CDF reveals its new mission and launches its 2022 Impact Report

01 Jun 23 /

The Charles Darwin Foundation reveals its new mission and launches its 2022 Impact Report during its 52nd General Assembly

The Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) is pleased to announce that its new mission statement was unanimously approved during its 52nd General Assembly which took place in Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, on May 30th and 31st, 2023. The new mission, which encapsulates the purpose of the organization and will serve to focus CDF’s research and conservation activities in Galapagos, 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.

Commenting on the new mission, Yolanda Kakabadse, President of the Board of CDF, noted: “Just like the species found in the Galapagos Islands, the Charles Darwin Foundation has gradually evolved since its founding in 1959 in response to changes in its global and local environment, but above all to the ever-changing threats and challenges that Galapagos faces every day. As such, it is important that our mission reflects the realities, urgency, and importance of the work that our researchers, volunteers, collaborators, strategic allies, supporters, and policymakers are doing to safeguard this unique archipelago."

Yolanda Kakabadse, presidenta de la Junta Directiva de la FCD. Foto: Rashid Cruz, FCD.
Yolanda Kakabadse, President of the Board of CDF. Photo: Rashid Cruz, CDF.

The process which led to the creation of this new mission was led by Dr. Rakan Zahawi, CDF’s Executive Director: “Our mission is our reason to be, our north star. What makes this mission statement so authentic is that it is true to our heritage, yet forward looking and current. Above all, it accurately reflects our collective purpose, what drives us forward to continue our work for the healthy future of Galapagos.”

The General Assembly also saw the appointment of John Loudon to CDF’s Board of Directors. John is the Executive Director of COmON Foundation, one of CDF’s long-time donors and a loyal supporter of Galapagos.

Commenting on his appointment, John Loudon said: “The Charles Darwin Foundation is an organization which I have always believed in. Since COmON made its first philanthropic investment in CDF, we knew that the heart of its people, its scientists and its leadership was in the right place – you could feel their passion for the wellbeing of Galapagos. Seven years later, this passion is stronger than ever and I am extremely proud of what we have achieved together, for Galapagos. I firmly believe that if we can create peace between man and man, and man and nature, we can set an incredible example for other unique ecosystems that need safeguarding around the world. We can inspire change.”

John Loudon, director ejecutivo de la Fundación COmON. Foto: Rashid Cruz, FCD.
John Loudon, Executive Director of COmON Foundation. Photo: Rashid Cruz, CDF.

The Board of the Charles Darwin Foundation, led by its President Yolanda Kakabadse, now includes the following non-executive directors: Verónica Aguilar, Paul Baker, Mark Bauman, Alfredo Carrasco, John Loudon, Juan Pablo Moncayo, Darrel Schoeling, Gabriela Sommerfeld, Ronald Stewart, and William Sutherland.

“John brings a wealth of experience, passion and an innate sense of pragmatism to our Board which will be key as we deliver on our new mission. I look forward to working with John and the rest of our Board members, as well as the CDF leadership team as we continue to amplify our impact together with our partners and the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) in an effort to protect the flora, fauna and people of Galapagos,” added Yolanda.

Key highlights from CDF’s marine and terrestrial projects were also shared with general assembly members, alongside the 2022 Impact Report (see details further below).

Dr. Rakan Zahawi, director ejecutivo de la Fundación Charles Darwin. Foto: Rashid Cruz, FCD.
Dr. Rakan Zahawi, CDF Executive Director. Photo: Rashid Cruz, CDF.

Commenting on the report, Dr. Rakan Zahawi, stated: “2022 has proven to be particularly strong, with our research programs returning to full swing following the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve achieved a great many milestones, both institutionally and in terms of our research and community outreach, which I invite you to explore in more detail in this report. As an integral member of the Galapagos community, we engaged with over 950 children, youth and adults through our Science goes to the Community presentations. I am very proud of our teams and would like to thank our many supporters from around the world for making 2022 such an impactful year.”

This year’s General Assembly, which took place at the Charles Darwin Research Station’s conference center (Inspiration Complex), also saw the presentation of the Board of Directors’ annual report, the executive director’s management report, financial report, as well as CDF’s new Science Plan, which will be published in the second half of 2023. The 53rd General Assembly will be held in Galapagos during the first week of June 2024.

