Scientists analyze the health of the Galapagos shallow-tailed gull

This is an investigation by Carlos A. Valle, Catalina Ulloa, Cristina Regalado, Juan-Pablo Muñoz-Pérez, Juan Garcia, Britta Denise Hardesty, Alice Skehel, Diane Deresienski, Ronald K. Passingham and Gregory A. Lewbart.

Historically, health, blood chemistry, and hematology parameters have not been published for this species.

In this study, blood analyses were run on samples drawn from 58 clinically healthy shallow-tailed gulls captured at Islote Pitt on San Cristóbal Island in July 2016 (28) and on South Plaza Island in June 2017 (30).

The birds were captures by hand, or with a hand net, one at a time from near their nests, closely examined by a board-certified (American Board of Veterinary Practitioners canine/feline medicine) veterinarian (DD) and sampled before the next bird was captured.

Standard measurements were taken using calipers, and the animals were weighed with a Pesola scale (Pesola Präzisionswaagen AG, Schindellegi, Switzerland 8834). The body temperature was obtained from the cloaca using an EBRO® Compact J/K/T/E thermocouple thermometer, while heart rates were measured with a stethoscope and respiratory rates by observing chest movements.

Blood samples were obtained as soon as safely possible to minimize the potential effects of handling on blood parameters; in most cases, this was within 10 minutes of capture. Based on their behavior, response to handling and physical examination by the veterinarian, all the birds in this study were deemed clinically healthy.


All samples were collected during field trips, running over 90% of the tests with fresh samples by instant analysis with portable blood chemistry and lactate analyzers, or stored on ice in sterile plastic vials within 10 min of sample collection, for hematology and archiving. Blood films were made within minutes of blood collection and fixed and stained with Dip Quik, ~ 2 weeks after sampling.

The most interesting thing about the study is that the two populations, separated by more than 50 kilometers, turned out to be very similar in terms of the health parameters that were evaluated.

The baseline data reported is valuable for comparisons amongst different populations in the archipelago and to detect changes in health status of Galápagos swallow-tailed gulls. As mentioned by Greg Lewbart, “We now have a baseline of health for an almost endemic species of Galapagos. If there is ever a disease outbreak, pollution problem or other environmental challenge, we have data from healthy seagulls to draw comparisons”.

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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!