Carlos Espinosa/CDF

65 Years of Impact: Charles Darwin Foundation's 53rd Assembly

07 Jun 24 /

June 06, 2024, Galapagos, Ecuador -- The Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) is proud to present its new Science Plan for the next five years and the 2023 Impact Report to the members of the CDF General Assembly, while celebrating 65 years of transformative impact in science and conservation in the Galapagos Islands. This year’s agenda included the symbolic groundbreaking for the renovation of the iconic "Fischer" buildings, the unveiling of the mural "Sea and Land Pathways: 65 Years of a Conservation Legacy," and an emotional series of plenaries in honor of CDF's 65th anniversary.

“This year, this week, today, Galapagos and CDF are experiencing special and wonderful energies, positive energies that are reflected in why and how we care for Oceans, Species and the Planet.” said Yolanda Kakabadse, President of the Board of Directors-CDF.

Carlos Espinosa/CDF
Board of Directors of the General Assembly of the CDF

2023 Impact Report

In 2023, the Charles Darwin Foundation reaffirmed its commitment to preserving the unique ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands through several flagship conservation and research projects. These efforts, detailed in the 2023 Impact Report, highlight significant advancements in biodiversity protection and scientific exploration in this iconic region.

  • Ocean Discoveries

In April 2023, during the "Galapagos Deep" expedition of the R/V Atlantis, an extensive deep-water coral reef was discovered within the Galapagos Marine Reserve, the first of its kind documented in the reserve. This discovery offers a unique opportunity to expand our understanding of deep-sea ecosystems and their relevance to ocean health.

  • New Conservation Initiatives

Dedication to marine research and leadership in conservation in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP) was evidenced through the acquisition of new major lines of research. With funding from USAID, a shark and ray conservation initiative was launched in Ecuadorian waters in collaboration with WWF-Ecuador. Additionally, a new multi-national initiative led by CDF was launched to explore the deep ocean in the Galapagos and the ETP, supported by the Bezos Earth Fund and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. This project, which coordinates efforts with partners in all four ETP countries, is the largest transnational research effort in CDF's history.

  • Environmental Education and Community Outreach

In 2023, the education team expanded its reach beyond Santa Cruz Island, bringing educators to San Cristóbal and Isabela. The Charles Darwin Foundation engages Galapagos youth through three vibrant clubs: The Summer Club, the Science Club, and the Leaders Club, each offering activities designed to foster personal growth. Last year they organized 75 engaging activities, attracting 368 individual participants. Furthermore, the revived "Traveling Libraries" project enriched the lives of 190 young people and adults across Santa Cruz, Isabela, and Floreana.

"The progress made in the last year is a testament to the commitment and passion of our team. It is clear that CDF is poised to achieve even greater impact in the conservation of Galapagos, the ETP, and beyond, and these efforts are perfectly aligned with our updated and broader mission," mentioned Rakan Zahawi, Executive Director of CDF.

Schmidt Ocean Institute
Submarine chimney.
Pelayo Salinas de León/CDF
Blue shark
Rashid Cruz/CDF
Field trip with local youth

Presentation of the Science Plan

CDF's Science Plan details our research and conservation strategy for the next five years, aiming to address the biggest and most urgent threats to the Galapagos and the Eastern Tropical Pacific region. These priorities will likely extend beyond this timeframe, and the plan will be reviewed and priorities reassessed after five years to ensure they remain pertinent and relevant to the needs of the Galapagos.

The focus on basic and applied research now aligns with five Scientific Priorities designed to achieve greater impact in and for the Galapagos. These are: Biodiversity, Bioinvasions, Climate and Ocean Change, Ecosystem Resilience and Restoration, and the application of Science to Action. With this Science Plan, CDF reaffirms its commitment to protecting and preserving one of the most iconic ecosystems on the planet.

"Our Science Plan is a critical roadmap to guide our research efforts in the coming years. This Plan, the result of a collective yearlong effort, reflects our commitment to scientific excellence and conservation actions. We will continue to work closely with local and international institutions/organizations, governments, communities, and other key stakeholders to advance these initiatives. Together, we can tackle the challenges ahead and ensure a sustainable future for Galapagos," emphasized Zahawi.

Rashid Cruz/CDF
53° General Assembly

New Scientific Complex Tomas Fischer

During the General Assembly, the first stone was laid to symbolize the initiation of construction of the new North wing of the "Tomas Fischer" scientific complex. This complex will house our Natural History Collections, the largest and most important Galapagos collection in Ecuador, and one of the most significant in the world. Designed by architect Fabian Salame with the support of COmON Foundation, the building will be energy-efficient and will represent a milestone for the preservation of biodiversity and natural heritage.

65 Years of Conservation Impact

To protect the fragile ecosystem of the Galapagos, scientists, researchers, and conservationists founded the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) in 1959 with the support of the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD), UNESCO, and IUCN. CDF provides scientific research, technical advice, and practical expertise in conservation. Since then, it has worked closely with the GNPD, guiding conservation efforts in the National Park and promoting sustainable development in the Galapagos and its local community.

"The dedication and joint effort of CDF and GNPD have been fundamental in preserving the fragile ecosystem of the Galapagos. Since its creation in 1959, CDF has worked tirelessly in close collaboration with GNPD to address the unique environmental challenges of this archipelago with initiatives such as monitoring endemic species, invasive species eradication programs, and the restoration of critical habitats, among others. We are very excited to continue our close collaboration in the coming decades for the benefit of the Galapagos," mentioned Yolanda.

As part of this celebration, a commemorative mural titled "Sea and Land Pathways: 65 Years of a Conservation Legacy" was unveiled, celebrating over six decades of unwavering commitment to environmental conservation. Through a vibrant depiction of marine and terrestrial landscapes, the artwork reflects the interconnectedness of our ecosystems and the importance of protecting them.

During the General Assembly, two new Board members were introduced: Juan Diego Stacey, Director of Environment and Sustainable Development at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Carla Pinto, President of Pinto Enterprises and the new Treasurer for the Board.

This year's General Assembly, held at the Inspiration Complex of the Charles Darwin Research Station also included the presentation of the annual Board report, the Executive Director's report, the financial report, and CDF's new Code of Ethics. The 54th General Assembly will be held in Galapagos during the first week of June 2025.

Rashid Cruz/CDF
Start of construction works of the new Tomas Fischer Complex.
Rashid Cruz/CDF
Mariuxi Farias, Director in charge of the Galapagos National Park highlighting the joint achievements.
Carlos Espinosa/CDF
Unveiling of the mural Caminos de Mar y Tierra: 65 Years of a Conservation Legacy
Carlos Espinosa/CDF
Yolanda Kakabadse, President of the Board of Directors-CDF.
Andres Cruz

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