Projects

The role of oceanic islets for the protection of migratory marine species
Alex Hearn

The objective of this work is to understand the contribution made by the Galapagos Marine Reserve for migratory pelagic species in its regional context as a component of the Marine Corridor of the Tropical Eastern Pacific.  This objective will be achieved through satellite tagging, establishing migratory patterns of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), hammer (Sphyrna lewini), silky (Carcharhinus falciformis), tiger (Galeocerdo cuvier), Galapagos (C. galapagensis), puntanegra (C. limbatus), fox (Alopias sp.) and blue (Prionace glauca), sunfish (Mola ramsayi).
By analyzing genetic samples, understanding the population structure of the species listed above, and by using methods of aerial monitoring, this project is expected to close the migratory cycle of the species listed above, and in the case of the whale shark, establish that females are pregnant. Additionally, it is expected to link the movements of the species with ecological services provided by the Galapagos Marine Reserve – feeding, breeding, cleaning or rest.  We hope to contribute to long-term knowledge of global and regional connectivity of these species and whether an event of El Niño, can affect their spatial patterns.

Captura de pantalla 2016-08-19 a las 10.02.51 a.m.

Adaptive changes of the dynamics of local livelihoods against the tourist development of the iconic Galapagos – A comparative analysis of the three most populated islands.
Diana Burbano

The general objective of this project is to understand how local livelihoods (specifically fishing and agriculture), are changing their internal dynamics due to interaction with the development of growing tourism and how local involvement in governance structures influences the dynamics of this interaction.

To meet this objective, we will evaluate the perspectives of households living off of activities such as fishing and agricultural towards the growth of tourism. We will also identify how this economic sector is acting as an attractive factor of change in the diversification of livelihood activities; thus, changing the dynamics of the populated islands and the general socio-ecological system of Galapagos.
This project is expected to generate information that contributes to the understanding of how households living in these “traditional” activities are diversifying their activities in relation to the development of local tourism.  We hope to understand the diversification strategies that these households are using; what their perspectives are towards their occupational changes, how the impact of change in their social, cultural and economic level are perceived; as well as its implications for the conservation of their natural resources of the islands.

Evaluation of the reproductive success of Sea Lions in Galapagos (Zalophus wollebaeki) on beaches with different anthropogenic impact present at San Cristobal Island.
Diego Páez
This project aims to evaluate the reproductive success of the population of sea lions on the island of San Cristobal in order to understand and define the true impact of human presence on this species.  We will implement a monitoring system of pups of Z.wollebaeki in order to establish its growth rate. The objective of the study is to better understand the effect of human settlements on populations of sea lions in the Galapagos Islands.  Likewise, it seeks to define a valid scientific framework for making decisions regarding the proper management of the species in order to ensure their survival and sustainable use as a key species for the ecosystem, mainly in the colonies that are located near the village sites of the islands.

Determine ontogeny and food strategies of the pelagic shark species caught in the Galapagos Marine Reserve, with base on the isotope signals δ13C and δ15N.
Diego Páez
This study aims to determine ontogeny and food strategies of pelagic shark species caught in the Galapagos Marine Reserve, based on isotope signals δ13C y δ15N. We will explore and interpret the trophic variability present in various species of sharks throughout his life through the analysis of δ13C and δ15N in vertebrae.
This study aims to obtain necessary information that will allow us to reconstruct the trophic history of these species, which will help us understand from another perspective how the dynamic of their populations and their relationship within the ecosystem varies.  This study will also allow us to observe the degree of trophic association between these predators in order to determine differences between species.  Estimating the degree of overlap and other factors (degree and trophic amplitude) reflects a trophic balance, and allows us to determine if an inter-specific distribution of food niche, allowing predators to use different resources; therefore, the degree decreases the competition for food and their coexistence is easier in certain ecosystems.  The study of species considered potential bio-indicators of the dynamics ecosystem (predators) will allow us to obtain a framework on their health.

Real time mapping and construction of future predictive models of the distribution of introduced species in Galapagos using inexpensive drones.
Gonzalo Francisco Rivas
This project aims to automate, systematize, classify, analyze and map using low-cost, high-resolution photos taken by drones, which will allow us to map the vegetation in real time of all the islands of the Galapagos National Park to identify areas covered by invasive plant species.
With this project, it is expected to get preliminary maps showing vegetation coverage of at least the following islands: Southern Isabela, Santa Cruz, Santiago, San Cristobal and Floreana, as well as database with digital photographs by island.  Other products that will be obtained by this project are digital maps that specify the extension of the main invasive species on each island, a spreadsheet that summarizes the species, its location and the infested area per island, maps with relevant abiotic information for the colonization and establishment of plants, methodology for calculating predictive models that describe the potential areas of colonization by invasive plant species, and maps with areas of high and low probability of infestation by species per island.

