Beach cleanup organized by the Coca-Cola Foundation on Baraona Beach, Isabela Island.

I have been very lucky to visit Galapagos numerous times, first as a volunteer at the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) and then at the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF). At the start of 2016, I returned to support the Foundation’s work as a “Local Liaison Coordinator” on Isabela, the largest island in the Galapagos. I liked the idea of coming back and helping the Foundation, which has a long history of scientific advice for the management of the conservation of the Galapagos Islands.

Even though CDF has its main office on Santa Cruz Island, its projects are executed throughout the archipelago. It has always been important to have bases on other islands to expand its mission, and this has been part of CDF’s strategic vision. Near the end of 2016, it was decided that we needed to renew CDF’s presence on Isabela, because the very last time we had a base in Puerto Villamil was from 1980s until it closed down at the end of the 2000s. I was sent to Isabela in order to restore contact with the local community, establish bases and carry out activities in the future.

“I remember when the Foundation worked [on Isabela], groups of children of all ages would come together and they would be taught about conservation issues. It’s a pity they left. We hope that now they are back they can bring back these kinds of activities that we badly need on Isabela.” — Jackeline Murillo (Resident of Isabela)

Jacinto Gordillo, former manager of the Isabela Office in Puerto Villamil.
Jacinto Gordillo, former manager of the Isabela Office in Puerto Villamil. Photo by: CDF.

Isabela is the largest island in Galapagos, but has a population of only approximately 3,000 inhabitants. Of the inhabited islands, it’s the only one that has a beach that almost extends the entire length of its town, which is named Puerto Villamil.  The town's point of entry is surrounded by islets with mangroves full of marine species and other wildlife. There is direct contact with the beach and nature in Puerto Villamil, making it one of the favorite destinations for tourists. It has grown over the years, but is still small. After living there for two weeks, you realize that you know almost everybody whom you pass. Life is simple, but population growth has led to increasing development, expressed by a large amount of concrete infrastructure and reduced green spaces.

“Isabela is beautiful! The beach and its proximity to the town is incredible! We have seen marine iguanas resting on the rocks all day long, flamingos flying in front of us and sea lions bathing to one side.” — Patricia Bazo (Peruvian Tourist)

View of the beach in front of Puerto Villamil.
View of the beach in front of Puerto Villamil. Photo by: Ernesto Bustamante Velarde.

The activities I have carried out on Isabela have been varied. I have had institutional meetings to discuss new opportunities for scientific research, in addition to giving advice to the Municipality about environmental management and implementing a donations point on the island. Other activities related to the field were beach cleanups, and coordinating group visits of researchers and accompanying them on their excursions. For instance, I have gone searching for frogs in the banana groves and freshwater sources to check their existence in the highlands of the island. I have gone “hunting” for geckos as food for the animals that were being investigated.

I have also been involved in environmental education, supporting during the summer children’s activities organized by the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD). These included different events such as the global day for the environment, where the GNPD organized a parade with children dressed as tortoises and iguanas with signs asking to be protected and respected by the community and tourists.

The Charles Darwin Foundation’s activities on Isabela.
The Charles Darwin Foundation’s activities on Isabela. Photos by: Ernesto Bustamante Velarde.

In this context one can realize the important role that the Charles Darwin Foundation and similar organizations could have on Isabela. It is undisputable that science by itself is important, because it provides objective and verifiable knowledge. But the Foundation’s investigations are also fundamental because they are applied towards the conservation of the islands.

The greatest threats to conservation have a human origin, and this is the theme that needs to be dealt with to generate real and sustainable change. Hence, science should not only be done in a serious and formal way, but should also involve the local community. Outreach campaigns should be carried out to reach the entire community. In this way we will spread consciousness about the importance of biodiversity conservation and how our actions have impacts on the environment. This can be done through scientific projects that, as much as possible, involve the community, and also through activities with the community that have the objective of disseminating the work and results of the project.

