island.

Isla Isabela with dry lava flows that define the landscape. Arriving to the study site. Photo: Liliana Jaramillo, CDF..
Isla Isabela with dry lava flows that define the landscape. Arriving to the study site. Photo: Liliana Jaramillo, CDF..

Once we got closer to our study site, we had limited time to do all that was planned, before the GNPD crew came back for us. Unexpected events on field trips always occur, and this time we only had one hour for monitoring and recording the condition of the G. leucantha population. Despite the hurry, I was very surprised when I got to this special place. I saw a bare area with red gravel and rocks, which gave the place a very special aspect, even comparable to another planet. And, as odd as this sounds, this is the favorite soil for the growth of our ‘Galvezias’ (Guzmán et al., 2017). When we arrived, in middle of this place, we found our plants scattered in the area. We hurried to record the measurements and data of each plant. Many of them were blooming and I had the feeling they were waiting for us to be appreciated.

Galvezia leucantha habitat on Isabela. Photo: Liliana Jaramillo, CDF.
Galvezia leucantha habitat on Isabela. Photo: Liliana Jaramillo, CDF.

During our visit, we found a big surprise: it was a new seedling that germinated naturally. This was particularly interesting, knowing that all the young plants of this population have been germinated at the Charles Darwin Research Station and were taken back to the site afterwards. With this finding we started thinking that the probability of recruiting more individuals in this population is increasing. With the joy of witnessing progress, we continued our job and, as we advanced, we found one more and then other ones. In total we recorded eight new plants, growing naturally, hidden in cracks. It was very surprising for me to see, how in middle of this rough landscape, this new generation of Galvezia leucantha plants have germinated in natural conditions and are growing strong and vigorous.

This trip gave us the most encouraging news while working on the conservation of such a small population of plants. With the feeling of the accomplishing our duty, we finished recording the new plants found and hurried to return to our embarkation point. On the path to the meeting point, the sun set reminded us that the day was about to end.

Galvezia leucantha plant, growing in the cracks on the study site. Photo: Liliana Jaramillo, CDF.
Galvezia leucantha plant, growing in the cracks on the study site. Photo: Liliana Jaramillo, CDF.

Soon, the motorboat came to pick us up to take us to the ‘Guadalupe River’, the GNPD ship, where we boarded to travel back to Santa Cruz. Still hurried, we found on board the park rangers team with whom we were going to travel, after their intense working days. This ship, as it is a bigger boat, took longer to return, nevertheless, our journey was more comfortable. During this journey, we shared anecdotes and stories with the ship’s crew and we also had the chance to rest. The journey took all night and the early morning. At 6 am I woke up to the sound of the anchor; we had arrived in Puerto Ayora. A long voyage but very satisfying.

Guadalupe River Ship. Photo: Liliana Jaramillo, CDF.
Guadalupe River Ship. Photo: Liliana Jaramillo, CDF.

Finding breakthroughs in the process of recovery of an endangered species, motivates me to continue my job. Knowing that there are still many other species that have been affected directly or indirectly by human activities and invasive species, leaves much work to be done. Working in ecological restoration is not an easy task, it requires planning, persistence, lots of patience and funds, because this is a long and slow process. Nevertheless, I feel motivated thinking that our work contributes to the hope of living in a better world.

Liliana Jaramillo next to a Galvezia leucantha plant on the study site on Isabela Island. Photo: Paúl Mayorga, CDF.
Liliana Jaramillo next to a Galvezia leucantha plant on the study site on Isabela Island. Photo: Paúl Mayorga, CDF.

GV2050 project is implemented in collaboration with the Charles Darwin Foundation and Galapagos National Park Directorate. The project is financially viable thanks to the support of the COmON Foundation. We would like to thank the park rangers that support our work, and to the CDF team most notably Maria Jose Barragan, Isabel Grijalva, Leslie León and Patricia Jaramillo Díaz for their input on earlier drafts.  This is just one of seven islands where the GV2050 project has implemented restoration work, you can read more about some of our results of the endemic Opuntia species restoration here: https://peerj.com/articles/8156/ and El Proyecto Galapagos Verde 2050 Vol. 1

 

References:
Dirección del Parque Nacional Galápagos. (2016). Base de Canal Bolívar. Oficinas y Bases Del Parque Nacional Galápagos. http://www.carlospi.com/galapagospark/institucion_bases_canal_bolivar.html
Guzmán, B., Heleno, R., Nogales, M., Simbaña, W., Traveset, A., & Vargas, P. (2017). Evolutionary history of the endangered shrub snapdragon (Galvezia leucantha) of the Galápagos Islands. Diversity and Distributions, 23. https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.12521
Jaramillo, P., & Tye, A. (2018). Galvezia leucantha var. leucantha. In Atlas (pp. 64–66).
Jaramillo, P., Tapia, W., Negoita, L., Plunkett, E., Guerrero, M., Mayorga, P., & Gibbs, J. (2020). The Galapagos Verde 2050 Project (Volume 1).
León-Yánez, S., Tye, A. (2019). Galvezia leucantha. Libro Rojo de Plantas Endémicas Del Ecuador. https://bioweb.bio/floraweb/librorojo
Plunkett, E. (2020). Saving a species from the brink of extinction: Galapagos Verde 2050. https://www.darwinfoundation.org/en/blog-articles/578-saving-a-species-from-the- brink-of-extinction-galapagos-verde-2050

 

 

Entrepreneurs during the presentation of their initiatives. Photo: Camilo Cruz, CDF.