Measuring climatic variables in terrestrial ecosystems of Galapagos.
Gonzalo Francisco Rivas
The objective of this project is to install weather stations that will take micro and macro climate data which will allow us to understand the changes in abiotic variables that explain the current spatial distribution and the change in future vegetation.  These stations will be autonomous and at least one will be installed in each ecosystem and environmental unit defined according to the existing zoning of the protected land area of the PNG.
To comply with this objective, meteorological stations will measure micro and macroclimatic variable standards within the different terrestrial ecosystems of the islands.
This project will allow us to count on a network of weather stations that provide protocoled, standardized and validated environmental information that allows us to do quantitative analysis to understand the climate variations in different ecosystems and environmental units, and how this variation affects the community assembly on the islands.

Impact of introduced ants and rats in the flora of Galapagos
Gonzalo Francisco Rivas
This study aims to take quantitative data on the mechanisms by which rats and ants introduced to Galapagos, negatively affect endangered vegetable species such as Scalesia pedunculata and Psychotria rufipes, and positively affect other invasive vegetable species. These results will report directly to the processes of restoration and conservation of species that carries out the PNG, which will prioritize the related activities.

Change in vegetation due to climate change and invasive plants.  Permanent vegetation plots
Gonzalo Francisco Rivas

This Project aims to establish a network of permanent plots, marked with tubes at the corners and metal plates in order to systematically measure among other things the number of individuals and vegetable species, as well as its diameter and height every year.  To meet this objective, detailed databases of each experimental unit will be obtained.  These protocols will be delivered to the GNP in order to be adopted and be used for studies. This project will allow us to have a permanent, standardized, systematic plot network totally described at a taxonomic level that will help us understand the changes of vegetation in the Galapagos Islands in terms of canopied coverage and change of climate, and how some environmental services such as biodiversity, water and carbon capture vary or not between vegetation units located at different heights and with different canopied coverage.  These results will allow informed decision making by the PNG in their restoration sub-process, management and planning.

Galapagos sea urchins as an introductory system of scientific research for Ecuadorian students; and its monitoring as potential sentinels of changes in the marine coastal communities around Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal.
Carlos Valle
The main objective of this project is to monitor the sea urchin community with the following general objectives: (1) To know the present status of the community of sea urchins in the immediate surroundings of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno; (2) Evaluate the feasibility of urchins to serve as sentinel organisms of the coastal marine conditions; (3) Train students on scientific research based on practice, and establish an abundant base line, spatial pattern of distribution and size structure of sea urchin species, establish the pattern of temporary and spatial variation in abundance and structure size (size) of each sea urchin species present in the area.
The product of this objective is that undergraduate students receive theoretical and practical training in experimental design as a fundamental tool of the scientific methods in biological/ecological field research, statistical data analysis, presentation of results and interpretation of data and drafting/scientific writing when preparing a report emulating the presentation of a scientific article.  It will also generate ecological baseline information of the subtidal communities that will be of reference for long term monitoring and evaluation of the conditions of the marine and coastal environment in the immediate area of impact of an urban zone (Puerto Baquerizo Moreno).

Seabirds of Punta Pitt: A study of health evaluation
Carlos Valle, Gregory A. Lewbart, Diane Deresienski , Catalina Ulloa, Juan Pablo Muñoz

This study has as objective to determine the health status of the seabird’s community in Punta Pitt in the island of San Cristobal.  It is expected to provide baseline data for the six relatively more abundant and accessible species that breed in these places.  This basic medical evaluation will include vital signs (heart rate, respiratory rate, and body temperature), body weight, body condition, blood tests to include in a complete count of white and red blood cells (CBC) and biochemistry of plasma and analysis for modified agglutination test (MAT) for Toxoplasma blood.
The product of this study is to establish baseline information on seabirds on the island of San Cristobal that will help to evaluate future impacts of natural disturbances (eg. seasonal changes in oceanographic conditions, El Niño) and unnatural disturbances of anthropogenic factors.

Natural and sexual selection in the color characteristics and social behavior of lava lizards
David L. Clark Ph.D., John W. Rowe Ph.D., Carlos Valle Castillo Ph.D., and Jennifer Moore Ph.D.

This study´s objective is to explore the social behavior of lava lizards using robotic lizards, and study the diet and reproductive ecology, and evaluate the capacity of the lizards to regulate their body temperature.  This objective will be achieved by studying the social behavior of female’s lizards and male lizards using robots mimicking a real life lava lizard.  We also intend to study the diet of adult lizards through methods of washing the stomach.  Our intention is to quantitatively analyze the importance of the animal and vegetable taxa in the diet of M. bivittatus.  We propose to conduct a study of reproductive biology in male and female M. bivittatude.  To determine the reproductive characteristics and evaluate cyclicity in reproduction, we propose to examine the reproductive organs of males and females on two occasions during the year (February-March and July-August).  Thermal ecology of lizards and sexual selection will also be studied.  With this study it is expected to know more about the behavior of female lizards, of which there is very little information, answering questions such as: What is the importance of color in female lizards? Also, to know the taxonomic representation in the diet of M. bivittatus and whether there are differences in diets between male and female lizards.  Finally, answer questions about body temperature (thermoregulation), mating habits, etc.

