IGTOA in Action: Funding the Science Behind Galapagos Conservation

The following is a guest blog post by Theresa Pike Rhodes of the Charles Darwin Foundation, which received a $20,000 IGTOA grant in 2017.  

In partnership with the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association (IGTOA), the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) is strengthening its research to ensure that key ecosystem conservation efforts combat invasive species and restore habitats for endangered plants and animals, such as the mangrove finch. Currently, the CDF is running 19 research projects and community-related environmental and citizen science activities, all focused on the conservation of the Galapagos. The success of all our projects depends on the infrastructure and support services of the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS), which is based on Santa Cruz Island. 

The highest scientific priorities for the CDRS are habitats or species that are at risk of extinction from invasive species, habitat loss, fisheries interactions and climate change. We identify solutions to issues resulting from human-related impacts in the Galapagos. This work is complemented by education programs and citizen science projects aimed at residents and tourists, engaging and inspiring them to help preserve this unique archipelago. Our projects include efforts to save the critically endangered mangrove finch; work on evaluating the impact of the fishing closure upon shark populations in the Galapagos Marine Reserve; fight against the aggressive, introduced fly, Philornis downsi, which is affecting all of the land bird populations of the Galapagos; and restore Galapagos National Park (GNP) areas affected by blackberry and other introduced species. 

To carry out this work, the station provides all scientists (including collaborative scientists from dozens of research institutions from around the world) with laboratories, offices, natural history collections of flora and fauna of the Galapagos, communication aids, a library, quarantine rooms, accommodations and administrative support to assure the timely and effective delivery of high-level research and community engagement. To further support our science work, ambitious plans are underway to transform the CDRS and the headquarters of the GNP. The infrastructure needs of the CDRS are growing, and enhanced facilities are critically needed.

The CDRS is taking the lead to set an example and serve as a role model for basic yet sustainable applications of environmentally-friendly systems and practices. Creating a practical, attractive, efficient and zero-emission campus will elevate the image and productivity of the CDRS and the GNP, enhance the quality of the working environment for CDF and GNP employees, and serve as an exemplary model of sustainable buildings and proactive, progressive, zero-emission development for the Galapagos community.

Feature image: Mangrove Finch ©M. Dvorak



Theresa Pike Rhodes

Theresa Pike Rhodes has spent the past 23 years working with International NGOs. Her focus and passion has been working to support women and girls in the developing world. Recently she had the opportunity to look at development through a conservation lens with the Charles Darwin Foundation and became hooked on the work to preserve this very special landscape. Supporting its research efforts to protect the management of the Galapagos is her new passion. The beauty, wonderful wildlife, dedicated scientists and friendly staff have given her a new fervor to use her skills to help care for the Galapagos. And when she's not thinking about turtles, blue-footed boobies and iguanas, she's living life graciously with her three beautiful sons and wonderful husband.

Need help planning a trip?
Get help from one of IGTOA's Members.