GSC Local Flagship Projects
Over the years more locally-based researchers are opening their projects to visiting and local research assistants in hopes to engage them in science and promote the next generation of Galapagos scientists. In 2019 GSC will have the following six Flagship Projects open to Research Assistants for participation in the short to medium term.
Below you can find a sample of GSC Local Flagship Projects over the years. Please contact our Special Education Projects Coordinator, Galapagos Science Center, Daniela Alarcón at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
1. “Understanding the effects of marine trash on Galapagos.” GNPD Permit PC-23-19; Principal investigator: Juan Pablo Muñoz-Pérez, MSc.
This project seeks to identify patterns of marine debris distribution, its sources, and evaluate the potential harm it poses to marine fauna and the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Methods include: 1) microplastic sampling in sea water, sand and sediments, 2) macroplastics sampling on beach visits, 3) drone flying to image distribution of trash on beaches, and 4) fauna observation to evidence plastic harm. Research findings are important to inform the current local and international education campaigns to promote responsible plastics use in Galapagos.
© Juan Pablo Muñoz – Pérez
2. “Abundance, distribution and vital range of cetaceans in the Galapagos Marine Reserve.” Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) Research Permit PC-60-18; Principal investigator: Daniela Alarcón-Ruales, MSc.
The main objective of this project is to learn more about the species abundance, distribution, movements and ecology of cetaceans (dolphins and whales) found around the Galapagos Marine Reserve, namely with most frequency: Orcas, bottlenose dolphins, Bryde whales and humpback whales. Methods used include: 1) photo-identification of different species, primarily using photos of the dorsal fin, 2) sound recordings of whale songs, and 3) satellite transmitters to track regional movements. All findings serve to recommend improvements to conservation and management strategies.
© Daniela Alarcón-Ruales
3. “Distribution, demographics and habitat use of two marine turtles in Galapagos: Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) and Hawksbill Sea Turtles (Eretymochyles imbricata) in feeding, reproduction and resting areas.” GNPD Research Permit PC-21-19; Principal investigators: Daniela Alarcón-Ruales, MSc. and Juan Pablo Muñoz-Pérez, MSc.
The main objective of this project is to increase understanding about the ecology and behavior of Green Sea Turtles and Hawksbill Sea Turtles in feeding, reproduction and nesting areas. Methods used include: 1) photo-identification using photos of the right side of the sea turtles face, 2) tag individuals to analyze species abundance and habitat use along migration routes and nesting sites, and 3) take tissue samples to analyze carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes.
4.“Genetic and genomic information use to study population structure, connectivity and effective sizes of diverse biological groups inside the Galapagos Islands to inform their management and conservation.” Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment Permit MAE-DNB-CM-2016-0041-M-003; Principal investigator: Diana Pazmiño, PhD.
Although this macro project aims at including both bony and cartilaginous fish in the future, it has a focus on rays and sharks at the moment. The current component of this ongoing genetic research project will contribute to the understanding of population structure and dynamics of a largely understudied group: rays. More specifically, the results are important for the development of genetic/genomics resources of three species of interest: the Pacific eagle ray (Aetobatus laticeps), the giant manta ray (Mobula birostris), and the golden ray (Rhinoptera steindachneri). In addition, the project aims at analyzing the environmental and anthropological variables that may influence the genetic structure and diversity of these species. Methods used include: 1) net capture and free diving techniques to obtain tissue samples for each species, 2) DNA extraction, PCR and sequencing, and 3) genetic/genomics data analysis. Research findings will help to identify vulnerable areas and justify marine management recommendations.
© Michel Guerrero
5.“The Role of Oceanic Islets in Migratory Marine Species Protection.” GNPD Permit PC-13-19; Principal Investigator: Alex Hearn, PhD.
The central objective of this project is to understand how well the Galapagos Marine Reserve protects pelagic migratory species, namely sharks, in feeding, reproduction, resting areas and cleaning stations. Methods include: 1) tagging sharks to study migration paths, 2) tissue and blood sampling for genetic and health analysis, respectively, and 3) drone imagery to identify potential nursery sites. Findings are important to shape regional policy.
© Manolo Yépez
6.“Evaluating the reproductive success of the Galapagos Sea Lion (Zalophus wollebaeki) on San Cristobal beaches with varying anthropogenic impacts.” GNPD PC-08-18; Principal Investigator: Diego Páez-Rosas, PhD.
This ongoing study looks at the effects of human settlements on the sea lion populations in Galapagos with regards to feeding efficiency, immune defenses and stress levels. Methods include: 1) land censuses of sea lions on rocks and beaches, 2) sea lion pup tagging, and 3) several tissues sampling to analyze trophic ecology and determine the presence or absence of stress indicator hormones. These findings will help understand population dynamics, feeding patterns and human effects on these emblematic creatures.
© Ashleigh Klingman