Structure and composition of Psidium guajava and Psidium galapageium (Myrtaceae) communities in San Cristobal island, Galapagos
Hugo Valdebenito PhD

The objective of this study is to document the structure and composition of the vegetable community of Psidium guajava and P. galapageium var howellii according to the degree of invasion and geographic and environmental gradients.  The project pretends to characterize the structure and composition of the vegetable community of P. galapageium var howellii and P. guajava.  Also, describe the taxonomic relationship between Psidium guajava and Psidium galapageium var howellii.  Describe the dynamics of nutients (C,N,P) plant – soil and decomposition rate of leaf litter in both Psidium species.  The final product is to obtain the description and comparison of the composition and floristic structure of the P.guajava and P. galapageium var howellii community.  Description of the floristic composition of the P. guajava community according to the invasion degree and altitudinal and geographic gradient.  Determining the degree of morphological difference between Psidium guajava and P. galapageium howellii var.  The study also intends to etermine the degree of morphological variation of P. guajava related to environmental gradient (altitude, weather), determine the decomposition rate of leaf litter of P. guajava and P. galapageium var howellii, and evaluate the concentrations of C, N and P in soil and leaf litter of P. guajava and P. galapageium var Howellii.

Photographic guide of Galapagos reptiles
Jaime Chaves
With this Project, we expect to publish a photographic guide that includes all reptiles of the Galapagos Islands by the end of 2016.  Therefore, it is intended to photograph all the reptiles of the Galapagos Islands.  We will prepare an identification guide for the reptiles of the Galapagos Islands and finally generate a product that can be used by the naturalist and scientist guides to promote and improve the quality and quantity of the works and publications with reptiles in Galapagos.
Aquatic ecology of the Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) in Galapagos
Daniela Alarcón, Juan Pablo Muñoz
This project aims to broaden the understanding of the aquatic ecology of the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate) in the feeding and resting areas in Galapagos, and provide meaningful information to meet its current and future conservation.  This objective will be achieved when determining the trophic affinity of the green turtle and hawksbill turtle in the feeding zone and its surroundings through biogeochemical analysis (stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen) and diet studies.  Likewise the evaluation of their individual health status, defining a healthy sea turtle.
When finishing this project, it is expected to establish priority areas for the conservation of the species to collaborate in conservation and management work with the Galapagos National Park, and contribute to the successful zoning of marine environments on the islands.  It will also produce a health report of the marine turtle population in the study areas, and complement the genetic characterization for C.mydas, and E.imbricata.

ENSO effects on abundance and distribution of cetaceans in the RMG and acoustic cetacean connectivity between mainland coast and Galapagos with emphasis at Orcinus orca, Tursiops truncatus, Balaenoptera edeni and Megaptera novaeangliae.
Judith Denkinger
The objective of this project is to determine the ENSO effect of the cetacean distribution and population dynamics of whales (Orcinus orca, B. edeni  and Megaptera novaeangliae) within the Galapagos Marine Reserve, generating the knowledge to be used in implementing conservation and management measures.  We will define the acoustic conductivity of humpback whales between mainland coast and the Galapagos Marine Reserve as a baseline for conservation management, and know the occurrence and characteristics of communication of the orca and humpback whales between mainland, pelagic and insular waters.  Also, we will determine the influence of the biogeographic variation of the archipelago in populations that inhabit the area; and finally recommend conservation strategies, management and regulations applicable to the entire study area.
This will allow to create the basis for defining the population status of cetacean species as Orcinus orca, Tursiops truncatus, B. edeni. and M. novaeangliae within the RMG.  We hope to establish the basis for future research regarding its residence, base lines of different demographic parameters are created for future comparison.

Preliminary Determination of genetic diversity of guayabillo (Psidium galapageium) and guava (Psidium guajava) on Isabela and San Cristobal Island, Galapagos and comparing the diversity of guayaba with samples collected in three provinces of mainland Ecuador.
Maria de Lourdes Torres
The objective of this project is to consolidate the information obtained about diversity, population structure and interaction with the environment from the two species of the genus Psidium who live and are of great importance in the Galapagos Islands,  through the genetic diversity evaluation of Psidium guajava and P. galapageium on Isabela Island using microsatellite molecular markers.  Also, we want to compare of the genetic diversity of both species between the three islands studies so far: San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabela, the comparison of the genetic diversity of the guayaba present in the Galapagos Island, with a sample of guayaba collected from the three continental provinces: Loja, Guayas, Manabi.  Finally, we will evaluate if the use of molecular homologues markers for guayabillo provide more precise information about the genetic diversity of guayabillo compared with the heterologous markers.
The product of this project is a standardized protocol of genotyping guayaba and guayabillo using specific molecular markers for each species. Indexes of genetic diversity of P.galapageium and P. guajava in the Isabela Island and a comparison with the rates of genetic diversity of both species previously determined for Santa Cruz and San Cristobal Islands. The population structure of guayaba and guayabillo in the three most important islands in the Galapagos Archipelago.  The comparison of the genetic diversity of guayaba between the Archipelago of the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador’s mainland that allow us to understand the history of the introduction of this crop to the Archipelago.