A child dressed up as an iguana asking for the protection of the Galapagos Islands.
A child dressed up as an iguana asking for the protection of the Galapagos Islands. Photo by: Ernesto Bustamante Velarde.
Visit to the Galapagos National Park greenhouse as part of the summer children’s activities organized by the Galapagos National Park.
Visit to the Galapagos National Park greenhouse as part of the summer children’s activities organized by the Galapagos National Park. Photo by: Ernesto Bustamante Velarde.

This work isn’t short-term, but it is one of the main ways to ensure that the Enchanted Islands are sustainable. Real protection and conservation of the islands must be everyone’s responsibility. I hope that I am able to keep supporting and collaborating for the sustainability of Galapagos.

Sunset on Isabela.
Sunset on Isabela. Photo by: Ernesto Bustamante Velarde.

Ernesto Bustamante Velarde is a Peruvian.  In Peru, he studied Environmental Engineering and worked for several years on themes related to extraction industries. Later, he studied for his Masters in Environmental Management in Australia.  When he returned to Peru in 2016, he decided to change his career towards topics about which he was passionate, such as conservation and climate change. After looking for work, he had the opportunity to return to Galapagos and represent the Charles Darwin Foundation on Isabela.

 

The G.T. Corley Smith Library.

The G.T. Corley Smith Library, located in Puerto Ayora at our Research Station, is happy to announce the online availability of our catalog. In the past, the only way to know which titles were in our collection was to visit the library in person. Now, thanks to the support of the Galapagos Conservancy and a partnership with Yachay E.P., the G.T. Corley Smith Library online catalog may be accessed from any internet connection.

Our Online Catalog.
Our Online Catalog.

On the home page you can find a few samples from our collection as well as some links of interest to researchers. Many items which have been recently added include abstracts/summaries to assist in locating material of interest. If additional content is available online, this will also be indicated. We will continue to add abstracts and links to online content as appropriate going forward, so check back regularly for updates.

Everyone is welcome to our library.
Everyone is welcome to our library. Photo by: Paola Díaz.

Many thanks to the team members and organizational partners who have helped make this longstanding goal a reality.

Galapagos: the natural laboratory of Climate Change.

The Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF), the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD), and a group of local and international scientists and authorities met at the end of July 2017 on Santa Cruz Island to discuss the impacts of climate change at a workshop called “Science and Climate Change CMAR,” generously funded by Amy Blackwell.

In addition to establishing new ways for scientists and organizations to collaborate on climate change research, the objective of the meeting was to discuss scientific knowledge gaps to improve the management of protected areas in The Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor (“CMAR” in its Spanish acronym form). The four countries within the CMAR region include Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador. Since Galapagos is home to unique marine species within CMAR which are vulnerable to climate change, it was important to host this meeting in the archipelago.

The participants of the CMAR workshop.
The participants of the CMAR workshop. Photo by: Julio Rodríguez / CDF.

"The scientific knowledge developed and executed by different entities of the four member states of CMAR will be shared in this forum, with the goal of promoting knowledge to facilitate regional decision-making on this important marine corridor,” stated Dr. Arturo Izurieta, Executive Director of the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF).

CDF scientists will continue conducting cutting-edge collaborative research with investigators from all over the world to improve the management and conservation of our unique natural heritage in places like the Galapagos archipelago. The results of the workshop will be shared at the 4th International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC4), hosted in Chile in September 2017. 

Arturo Izurieta (CDF) and Walter Bustos (GNPD).
Arturo Izurieta (CDF) and Walter Bustos (GNPD). Photo by: Julio Rodríguez / CDF.

In addition, Arturo Izurieta gave Walter Bustos a plaque honoring the hard work performed by park rangers.

Left to Right: Arturo Izurieta, Jorge Carrión, Inti Keith, José Marín.
Left to Right: Arturo Izurieta, Jorge Carrión, Inti Keith, José Marín. Photo by: Julio Rodríguez / CDF.

We would also like to thank Amy Blackwell for her generous gift and continued support for the climate change work being carried out. It was only thanks to her donation that this international workshop was made possible.

Some of the Galapagos Verde 2050 team and collaborators on Española.

Written in collaboration with Lorena Romero.

