Annual Research Expeditions
In October 2014, the Galapagos Science Center (GSC),working collaboratively with the Galapagos National Park (DPNG), implemented an annual marine monitoring program to assess oceanographic conditions and the ecological status of endemic species throughout the archipelago. These research expeditions were conducted on-board the DPNG’s oceanographic control and vigilance vessels. The objective of this collaboration is to monitor the effects of social-ecological and environmental impacts on marine conditions, such as, climate change, El Nino event, and invasive species, on Galapagos’ most emblematic plants and animals.
Over the last few years, the research expeditions included data collections on oceanographic conditions, sea lions, birds and marine iguanas, snakes, finches, endemic plants and plastic pollution. Scientists present some of their results at GSC´s Annual Symposium held at the Community Convention Center. Knowing more about the effects of climate change will help the DPNG directors adapt their Protected Areas Management Plan to better conserve Galapagos’ unique flora and fauna for future generations.
Participating researchers come from GSC, USFQ, UNC and DPNG. Three of the participating projects are:
- Adrian Marchetti, UNC Professor of Marine Sciences, and his team of oceanographers collect temperature and light intensity data, as well as chlorophyll and plankton samples, to measure the primary production of the Galapagos Marine Reserve´s trophic web.
- Diego Páez-Rosas, USFQ Professor of Marine Sciences, and his team analyze sea lion and fur seal demographics to assess how population dynamics relate to ecological conditions, using trophic markers as behavior monitors.
- Gonzalo Rivas, USFQ Professor of Life and Environmental Sciences, and his team monitor endemic plants and animals through drone technologies to achieve a more precise calculation of their populations and conservation status.
- Juan Pablo-Muñoz, GSC researcher, and his team conduct a thematic study using new technologies to determine the marine pollution levels and its impact on biodiversity. It is specifically looking for the presence of microplastics in the marine environment.
With GSC’s support, the DPNG has collected five years of data on Galapagos’ emblematic species. This is just one of the many ways that GSC supports research and conservation in the Galapagos´ protected areas.
An interdisciplinary and international research team working together for conservation in the Galapagos ©Juan Pablo Muñoz
The team of scientists uses the latest technologies to monitor emblematic species from on board the DPNG´s Sierra Negra control and vigilance vessel. ©Juan Pablo Muñoz
The program follows an engagement pathway of four levels:
1. Aware: Younger community members can become aware through reading a magical realism story about the migration path of “Marti, the Hammerhead Shark.”
Teacher Jackline Mayorga and her students read the “Marti the Hammerhead Shark” book and created recycled collages to share the message with their families and San Cristobal community.”
© Archipiélago Films
2. Active: These young community members and others can learn specific steps they can take to protect sharks and advocate for them through monthly Family Science Hours the first Saturday of every month on the Playa Mann with a local GSC researcher.
GSC Researcher Yasuni Chiriboga shares her research on baby shark nurseries with the San Cristobal community.
© Archipiélago Films
3. Empowered: The USFQ Galapagos Campus students can participate in shark and other active research projects with our staff and researchers through the GSC Join Science! program.
Read more in the “Our Educators” tab in the GSC Education Programs section
USFQ-Galapagos Extension students accompany GSC researchers in the field and the lab to hone their skills as the future Galapagos scientists.
© Ashleigh Klingman
4. Committed: Adult community members can become Shark Heros by using GSC citizen science applications to help track shark and other megafauna marine life to help scientists to continue to learn more about these magnificent creatures.
From left- Leidy Apolo, Alex Hearn, Maria José Aguirre and sons, Lucia Salinas, Isis Lara, Kevin Cabrera, Vilma Camacho and Ashleigh Klingman pose after the Shark Heros of 2019 are announced.
© Archipiélago Films
GSC thanks GCT for their support of this program.