Experimental test of the effects of climate change on fishing and marine subtidal communities.
Luis Vinueza
The objective of this project is to evaluate the impact of temperature on consumption rates of green sea urchins in the presence and absence of predators.  This will be achieved by studying how the increase of temperature affects the consumption rates of algae by green sea urchins (biomass m2).
This experiment will provide a way for the local community to learn about climate change and fishing and how it relates to important ecosystem services such as the provision of food (i.e. lobsters) and the stability of food webs (trophic cascades).

Proposal for the management and diffusion of oceanographic information in everyday situations and contingency for the Municipality of San Cristobal
Margarita Brandt
This project aims to develop a contingency plan to allow local authorities of San Cristobal Island to effectively and objectively manage risk situations caused by oceanic events, making technical and scientific information more accurate and possible in the context of an informed community.  This will be done by generating oceanographic information (e.g., waves, sea level) with high resolution models and validated with measurements obtained in the field, evaluating the effect of different levels of oceanic magnitudes (measured and calculated) in the various activities of the community.

Connectivity patterns of several marine species in Ecuador-  technology transfer and expansion in the taxonomic approach
Margarita Brandt
This study aims to achieve an understanding of larval dispersal and connectivity of two marine species that are currently being exploited by humans in Galapagos and in Ecuador mainland (Thunnus albacares, Panulirus penicillatus) or that are indicator species of environmental conditions (Stegastes arcifrons, Stegastes beebei).  This will be achieved when determining the genetic structure of the focal species within the GMR and if possible compare them to populations of the mainland.
We will establish the space-temporal dynamic of the foraging areas of the yellowfin tuna in the GMR and the possible variations in the trophic position as a consequence of fluctuations in the diet, resulting from the temporal and spatial changes in the feeding areas.
The metapopulation dynamics of marine species that are important sources of livelihood for us, will dictate their persistence in the ocean and therefore, its continued supply for humans.  That is why the application of our results has direct relation with marine conservation, as well as sustainable use of the marine resources.

Connectivity patterns of several marine species in Ecuador
Margarita Brandt
The objective of this project is to achieve an understanding of the patterns of larval dispersal and connectivity within the Galapagos Islands as well as in between the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador’s mainland.  This will be carried out determining if the degree of connectivity of populations of marine species chosen is influenced by the duration of their pelagic larval stage.
This study is expected to determine the genetic structure of six marine species to infer the degree of connectivity between six distant populations.  These species represent a gradient in terms of duration of their larval stage (0-35 days) and except for Pachygrapsus transversus, they are important sources of food for the surrounding human populations.  Besides understanding the degree of connectivity between different populations of these species, this study aims to conclude which are the populations that export larvae and which are those that receive them.  The identification and consequent protection of the population “source” is crucial for the maintenance of the populations of marine resources on which human populations depend on.

Microbiome and parasite – host interactions on the iconic radiation of Darwin’s finches
Jaime Chaves
The objective of this study is to explore the interaction of parasite – host of the Darwin’s finches.  This objective will be done by identifying a strain bacteria that lives in the body of different species of Darwin´s finches. Comparing microbiome communities in finches that live in urban and non urban (rural) sites, we will determine the relation between the bacteria communities that live in the organism and the immune response of a parasite introduced in the finches in the urban and rural areas.  It is expected to find different communities of microbes associated to different finches characterized by different diets.  Also, it is expected to find different communities of microbiome between the same species of finches, throughout urban and rural areas.  Finally, it is expected to find a substantial effect on the microbiome diversity between birds infected by parasites, compared to non-parasitized birds.

Spatiotemporal analysis of the structure and functioning of the marine ecosystem of the southeast of the Archipelago of Galapagos
Marjorie Riofrio

The objective of this project is to understand the dynamic of the southeast ecosystem (Islands: San Cristobal, Española, Floreana, Santa Fe) of the Galápagos Marine Reserve in its current status and possible alternate status identified throughout the time.  This will be achieved by checking the status of fishing, endangered species, effects of climate change, protected marine areas, biodiversity and ecotourism; as well as ecosystem indicators that allow us to identify possible different states of the same.  We will estimate holistic ecosystem indicators: sustainability, vitality window, sturdiness, resilience, vulnerability, and reference level ecosystem. Also, we will identify possible different states of the ecosystem and its limits (approximate) within time, supported with tests of significance.  Determine ecological sustainability and socioeconomic scenarios for the different status of the ecosystem identified.  As a final product, the necessary information for the construction of a trophic model that represents the current structure and operation of the system and characterize the dynamic relationship between the populations and ecosystem will be gathered. The estimate of various ecosystem indicators allow us to obtain a framework based on the status of the ecosystem (its sustainability, health, resilience capacity, etc.).  It is expected that the results of these indicators are different in different stable periods of time, due to the environmental changes cause changes in the ecosystems (in its structure, functioning and organization).