2022 Impact Report highlights

Advances made in the fight against Philornis downsi and Biological Control

A significant achievement of the Philornis downsi (also known as Avian Vampire Fly) project in 2022 was to find that 70% of 144 monitored nests contained nesting material treated with low-impact insecticide, which is one of the short-term techniques the team has been investigating to decrease the overall number of Avian Vampire Fly larvae while searching for a longer-term control method. Additionally, the team has made important advances in their evaluation of parasitic wasps found in mainland Ecuador for their potential to be used in a biological control program against this deadly fly. Laboratory colonies of two parasitic wasps, Conura annulifera and Trichopria sp. novus (a newly discovered species), are being studied to determine if they pose any risks to Galapagos species in the event of being used in a biological control program.

Progress made to save Scalesia cordata from extinction on Isabela

Our ecological restoration team has made great advances in their restoration of the endangered Scalesia cordata forest, only found in southern Isabela Island. More than 250 naturally regenerating seedlings were observed at five study sites during 2022, which reflects the result of restoration efforts carried out in previous years in collaboration with the GNPD. The team also planted over 10,000 Scalesia cordata seeds in the GNPD greenhouse, and produced over 1,000 seedlings, which will further help in the recovery of this endemic species.

Tracking sharks to better protect them

Our Shark Ecology team continued to study sharks within the Galapagos Marine Reserve and their movements in and outside the reserve to inform effective conservation actions. Three expeditions to Darwin and Wolf took place in 2022, during which 35 scalloped hammerheads were tagged, 78 biopsies collected and 112 hours of stereo-video surveys recorded. The data from 47 tagged silky sharks was also analyzed and one individual travelled over 33,000 km across the Pacific Ocean in 1.5 years, putting a daunting spotlight on scale, and how conservation efforts and marine protected areas are too often only a fraction of where they need to be.

Exploring new marine habitats and species

One of the highlights of the year 2022 was the participation of CDF scientists in the Mission Blue Expedition aboard the M/V Argo, which provided a unique opportunity to document marine habitats between 50 and 300 meters along the coastal slopes of the islands. A total of 16 dives were conducted, providing valuable vertical video surveys and enriching the growing inventory of deep-sea species and habitats in Galapagos. The research team also returned to the Eisenia galapagensis tropical kelp forest, located west of Fernandina, to gather more data and understand the environmental conditions in which this marine forest thrives.


Participantes de la 52° Asamblea General de la Fundación Charles Darwin. Foto: Rashid Cruz, FCD.
Participants of the 52nd General Assembly of the Charles Darwin Foundation. Photo: Rashid Cruz, CDF.

For media, please contact:

Ambre Tanty-Lamothe, Director of Marketing and Communications

ambre.tanty@fcdarwin.org.ec | +593 96 787 1557

Leslie León, Communications Officer

leslie.leon@fcdarwin.org.ec | +593 96 978 7679

About the Charles Darwin Foundation and its Research Station

Since its founding in 1959, the Charles Darwin Foundation, an international non-profit, has been working to address the most pressing threats and challenges facing the Galápagos Archipelago through breakthrough scientific research and conservation action, with a view to protect one of our planet’s most important natural treasures. More than one hundred scientists, educators, researchers and support personnel participate in this effort every day, working in close partnership with the Galapagos National Park Directorate, and with the support of thousands of engaged volunteers from all over the world. Over the years, the Charles Darwin Foundation has amassed an invaluable body of knowledge and data, including the largest Galapagos Natural History Collections in Ecuador with more than 135,000 specimens across four collections. Currently, more than 90% of the staff are Ecuadorian citizens, of which the large majority are Galapagos residents. The Charles Darwin Foundation is committed to the professional development of permanent Galapagos residents as future scientists, for the well-being of the islands and the nation in general. For more information, please visit www.darwinfoundation.org/en

About CDF’s General Assembly

The General Assembly meeting of the Charles Darwin Foundation has been held annually since 1971 with the aim of allowing the highest authorities of the organization to learn about the results of the work carried out during the reporting year, as well as make decisions for the implementation of projects and strategic plans for the upcoming period.

Andres Cruz

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