Between June 21 and 28, 2017, the Galapagos Verde 2050 (GV2050) team, with the collaboration of Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative, implemented by Galapagos Conservancy and Galapagos National Park Directorate, went on an expedition to Española Island to initiate an experiment to continue the ecological restoration process of the island.

On this occasion, the goal was the vegetative propagation of O. megasperma var. Orientalis Howell cladodes by using water saving technologies (Groasis and rain harvesting). The cladodes are also known as “pencas” and have a fleshy structure that sprout from a main stem and become harder as time passes (Guzmán and Chávez, 2007).

As an in situ experiment, 48 cladodes of O. megasperma. var. orientalis Howell were planted in an area known as “Las Tunas”. The planting was done in three different places with ecological characteristics in favour of the growth of this species. Additionally, water saving technologies were used to promote the accelerated growth of the plants and to ease the survival by providing water permanently.

For the vegetative propagation of Opuntia on Española Island, the cladodes were obtained from 17 different adult cacti. Each one was photographed and georeferenced for subsequent records and monitoring.

Collecting cladodes from adult cacti.
Collecting cladodes from adult cacti. Photo by: Ma. Lorena Romero Martinez.

The preparation process of the cladodes for the planting, consisted in recovering plant tissue at the base of the cladodes, where they were cut. For this, a scarring period of 36 hours was taken into account (the area of the cut scars and heals, creating a seal that prevents loss of additional moisture).

After the scarring, the cladodes where submerged in a sweet water solution and enzymatic activator (Vitazyme) to impulse root growth. A ratio of 1:1 was used, one of water and one of Vitazyme, which was prepared the afternoon before planting them.

The chosen study area for planting was a rocky-clay soil, where the cladodes are able to establish roots and obtain shadow from a plant facilitator in the ecological niche (Dr. James Gibbs: GV2050 project scientist assessor).

During the planting, the soil was naturally moistened by the light “garúa” rain. We also used the “rain harvesting” technology that retains humidity around the root to prepare the soil where each cladode was planted.

Planting 40 cladodes with saving water technologies: Groasis, rain harvesting and 8 controls.
Planting 40 cladodes with saving water technologies: Groasis, rain harvesting and 8 controls. Photo by: Ma. Lorena Romero Martinez.

The 40 cladodes planted with Groasis technology were codified: the adults as “parents” and the young plants as “children”.

Cladode planted using rain harvesting in the soil, after the placement of the Groasis box.
Cladode planted using rain harvesting in the soil, after the placement of the Groasis box. Photo by: Ma. Lorena Romero Martinez.

Each of the boxes were protected with metallic meshes, which were placed around the perimeter of the box and hole of each control.

Final result of the in-situ experiment with the planting of 48 cladodes in the “Las Tunas” sector on Española Island.
Final result of the in-situ experiment with the planting of 48 cladodes in the “Las Tunas” sector on Española Island. Photo by: Jandry Vásquez.

Finally, we collected tortoise excrement and fruit to extract Opuntia seeds. These will be tested and germinated at the Charles Darwin Research Station Laboratory so that afterwards they can be taken to the Galapagos National Park’s greenhouse and eventually be repatriated to Española Island, based on the action plan of the GV2050 project.

The great effort of the field assitants, carrying meshes and water containers for planting.
The great effort of the field assitants, carrying meshes and water containers for planting. Photo by: Jandry Vásquez.

The Galapagos Verde 2050 work team would like to thank Galapagos Conservancy and the Galapagos National Park Directorate for their logistical support and optimisation of resources for the expedition.

GV2050 project is implemented in collaboration between Charles Darwin Foundation and Galapagos National Park Directorate. The project is financially viable thanks to the support of the ComON Foundation, The Leona M and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and the BESS Forest Club.

The GV2050 team.
The GV2050 team. Photo by: Antonio Román Muñoz.

References:

Guzmán, D. & Chávez, J. (2007) “Estudio bromatológico del cladodio del nopal (Opuntiaficus-indica) para el consumo humano”, Rev. Soc. Quím. Perú. ISSN 1810-634X.

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.

© 2018 Charles Darwin Foundation. All rights reserved.