Distribution, population, population size and phylogenetic of two species of the Heterodontidae family, Heterondontus quoyi and Heterodontus mexicanus in the Galapagos Islands.
Maximilian Hirschfeld, Jaime Chaves

The objective of this project is to collect crucial information to evaluate the population status of two species of the Heterodontidae family (Heterodontus quoyi and Heterodontus mexcanus) natives of Galapagos, including the demographics, population size and genetic connectivity to determine their vulnerability and improve their protection within the Galapagos Marine Reserve.  This will be achieved by determining the spatial distribution of the two species (Heterodontus quoyi and Heterodontus mexicanus) in the Galapagos Islands, and determining the habitat preferences of the two species in the Galapagos Islands and if these habitats are impacted by the activities permitted according to the zoning of the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR).
With this project, it is expected to determine the geographical distribution of most occurrence and abundance of the individuals of H. Quoyi and H. Mexicanus.  Together with the first objective, it is expected to identify the key habitats for the development of the different stages of life of these two species.    This will define the key habitats of juveniles and adults of these species, characterized by the type of substrate, depth, and the temperature and salinity of seawater.  We will generate spatial information to improve the protection of the habitats of these two species of predators.  We hope to determine the demographic structure and estimate the population size of the two species using formulas commonly used in population ecology.  Finally, we plan to define the genetic diversity within the subpopulations of the two species of Heterodontidae and the archipelago of Galapagos and South America mainland.  The genetic diversity will allow us to infer the connectivity of the subpopulations of these two species and their vulnerability to anthropogenic or natural environmental changes.

Compositional and functional changes of microbial communities caused by acidification and ocean warming along different oceanographic gradients.
Nathaly Guevara

This project´s objective is to know the effects of the decrease in the ocean pH and the elevated temperature in the microbial communities along different oceanographic gradients.  To achieve this objective we must study the impacts of lowering the pH in the ocean on bacterial communities, and study the impact of temperature rises on bacterial communities in the ocean.
As a final product, it is expected to know if the high temperatures alter the microbial community composition level, function or both.  We will determine whether the low pH has an impact on microbial community composition level, function or both. We want to know the compositional and functional differences of microorganisms through different oceanographic gradients, and know how the richness and diversity is affected by temperature stress and pH.  Finally, we will know which functional genes are present under normal and stress conditions.
Experimental Study using Formic Acid to counteract the infestation of Philornis downsi in land bird nests of San Cristobal Island, Galapagos
Paola Carrion, Carlos Valle

The objective of this project is to determine whether the application of formic acid in the nests of Galapagos land birds helps reduce parasite infestation of Philornis downsi. This can be known once evidenced a higher survival rate of the chicks in nests treated with formic acid compared with those who were not treated, evidencing better health condition (greater weight, size and hemoglobin level) in the chicks in nests treated with formic acid in comparison with those not treated.  We will collect information about the spatial distribution and the density of nests of various land birds species in several areas of the Island San Cristobal, Galapagos.
This project determines if the use of a natural insecticide, such as formic acid, contributes to the reduction of the parasitic load of fly Philornis downsi in the nests of different land birds in the Galapagos, as well as the subsequent improvement of health conditions of the chicks and the increase in their level of survival.  This study is a contribution to the research about the different tools and mechanisms that can be used for the control and eradicate Philornis downsi in the Galapagos Islands, which in turn collaborate with the development of strategies of urgent conservation to ensure the welfare of the emblematic land birds of the archipelago.

Effects of land use in the structure and ecosystem functions of agricultural and urban areas in San Cristobal, Galapagos
Stella de la Torre
The objective of this project is to identify and characterize the dynamics of environmental variables of the new ecosystems created in the buffer zones as a result of the change in land use.  The selection of the ecosystemic variables to be studied is based on the importance for the conservation and management of native ecosystems (source of biodiversity and endemism) and agricultural (requirement for the security of food in the Island’s population).
It is expected to obtain quantitative information of the physical-chemical characteristics of soil, with emphasis on the concentrations of carbon and nitrogen in different habitats in San Cristobal, related to the concentrations of these nutrients in vegetation, to better understand the effects of the use of soil on the dynamic of nutrients in the ecosystems in a spatial and temporal scale.  We will evaluate the diversity of the community of invertebrate areas with different use of soil in San Cristobal, to better understand, the effects of the use of soil on the structure of these biological communities. We hope to evaluate, in a preliminary way, the influence of exotic species of snails on decomposition rates in agricultural area of San Cristobal and estimate its distribution.

Remote Sensors on the beaches of the Galapagos Islands and Vulnerability Evaluation
Stephen Walsh

This project proposes to create a comprehensive geographic base for the habitats of Galapagos that will be used to investigate the interactive processes that govern its vulnerability and strength.  We define beaches as coastal regions including water and coastal lands, from dunes to coastal zone.  This will be achieved by evaluating the coastal environment to define parameters of the ecosystem.
The beach ecosystem and intertidal areas are the home of a great variety of species in Galapagos.  We will use the coastal land coverage as a measure of habitat suitability, through documenting the presence or absence of native species and introduced species, change of status in the use of soil / land coverage, productivity levels and regimes disturbance and the beaches that have historically supported the nesting of turtles and other species, as well as the flora and fauna characteristics of native and endemic species, as well as emblematic species in the Galapagos Islands.

