Women in Science

To celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, 11 February, we have created this new blog!

The blog “Women in science at CDF” will feature stories of varied women working in science, within diverse disciplines and within different teams and areas at the CDF. The great capacity and talent of these women are applying to conduct their work is abundant and greatly contributes to the successful achievement of the research objectives we pursue, together with our male colleagues. Along with these achievements, the CDF is proud to be one Galapagos based institution where the equal involvement of professionals, is an institutional regular practice, to ensure the gender balance.

The last years, the CDF has been also promoting the professional career development of young women-Galapagos permanent residents who will start their graduate studies program, thanks to scholarships obtained at participating in CDF research projects. CDF has also been fostering, within girls and young women generations in the archipelago, the idea that, regardless whether women or men every person is able to pursue their dreams. This requires a paradigm shift at educating and teaching children, by parents, families and educators. When demonstrating that science careers are for anyone who wants to pursue them. The key message is to motivate girls to be included in science fields and to make visible women referential models, working in varied and diverse disciplines, for all of us to live in an equitable, fair and inclusive environment.

Ainoa Nieto preparing materials to collect biological samples from Alcedo Volcano giant tortoises while Freddy Cabrera takes morphometrics. Photo: Juan Manuel García, CDF

In the warm month of May 2021, I started working at the Charles Darwin Research Station with the Galapagos Tortoises Movement Ecology Program (GTMEP). As a Galapagueña, this has been a great opportunity to return to home after finishing my undergraduate degree in Biotechnology Engineer at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, and to contribute to the study and conservation of our iconic giant tortoises.

In 2020, The Coleopterists Society launched a call to recognize young people between 7th grade and 3rd grade who were interested in the study of beetles. The Collection of Terrestrial Invertebrates (ICCDRS) sought students from educational institutions in Santa Cruz who were curious about the mysterious world of insects and thus encouraged them to participate in this call.

GV2050 team of the Charles Darwin Foundation.

I arrived at the Charles Darwin Research Center in early January 2022 to volunteer for three months with the Galapagos Verde 2050 Program (GV2050). As a retired restoration biologist, I had done ecological habitat restoration for twenty years in Southern California, then as a volunteer in Portland, Oregon where I now live. I had read about GV2050 when I applied, but I didn’t know much about what I would be doing to contribute. I thought I would be doing field habitat restoration as well as monitoring and planning. Activities familiar to me, but in very different habitats in arid island ecosytems near the Equator! I had visited the Galapagos 14 years ago as a tourist, traveling by boat to several islands for 8 days. At the time I thought I’d like to return to the Galapagos as a volunteer; here I am!

As a recent Biological Sciences graduate wanting to make her mark on the world, I asked myself: where should I go? Silly question. Obviously, the Galapagos Islands. Having grown up only seeing the Galapagos through a TV screen, often accompanied by the voice of Sir David Attenborough, I didn’t know what to expect. Surely it can’t be as picturesque as it is on the TV. But it is!

Hypathia, Marie Skłodowska-Curie, Jane Goodal, Elinor Orstrom, and more recently Sylvia Earle, are names who resonate in the scientific community as major characters in the scientific development, around the world. These women have been figures for decades, even centuries. The role women play in science, however, has not always been as prominent as it is today. Early in XX Century, women were not allowed, neither promoted or valued at scientific environments where the dominance of male scientists, was the standard. In Ecuador, Matilde Hidalgo was the first woman to finish her high school in 1913, graduating from university and receiving a Doctoral Degree in Medicine (she specialized in pediatric, neurology and dietetics in 1921. Matilde, was also was the first woman who got the right to vote in Latin America (1924).

The Shark team during the last fieldtrip in February

There is a saying that dreaming costs nothing. Over time, I have figured out that this is true! Putting in the time and dedication to what you love makes everything worthwhile: the boat seasickness and dizziness on the boat, the early morning tiredness, the bruises during field work and whatever else you find in your way! When you live following your dreams, everything is an adventure!
My name is Ana Victoria Moya Serrano, I am a Galapagos resident, and my conservation journey began when I was only seven years old when I watched a documentary about whaling. At that moment I decided that I would devote myself to protect the ocean. Many years later I started studying a marine biology degree and by twists and turns of life, I arrived in Galapagos to work for the Charles Darwin Foundation Shark Ecology research project. This opportunity wide-opened the doors for me to be able to carry out my life-goals.


The mission of the Charles Darwin Foundation and its Research Station is to tackle the greatest threats and challenges to Galapagos through scientific research and conservation action, in order to safeguard one of the world’s most important natural treasures.

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