IGTOA Awards Over $110,000 in Grants to Support Galapagos Conservation
This month, IGTOA awarded $113,000 to six organizations working on the frontlines of Galapagos conservation, science, education, and community activism and outreach.
The grants, which were funded by IGTOA’s member companies and donations from their guests, further IGTOA’s mission of protecting and preserving the Galapagos Islands and promoting engaged, responsible tourism to the islands.
Since IGTOA was founded in 1997, we have awarded over $1,000,000 in grants to critical projects and initiatives in the island, including efforts to restore ecosytems, improve biosecurity, eradicate invasive species, support quality environmental education for young people, and to enhance protection and monitoring of the Galapagos marine reserve.
Association of Galapagos Guides (AGIPA): The Community Library on Santa Cruz, $30,000
As the only public library in the Galapagos Islands, the community library on Santa Cruz provides critical access to information to people of all ages and from all backgrounds, supports life-long education, and provides internet access to many who would otherwise lack it. It also serves as a venue for educational workshops, symposiums, and cultural events and activities.
The library, which receives no government funding, operates under the stewardship of AGIPA, which took on responsibility for administering it in 2018 after previous funding sources dried up and the facility fell into disrepair. With funding from IGTOA, AGIPA was able to restore and renovate the library, buy new books and equipment, and hire a full-time librarian. Since then, thousands of Galapagos residents have used the library's resources and attended discussions and workshops there, covering everything from literacy, conservation, mental health issues, and vocational training.
IGTOA’s $30,000 grant will be paid out in quarterly installments and will cover the bulk of the library’s 2023 operating expenses.
The Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF): Drone Monitoring of Sea Turtles in Tortuga Bay, $25,000
IGTOA has always prioritized funding projects that strive to minimize and mitigate the negative impacts of tourism in the islands. One such impact, the effect of passenger vessels on sea turtle populations, is being studied by scientists at the CDF using state-of-the-art drone technology.
Drone surveys will monitor sea turtle density, distribution, and movement in Tortuga Bay, where collisions between passenger vessels and sea turtles are an all-too-common occurrence. The data collected will be shared with environmental authorities, who will use it to establish tourism practices and guidelines designed to limit boat strikes and human impact on turtle populations across the archipelago.
IGTOA’s $25,000 grant will be used to help cover staff salary expenses, purchase equipment, and fund field excursions and community outreach programs.
ECOS: Empowering Youth Conservation Leaders through Experiential Education, $25,000
We believe that the most important thing that we can do to support Galapagos conservation in the long run is to help empower young people to become engaged and informed stewards of their own natural heritage.
This is why IGTOA is once again to support the important work of ECOS, which provides immersive, hands-on environmental education and field activities for Galapagos youth.
IGTOA’s $25,000 grant will be used to purchase tents and other equipment for an educational field camp that will serve up to 15 students and two teachers at a time. This year, ECOS plas to operate 10 (one for each school on Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabela) four- to five-day immersive environmental learning programs at the camp. Each program will include 30 to 40 hours of hands-on instruction and an outing within the Galapagos National Park. IGTOA’s funds will also be used to sponsor at least one school group.
Island Conservation: Drone-based wildlife monitoring, $25,000
Our planet is facing a biodiversity crisis. The World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Index recently reported that the population sizes of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have seen an alarming average drop of 68% since 1970. Sadly, islands experience the greatest frequency of extinctions, with 75% of all reptile, bird, amphibian and mammal extinctions reported worldwide occurring on islands. Invasive species, which primarily spread around the globe via human transportation systems, have been implicated in 86% of all recorded extinctions on islands. In the Galapagos archipelago, a host of human-introduced invaders, from mosquitos, to rats, cats, and pigs, and to a variety of plant species, pose a real and constant threat to its myriad endemic species.
This is why IGTOA is once again proud to support the critically important work of Island Conservation. With our support, IC is employing cutting edge drone technology to aid them in their efforts to control and eradicate invasive species and to successfully reintroduce native and endemic ones. This work requires the extensive monitoring and tracking of both invasive and native species over large areas that are often difficult to access. Integrating drone aerial tracking into IC’s Galápagos projects will not only improve the cost effectiveness of research, but will also enable them access to areas and terrain types where it would be incredibly difficult—or even impossible—to collect data via traditional ground-based telemetry methods. Preliminary research projects using a Wildlife Drone system for animal tracking have seen increases of 20 – 360% in surveyable area, and time efficiency gains of up to 1900%, when compared to traditional ground telemetry methods.
Naveducando: Galapagos Infinito an “Oceanic Classroom” for Galapagos youth, $14,500
Today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders. That’s why IGTOA has made it a priority to support programs that empower Galapagos youth to explore, understand, and appreciate their remarkable island home.
One such program is Galapagos Infinito, which utilizes existing tourism infrastructure to provide transformative educational programs in the field for the islands’ 500 or so seventh graders, many of whom have had limited exposure to the protected areas of the Galapagos National Park. In partnership with local cruise providers and with support from IGTOA, students will have the opportunity to participate in a full day of sailing, snorkeling, and immersion into the wonders of the islands in the company of educators and local experts.
IGTOA’s grant will be used to purchase equipment, pay staff salaries, and cover some operational expenses.
Frente Insular Marina de Galápagos (FIRMAG), #GalapagosMiResponsabilidad Radio Program and Student Workshops, $7,200
FIRMAG is a community-based, grassroots organization dedicated to educating and motivating the citizens of the Galapagos to get involved in important social and environmental issues and to give them a collective voice on important subjects.
The centerpiece of this activity is the #GalapagosMiResponsabilidad radio program, which has become a vital platform for keeping a wide swath of the Galapagos community informed about important environmental, social and cultural news. The weekly, commercial-free radio program is an independent voice that seeks to “link the community with the environment” by providing news and perspectives that local people may not otherwise have access to. The problem of single use plastics and the need for better protection and monitoring of the Galapagos Marine Reserve are just two of the issues the program has kept at the forefront of public attention in recent years.
The radio program also provides workshops that give young people in the Galapagos the opportunity to learn and develop new skills, including public speaking, radio production, journalism, and more.
IGTOA’s grant will be used to help cover operating and production expenses and to sponsor youth workshops.