Regulatory uncertainty and compliance: an experimental approach
Pedro Romero
The objective of this project is to investigate the causes and consequences of noncompliance with the laws and regulations, either those who must apply them as those who must comply.  Our hypotheses is that this noncompliance affects the distribution of resources and efficiency in the trade, in other words, productivity is negatively affected.  In such a sensitive area, lacking efficient management of the resources, we believe that our investigation can contribute with policy proposals related with education and promote a better management of natural resources.  This objective will be accomplished when carrying out an original model through the application of game theory to determine the general causes of the reason why it could not be incentives to comply with the laws. We will implement a field experiment in the Galapagos Islands contrast to our way of theoretical predictions controlled.
The product of this Project will be the experimental data on the production compliance and norm by assignment, in addition to the socioeconomics data according to our statistical design.

Evaluation of the hydrological cycle and its effects on vegetation and soil formation in San Cristobal, Galapagos
Diego Riveros
The objective of this project is to evaluate and quantify the flows of hydrological cycle in the island of San Cristobal and establish the role of rain and fog in the function of the plants and in the weather process and soil formation. The objective may be accomplished when quantifying the relative contributions of rain and fog in the hydrological cycle of San Cristobal.  We will evaluate the water track from its precipitation, infiltration when storing groundwater in the island.
Quantify the amount of precipitation available for human consumption.  Establish the type of water used by plants through an elevation gradient using stable isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen.  Measure and quantify the water storage in soil through an elevation gradient; determine the mineralogical composition of the soil and its relation with the different microclimatic areas of the island.  What we are expecting are estimates of the relative contribution of precipitation vs. fog in the eco-physiological function of the plants along the elevation gradients.
Projection about what would happen to the plants in humid areas if the fog disappears.  Information about interactions on rain, fog and underground water.  Final report on all chemical analysis proposed, including water, plants and soil.  New research collaborations with scientists affiliated with GSC, involving entities from Ecuador.

Monitoring health status, behavior and pheromone secretion of Marine Iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) related to extreme weather conditions.
Gregory Lewbart, Kenneth J. Lohmann, Maximilian Hirschfeld

The main objective of this project is to relate the health status including corporal condition, blood chemistry, hematology and the abundance of gastrointestinal and external parasites, the prevalence of disease, as well as the foraging behavior with the survival rate on marine iguanas and the activity of the femoral glands considering the extreme weather events predicted for 2015/2016. This objective will be accomplished by comparing the health status (corporal condition, blood chemistry, hematology) during hot weather of the current El Niño event with base line of 2014/2015.  We will relate the foraging behavior and energy outflow with warm weather of the possible El Niño and survival rates.
We hope to establish what the main organisms for feeding of the marine iguanas during the El Niño event are and if there is a relation between the two consumed organisms and the death of marine iguanas.
The study suggests that the survival rates are directly related to the occurrence of internal and external parasites, the prevalence of disease and the values of corporal condition, and the values of blood chemistry and hematology.  The survival rate is directly related with high foraging times and the high energy output during the high temperatures of the El Niño event 2015/2016.  Using the application of sensors of heart rate, depth and temperature during short periods of time in hot season of the El Niño event 2015/2016 will allow us to know the changes in the foraging behavior that affect directly the corporal condition of the iguanas and that may affect indirectly the activity and the reproductive success or ultimately cause the death.
It is expected to find a high activity in the glands of the adults marine iguanas during the reproductive season versus the non-reproductive, as well as the differences in the composition of pheromones between males and females.

Understanding the effects of marine debris in Galapagos
Juan Pablo Muñoz, Daniela Alarcón

The main objective of this project is to understand the patterns and the sources of marine debris and evaluate the potential harm present for marine fauna of Galapagos.  It is planned to develop a priority list of the species at “risk” based on the distribution, the encounter and the impact of marine debris.  We will collaborate with users and industries that contribute to the problem of marine debris (with possible approaches based on solutions to solve problems).  We hope to contribute to a change in the behavior that results in a reduction of the marine debris in the entire country, the region and the world due to the learning of science in a local level.
We want to understand the exposure of the marine fauna in Galapagos to the debris, what the effect is of the ingestion, exposure and tangling in marine fauna population of Galapagos.  The results of this study will be: Define the sources of the debris that are affecting Galapagos and its potential impacts on main species.  Besides the potential effectiveness of the response action to solve the problem, the bases for defining the status of the plastic contamination in the coastal marine areas of Galapagos are created. A basis for a future investigation regarding its impact in the iconic species of the archipelago are established, baselines of different parameters for future comparison are created.
The normal range of contamination is defined.  The records done at sea have been integrated to a geographic information system and a map of the habitats identified as vulnerable have been developed.