Five new ventures which are part of the ““Entrepreneurial Community of the Galapagos Seafood System” presented their business ideas and plans. These ventures have received technical assistance in the context of the Coastal Fisheries Initiative Challenge Fund (CFI-CF) Ecuador, and are aligned with a new vision of the Galapagos seafood system that aims to transform it into a resilient, autonomous, prosperous and fair system.

During the meeting, Manuel Yépez, founder of Galapagos Artesanal Sea Food, explained how the traceability system records and discloses everything related to the fishing trip, including where, when, and how the product that reaches the table was caught. 

"I am implementing a traceability system for my seafood products, this ensures responsible fishing, generates added value and improves the consumer experience." Manuel Yépez, founder of the Galápagos Artesanal Sea Food venture. Photo: Camilo Cruz, CDF.

The entrepreneur and acuaculture engineer, Wilson Rivadeneira, indicated “Info-Mar will be an app to promote responsible consumption of fish among residents and visitors. This initiative was proposed within workshops to construct a new vision of the Galapagos seafood system”.

Other ventures that were presented in the workshop transform fishing discards into inputs for the agricultural sector, produce gourmet smoked tuna and tuna pate contained into returnable jars to promote waste reduction on the islands.

 

 “Sin Lata [No can] is committed with our community and ecosystem; our first-rate smoked tuna is delivered into returnable jars to promote waste reduction in Galapagos”. Lucía Galarza – Sin Lata. Photo: Camilo Cruz, CDF.
“Sin Lata [No can] is committed with our community and ecosystem; our first-rate smoked tuna is delivered into returnable jars to promote waste reduction in Galapagos”. Lucía Galarza – Sin Lata. Photo: Camilo Cruz, CDF.
“We transform fish discards into high-value animal feed and organic fertilizer for the agriculture sector. This business model might be replied on the rest of the archipelago and other coastal fisheries communities”. Carlos Gaona – Del Mar al Campo. Photo: Camilo Cruz, CDF.
“We transform fish discards into high-value animal feed and organic fertilizer for the agriculture sector. This business model might be replied on the rest of the archipelago and other coastal fisheries communities”. Carlos Gaona – Del Mar al Campo. Photo: Camilo Cruz, CDF.
 “NERÖ aims to generate jobs, strengthen capacities, and share knowledge to scale our operations and place our gourmet fish products on the rest of Galapagos and mainland Ecuador”. Luis Gallegos – NERÖ cocina de autor. Photo: Camilo Cruz, CDF.
“NERÖ aims to generate jobs, strengthen capacities, and share knowledge to scale our operations and place our gourmet fish products on the rest of Galapagos and mainland Ecuador”. Luis Gallegos – NERÖ cocina de autor. Photo: Camilo Cruz, CDF.

The aim of the presentations was to receive feedback from various stakeholders, especially from the financial sector.

Liseth Lucas, representing Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito FUPROGAL, mentioned: “The success of a technical assistance process lies in involving all stakeholders that are able to support these ventures to emerge and thrive”.

The workshop has held on February 3th 2022, and involved the participation of 50 people, including Katherine Llerena, President of the Governing Council of the Special Regime of Galapagos; Danny Rueda, director of the Galapagos National Park; Ana Albán, director of Fondo para la Inversión Ambiental Sostenible (FIAS); and representatives of the financial, retailing, and tourism sectors of Galapagos, as well as academia and NGOs. Entrepreneurs prompted great interest during their presentations which were based on the identification of a problem, a value proposition, and the development of a business model. During the meeting, new business opportunities surged and potential financing sources were identified for these ventures.

Local authorities participating in the Open Space during the event. Photo: Camilo Cruz, CDF.
Local authorities participated in the Open Space during the event. Photo: Camilo Cruz, CDF.

The Entrepreneurial Community of the Seafood System is a platform to strengthen the local business and innovation ecosystem with the aim to support sustainable development and the resilience of the Galapagos islands. The CFI-Challenge Fund is a Global Environmental Facility (GEF) project implemented in Galapagos by the World Bank Group with the technical support of the consortium led by the Charles Darwin Foundation, and made up by: Conservation International, Presencing Institute and Commonland. More information about the project in www.pescagalapagos.ec. We acknowledge the Galapagos Hub for Sustainability, Innovation and Resilience for supporting the workshop organization, and EDES Business School of the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja (UTPL) for providing technical assistance.

The Charles Darwin Foundation sends our deepest condolences to the family of Ans Thurkow-Hartmans, former Treasurer and Vice-President of the Dutch Friends of Galapagos. Ans was a great ally and friend of the Research Station and Galapagos, as well as an avid supporter of protecting its unique biodiversity.

Ans and her husband lived in Caracas, Venezuela in the early 1980s. Both were extremely interested in nature conservation and visited the Galapagos Islands to experience its unique biodiversity for themselves. They took this journey on board the Encantada ship. It was during this time that Ans fell in love with the islands.

When the Dutch Friends of Galapagos was founded in 1993, Ans joined as both a member and treasurer. For more than 20 years, she passionately raised funds for many research projects as well as engaged new generations of supporters of the Charles Darwin Foundation. Ans eventually served as Vice President of the organization before stepping down in 2020.

Ans will be missed dearly by her friends in the Galapagos and everyone who had the pleasure of knowing her.

The ‘Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands’, in French ‘Fondacion Charles Darwin  pour les Iles Galapagos’, Association Internationale sans but lucrative (AISBL), has its registered office at Avenue Louise 54, 1050 Brussels, Belgium. Trade Registry # 0409.359.103

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