2023 Christmas Newsletter

The Galapagos Science Center (GSC) greets you and wishes you happy holidays. The GSC promotes local and international scientific collaboration for the benefit of global science and the Galápagos through research, education, and community outreach. We invite you to explore our work carried out during 2023.

The Scalesia microbiome: uncovering the microbial world that Darwin could not see

Scalesia is an endemic plant genus that has evolved to adapt to the extreme conditions of the Galápagos Islands. However, due to changes in climate and environment, it is essential to understand how these plants survive and diversify. The research project, led by Pieter van ‘t Hof, a biology professor at Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) and a researcher at GSC, studies the microbial communities associated with the Scalesia genus in the Galápagos Islands. The research team collected samples of microbial communities located in the roots and leaves to understand the role of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms in their growth and survival.

The “Galápagos Genetic Code (Barcode)” project uses non-invasive and laboratory sampling techniques to catalog the flora and fauna of the islands

The Galápagos Genetic Code (Barcode) project has brought together national and international scientists and the local community to catalog the biodiversity of these beautiful islands. The project employed 79 people affected by the COVID 19 pandemic, thus strengthening the local economy and promoting conservation. Preliminary results reveal findings such as the difference in soil microbiomes on different islands and the greater effectiveness of applying the “environmental DNA” methodology to detect species compared to other conventional methods.

Shark Day: 10 years celebrating the importance of protecting sharks and their habitat

Researchers, professors, students, and community members were part of the celebration of the 10th Shark Day in San Cristóbal. Sharks are essential for maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems. For a decade, this celebration has brought together the local community and marine life lovers to raise awareness about the conservation of sharks and their habitat.

USFQ and the Oceanogràfic Foundation launched a program to monitor the health of marine species in the Galápagos Islands

Between August and November, several veterinarians from the Oceanogràfic Foundation, in collaboration with USFQ, the GSC, and the Galápagos National Park (GNP), carried out health surveillance activities and knowledge transfer. The goal is to support the GNP in assessing the health status of emblematic species and to strengthen the local staff’s ability to respond to threats to marine fauna, through accompaniment.

UNC School of Social Work and USFQ deliver social work certification program for Galápagos locals

The University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Social Work and the USFQ launched a 12-week social work program for the Galápagos community to study and earn a certificate in community development and social work. The first edition of the program took place from June to September 2023, with more than 24 participants.

UNC Ph.D. student´s cutting-edge science helps conserve critically endangered scalloped hammerheads in the Galápagos

Savannah Ryburn, a Ph.D. student at UNC, uses forensic science of feces to discover the diet of sharks. She performs DNA analysis on the feces of scalloped hammerhead sharks in the Galápagos to determine their feeding up to the species level. Savannah has dedicated the last 5 years to this innovative research on the diet of these species.

UNC School of Nursing collaborates with local Galápagos hospital to address professional development needs

During the summer, the UNC School of Nursing sent professors and students who partnered with the Oskar Jandl Hospital in San Cristóbal, Galápagos to assess the needs of local nurses and develop a continuing education program taking into account both their needs and their resources.

International Galapagos Science Consortium

The GSC has the International Galapagos Science Consortium (IGSC), a network of international institutions that allows access to the services the GSC offers and fosters collaboration. The IGSC is made up of James Cook University (Australia), the University of the Sunshine Coast (Australia), the University of South Alabama (USA), and NC State University (USA). This year, over 15 international researchers from these institutions have published 18 papers on various topics. If you would like further information on how to become a Consortium member, please contact:

Carlos Mena (USFQ): cmena@usfq.edu.ec

Amanda Thompson (UNC): althomps@email.unc.edu

Happy Holidays

We would like to thank all the many partners of the GSC who have helped us achieve our goals this year. During 2024, we will continue to develop academic activities framed in our three fundamental axes of action: interdisciplinary scientific research, education through science, and community outreach. Until then, we wish you a happy holiday and look forward to continued collaboration!

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In 2022, the Galapagos Science Center (GSC) and the broader UNC & USFQ Galapagos Initiative will celebrate its 10th Anniversary. We are proud to announce the World Summit on Island Sustainability scheduled to be held on June 26–30, 2022 at the Galapagos Science Center and the Community Convention Center on San Cristobal Island.

The content of the World Summit will be distributed globally through social media and results documented through papers published in a book written as part of the Galapagos Book Series by Springer Nature and edited by Steve Walsh (UNC) & Carlos Mena (USFQ) as well as Jill Stewart (UNC) and Juan Pablo Muñoz (GSC/USC). The book will be inclusive and accessible by the broader island community including scientists, managers, residents, tourists, and government and non-government organizations.

While the most obvious goal of organizing the World Summit on Island Sustainability is to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the GSC and the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, other goals will be addressed through special opportunities created as part of our operational planning of the World Summit.

For instance, we seek to elevate and highlight the Galapagos in the island conservation discourse, seeking to interact with other island networks in more obvious and conspicuous ways to benefit the Galapagos Islands, the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, and the world. We will seize the opportunity to further develop the I2N2 – International Islands Network-of-Networks. Further, we wish to highlight and emphasize multiple visions of a sustainable future for the Galapagos Islands and we cannot do this alone. Therefore, engaging the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Tourism, the Government Council of Galapagos, the Galapagos National Park, and local Galapagos authorities, including government and non-government organizations and local citizen groups, is imperative.

The Galapagos Science Center on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

Borrowing from Hawaii’s and Guam’s Green Growth Program and the Global Island Partnership, we wish to examine existing global programs that emphasize island sustainability and their incorporation into life, policies, and circumstances in the Galapagos Islands. We will also seek to enhance our connections with the institutional members of our International Galapagos Science Consortium and expand the Consortium through the recruitment of other member institutions. We will also work to benefit islands and their local communities by working with citizen groups as well as important NGOs who seek to improve the natural conditions in the Galapagos and diminish the impact of the human dimension on the future of Galapagos’ ecosystems.

Lastly, we will use the World Summit to benefit UNC & USFQ and our constituencies through a strong and vibrant communication plan about the World Summit, creating corporate relationships as sponsors, identifying funding goals through donors, and benefiting our study abroad program for student engagement in the Galapagos Islands. We plan to develop and issue a Galapagos Sustainability Communique after the World Summit that includes the vision and insights of all its participants for a sustainable Galapagos with applicability to global island settings.

We are eager to hear your perspective and have you join us at the World Summit on Island Sustainability!