Multi-temporal photographs of finches and its variation of peak size according to the area where they live.  The use of “citizen science” for baseline data and the disclosure of scientific information.
Gonzalo Francisco Rivas

The main objective is to take data with the help of visitors in one of the populated islands, without manipulating the animals that allow us to understand if the beak size of the finches and its relation with the body size is affected by the constant supply of food resources due to the presence of invasive species of plants.  The indicator of this objective will be to develop a mobile application that allows to take photographs of the finches and the species eating.  Generate a virtual guide to recognize the main species of finches in San Cristobal and of the native and invasive plants that are in this island and in the different areas.  Take multi-temporal data of the main species of finches so that through the photo detection, compare if their peak and body size vary depending on the area where they are.
As a final product, it is expected to develop the first official application of digital mobile of the GNP for disclosure of the conservation efforts of this institution as well as the first digital list of species of one of the populated islands of the archipelago.  This application will first be tested by the students and professors of the USFQ – GAIAS before it is sent to the GNP for its final tests and later publication.  The use of the application will be done mainly by the students of USFQ which will ensure the maintenance and updating of the mobile application and the data collected.  It is also expected, that the acceptance by the tourists is massive which will allow even more to spread out the efforts of the GNP and guarantee the taking of massive data so we can understand the morphological and population status of the finches in this island.

Evaluation of the population persistence of marine iguanas in relation to the environmental parameters and threats.
Kathryn Tosney, Luis Vinueza

The main objective of this study is to study the population persistence of marine iguanas in relation to the resources of the environment and human threats.  The indicator of this research is to characterize the key environmental elements to the persistence of the marine iguanas, their hunting areas and its thermos regulation behavior.  The quality and abundance of water and the nutritional quality of food will be evaluated for each age class, both in the coastal zone as underwater.  We will perform a demographic analysis.
This analysis will demonstrate if the ability to thermos regulate is affected by an event such as El Niño and also if the larger and smaller animals are more vulnerable than the animals in the middle range.  If El Niño is dissipated, the data will provide critical information of great value that studies the behavior of thermos regulation associated with the body size that can be tested in future events.

Exploration of the anthropogenic impacts on the evolutionary diversification of Darwin’s finches
Jaime Chaves
Explore within Darwin´s finches if its adaptive radiation is related to the morphological variation (size and shape of the peak) and the availability of the resources (types of seeds). We hope to contribute to the knowledge of the effects of anthropological alterations in the evolutionary diversification through scientific publications by determining the morphological distribution (peak and body) of Darwin´s finches in the four islands with human settlements.
We will quantify the use of food resources including natural items and those introduced by humans and quantify the levels of genetic variation, gene flow and hybridization between the species of finches in each study site. We will also analyze whether there are blood parasites (i.e. malaria avian) in species found in urban sites in comparison with birds of sites not altered.
We are expecting to receive data on morphometry types of finches according to the site where they are.  We expect to find that the levels of divergence will be lower in populations that are in disturbed areas, and higher in populations of undisturbed areas.
On the other hand, we expect to find that the food items in the two areas are responsible for determining the levels of divergence.

Chemistry of Galapagos lakes
Julian Sachs

The objective of this project is to determine the chemistry of the lakes in Galapagos and the assembly of the plankton during the El Niño phenomenon for the period 2015-2016.
It is intended to test the interpretation that we have made in previous works regarding the behavior of some wetlands and lakes in Galapagos.  It is expected that both the top part of San Cristobal (El Junco Lake) and the coastal sites in Isabela (Poza del Diablo y Poza Verde), that the rains will increase during the El Niño event, and that the δ2H value will decrease.  In the El Junco Lake, we expect that this one will cause an increase of the Botryococcus braunii blooms and for the δ2H of lipids Botryococcus braunii decrease.  In the Poza del Diablo y Poza Verde, we expect that the changes in the height of the sea surface associated with El Niño will cause greater affluence of seawater to these coastal lakes.  We expect that this will increase the salinity, but the increase of the precipitation rate, and the decrease of δ2H value that precipitation will also cause the δ2H value of the water of the lake to decrease.

Molecular and functional characterization of isolated phytopathogenic of Rubus niveus of the Galapagos Islands
Antonio León

The objective of this project is the characterization and isolation of pathogens of Rubus niveus in the Galapagos Islands.  It will be achieved, when collecting foliar and soil samples around the infected blackberry plants in Galapagos, isolate strains of fungi and bacteria in microbiological cultivation media, purify the bacteria using serial dilution methods, analyze via microscope and by molecular methods the selected isolates.  Study the way of life of the isolated pathogens based on bibliography search.  Then we will carry out bioassays and reinfection of the isolated pathogens of Galapagos in Rubus niveus, and evaluate if the biological control of based on pathogens of Rubus could be applied in the Galapagos Islands.
It is finally expected to achieve the isolation of fungi and bacteria endemic of Galapagos that they were natural phytopathogens of Rubus niveus and valuate the use of Biological Control technology based on phytopathogens in the Galapagos islands.

Origin and phylogeography of native and introduced species in the Galapagos Islands: evolutionary synthesis of poorly studied species.
Jaime Chaves

The objective of this study is to a) determine if the species studied have degrees of differentiation between populations of different islands, b) understand the relationship with species of mainland and determine the degree of endemism, c) complement the general knowledge of little studied species to update their conservation status in Galapagos.  The indicator of this study was to determine the genetic structure, origin and distribution of genetic diversity of taxonomic groups not much studied in the archipelago, and propose control and monitoring techniques for the eradication or mitigation of the effects of these in the fragile ecosystems of the islands.
The product of this project was to determine the genetic structure, origin and distribution of the genetic diversity of taxonomic groups not studied much in the archipelago.

