Over the course of the 7th and 8th of February 2022 and situated in the Inspiration Complex of the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF), the Second International Symposium “Galapagos-Israel, Sustainability in the Galapagos Islands: 21st Century and Beyond” took place in the presence of renowned Israeli and local scientists, with the objective of strengthening collaboration and research between Ecuador and Israel.

During this conference, issues with relevance to Galapagos were discussed, such as evolution, the environment, genetics, climate change, food and water security, invasive species and sustainability among others.

The event was attended by the ambassador of Israel in Ecuador, Zeev Harel; Andrea Montalvo, subsecretary general of the Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation Secretary, as well as local and provincial authorities.

Ambassador of Israel to Ecuador, Zeev Harel. Photo by: Rashid Cruz, CDF.
Ambassador of Israel to Ecuador, Zeev Harel. Photo by: Rashid Cruz, CDF.

Also present at the symposium were experts and scientists from various universities and institutes, such as: Tel Aviv University, Hebreuw UniversityUniversity of Haifa, Bar-Ilan University, Ben Gurion University of the Neguev, Geological Survey of Israel, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and the Weizmann Institute of Science. Also in attendance were the San Francisco de Quito University, Galapagos National Park Directorate, Biosecurity and Quarantine Regulation and Control Agency for Galapagos and the CDF.

The event took place at the Inspiration Complex, inaugurated in November 2021. Photo by: Rashid Cruz, CDF.
The event took place at the Inspiration Complex, inaugurated in November 2021. Photo by: Rashid Cruz, CDF.

The executive director of the CDF, Rakan Zahawi, highlighted the importance of strengthening the research carried out between both nations. “These have been two very productive days and from Galapagos we hope to continue strengthening ties between both nations in order to advance our mission of conducting science and research for the conservation of the Galapagos Islands” he expressed.

During these two days in which the conference took place, the delegation from Israel and the local scientists shared their knowledge on the research being done by each of them in their respective countries and thus interchanged ideologies with the objective of achieving important cooperation in the future which would benefit our archipelago.

Presenting on behalf of the CDF were Rakan Zahawi, Executive Director; María José Barragán, Science Director; Dr Inti Keith, Principal Investigator of the Marine Invasive Species Project alongside her research team William Bensted-Smith and Wilson Íñiguez; Jorge Ramírez, Principal Investigator of the Fisheries Project; Ainoa Nieto-Claudin, scientist from the Galapagos Tortoise Movement Ecology Program and Heinke Jäger, Principal Investigator of the Terrestrial Invasive Species Project.

Dr. Inti Keith, senior marine research scientist, presenting her paper. Photo by: Camilo Cruz, CDF.
Dr. Inti Keith, senior marine research scientist, presenting her paper. Photo by: Camilo Cruz, CDF.

Juan Carlos Holguín, Minister of External Relations and Human Mobility, emphasized the importance of working together for the conservation of the planet. “It is a commitment of this Government to bolster sustainability and progress towards the ecological transition for the protection of our ecosystems for future generations” he stated.

The scientist Ada Yonath, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009, and Hellen Deller Klein, ambassador for Ecuador in Israel also took part in the event virtually. The first scientific symposium took place in Israel in 2019.

Participants of the II Symposium
Participants of the II Symposium "Galapagos - Israel Sustainability in the Galapagos Islands: 21st Century and Beyond". Photo by: Camilo Cruz, CDF.

This event was held thanks to the support of the Consulate of Israel in Guayaquil and El Rosado Corporation.

Abraham Bonilla, a 24-year-old from Galapagos, came to the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) by chance as he’d seen an advertisement for our scholarship program Fernando Ortiz Crespo. He decided to apply and now is about to graduate in Tourism Business Administration Engineering at the Universidad Laica Eloy Alfaro in Manabí.

"Thanks to this program, we young people have opportunities to go to university and at the same time it motivates us to get involved in science and research for the sustainability of the Galapagos Islands," said Abraham Bonilla.

Abraham is currently volunteering at the CDF's Knowledge Management area, which is a requirement for his studies. This internship allows him to apply what he has learned at the University to gain experience in what would become his field of work. Afterwards, he wishes to continue contributing to the Galapagos Islands from the Research Station and continue his studies by obtaining his master’s degree.

Abraham supporting the CDF Knowledge Management area. Photo: Rashid Cruz, CDF.
Abraham supporting the CDF Knowledge Management area. Photo: Rashid Cruz, CDF.

"My advice to the kids of Galapagos is to carry on studying. Finishing school is just one step, but the ultimate goal should be to obtain a career that allows us to develop as professionals, if we live in this privileged place, we should focus on contributing to its care, and what better way than with the support of the CDF," added Abraham.

Our Fernando Ortíz Crespo scholarship program provides funding and support to students with a history of academic excellence and interest in conservation issues. Since its inception in 1971, more than 250 young people have benefited from this program and have gone on to finish their university studies.

If you wish to apply for one of our scholarships, go to https://www.darwinfoundation.org/en/get-involved/vacancies/scholarships to get all the information you need. We will be very happy to provide you with the help you need to achieve your professional goal.

A year of challenges is summarized in our annual report 2020 that we have prepared for our readers. Challenges that, thanks to the commitment of all of us at the Charles Darwin Foundation, we were able to overcome. We cannot deny that the COVID19 pandemic hit us all, however, we were able to face it and get involved in actions to support citizens and local authorities.

This annual report is focused on accounting for a difficult year and thanking our donors, staff, volunteers and all those who make the work of the Research Station possible to protect these enchanted islands.

Each year in our Annual Report we present an overview of some of the projects implemented by the Charles Darwin Foundation in Galapagos. However, due to the health emergency that the country and the world experienced, the 2020 report focuses on the support provided by the CDF to society, with the aim of helping to mitigate the critical situation we faced in the islands. To this end, we joined the local authorities with donations of much-needed food and medical supplies.

With minimal operation at our Research Station, as our staff went home to work, we kept under control the key areas whose activities could not be left undone. Our scientists had to suspend their field trips but took advantage of this time to analyze data and write publications. Our Community Education and Outreach Program (ECO Program) team also adapted to offer our science club members, the Tibu Ambassadors, activities from home.

We invite you to read our 2020 Annual Report and learn about how we are addressing the pandemic while continuing scientific efforts for the conservation of our heritage.

On January 14, 2022, in a ceremony attended by Guillermo Lasso, President of Ecuador; Iván Duque, President of Colombia; Bill Clinton, former President of the United States; and other authorities, a decree establishing the new Galapagos Marine Reserve, Hermandad, was signed.
A total of 60,000 km2 will be added to the existing 138,000 km2 of the Galapagos Marine Reserve, thus extending the conservation area for our species. The total area of protected marine habitat around the Galapagos Islands will be 198,000 km2.

Among the main objectives of this new reserve is the protection of marine biodiversity, including key migratory routes of emblematic species such as the hammerhead shark, as well as limiting illegal fishing in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.

Signing of the decree for the creation of the new Galapagos Marine Reserve
Signing of the decree for the creation of the new Galapagos Marine Reserve "Hermandad". Photo courtesy: Diego Cocha.

CDF Executive Director Rakan Zahawi notes that "the Eastern Tropical Pacific has a high percentage of unique species that serve as a living laboratory for research development. We celebrate these types of decisions to protect Galapagos and the world".

The event was also attended by international celebrities such as marine biologist Silvia Earl and U.S. actress Bo Dereck.

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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