Investigation of behavior, ecology and molecular analysis of the Geospiza difficilis septentrionalis.
Jaime A. Chaves, Andrés León-Reyes

We will determine the ecology and evaluation of the vampire finch in the Galapagos Islands and study the behavior of the vampire finches in the different islands and analyze the genetic composition of the different populations of vampire finches in the four islands, as well as the adaptation of blood diet between populations from the different islands.  We hope to provide important information to know the conservation status of the populations.  This objective was accomplished within the determination of the genetic structure, origin and distribution of the genetic diversity of taxonomic groups that are not studied much in the archipelago and proposing control techniques.
The product of this investigation was to discover the sequence of the proteins found in the saliva of the vampire finches that allows them to take advantage of the blood of other bird species.  We expect that the sequences match with those of other proteins found in the haematophagous species, which would evidence the evolutionary convergence to another taxonomic level for this type of adaptation.

In situ study of the pH effects and inorganic nutrients in microbial communities and the formation of marine aggregates.
Nataly Guevara C.

The objective is to learn the decreased effects of the ocean pH and the high concentration of inorganic nutrients, key components of the marine carbon cycle in the Galapagos Islands.  The indicator of this project is to learn the impacts on climate change on a micro scale in order to extrapolate and predict alterations at higher levels in marine ecosystems of Galapagos. We will simulate conditions and ocean acidification and be able to study the effects of this alteration on key components of the marine carbon cycle. We know the individuals effects and combination of the ocean acidification and the high concentrations of inorganic nutrients in the key components of the carbon cycle.
The natural pH gradient in the study site can simulate conditions of ocean acidification and can study the effects of this alteration on key components of the marine carbon cycle.  Know the individual and combined effects of ocean acidification and high concentrations of inorganic nutrients in the key components of the carbon cycle.

Long term monitoring of water in San Cristobal, Galapagos
Valeria Ochoa

The objective is to improve the management of water resources in the island of San Cristobal, Galapagos, and establish a participatory long-term regarding the water quality in San Cristobal, Galapagos.  This combined effort of the academy, the community and the local institutions represent a tangible contribution to long term sustainability of water resources in the Galapagos Islands and can serve as a model of collaboration and management of environmental resources for other islands.
We hope to strengthen local technical capacity, generate information on water quality in long term, involve the community and encourage the active participation of the local institutions in the implementation of this Participatory Program by generating baseline information on water quality.  The product of this project is the establishment of this Participatory Program which represents a tangible contribution at long term of the water resources in San Cristobal and can serve as a collaboration model between the academic world, the community and the local institutions towards the conservation of water resources in the Galapagos Islands.

Connectivity patterns of several marine species in Ecuador
Margarita Brandt, PhD, y Jaime Chaves, PhD

The objective of this project is to achieve an understanding of the patterns of larval dispersal and connectivity of six marine species of commercial interest in the Galapagos Islands, as well as between the Galapagos Islands and mainland Ecuador.  It aims to 1) determine if the degree of connectivity of the populations of marine species chosen are influenced by a) the duration of their larval pelagic stage b) flow patterns; 2) identify for Hexaplex princeps, if the sites with high productivity are seedbeds sites that are sources of larvae for other sites; 3) determine if the populations of Grapsus grapsus, Pachygrapsus transversus, Thais melones, Chiton sulcatus and Chiton goodallii in the sites near human populations present reduced genetic variability in comparison with sites distanced from human populations.  As a final product, it is expected to determine the genetic structure of four to six marine species that occur both in the Ecuadorian coasts as in the Galapagos Islands, to infer the degree of connectivity between 10 distant towns.  This study aims to infer what are the populations that export larvae and which are those that receive them.

Connectivity patterns of several marine species in Ecuador.  Technology transfer and expansion in the taxonomic approach
Margarita Brandt, PhD, y Jaime Chaves, PhD

The objective is to achieve the understanding of larval dispersal and the connectivity of a range of marine species that are currently being exploited by humans in the Eastern Tropical Pacific by 1) Transfer of knowledge and genomic techniques 2) expanding the list of marine species to study.
The final product of this research is to aim an understanding of the genetic diversity status in the range of marine species that are currently exploited, either by small scale artisanal fisherman or in a greater scale by illegal fishing.  Completing the characterization of marine evolutionary and ecological process at regional level (Eastern Tropical Pacific) as reference to global processes.  The results have a direct relevance for the design of marine’s reserves in the area and as a study model for other regions of the planet.

CONTACT US

Visit Us
The Center for Galapagos Studies is housed on the fourth floor (Suite 450) of the
Europa Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
The street address is 100 Europa Dr. Chapel Hill, NC 27517.
There is ample visitor parking on the upper level of the Europa Center parking deck.
Mailing Information
Postal Mail & Packages:
Center for Galapagos Studies
100 Europa Drive
Suite 450
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
Campus Mail:
CB# 3220
UNC – Chapel Hill

Name (required)

E-mail (required)

Title

Message