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“I think back now at how unbelievable it would have seemed when I was 16 and first learned about Galapagos, if someone had told me that I would one day be able to contribute to preserving the islands in some significant way,” reflected Dr. Ken Saladin, Distinguished Professor of biological and environmental science at Georgia College. Indeed, Ken and his wife Diane have had a profound impact on Galapagos conservation through more than a decade of financial support, and their recent five-year, $1 million pledge of support. Ken and Diane began to translate their fascination with Galapagos into action following a 2002 visit to the Charles Darwin Foundation’s (CDF) Research Station, during which they inquired about a volunteer opportunity for their daughter, a marine biologist, and toured the CDF’s facilities. Diane recalls, “We were so impressed by CDF staff and programs, but we couldn’t help but think that the Station needed a better library to serve as a home to nearly 50 years of research and as resources for scientists and the local community.” On returning home, the Saladins joined Galapagos Conservancy and began to invest in GC’s and CDF’s collaborative programs.
In addition to helping to improve the CDF library’s physical space, they have supported a number of other important programs including early rat eradication trials carried out by the CDF and the Galapagos National Park. Thanks in large part to their support, North Seymour and Mosquera Islands are now rat-free. Ken and Diane’s pledge—the largest ever received by GC—will provide significant improvements to the CDF library infrastructure, collections and archiving software, and “virtual” access to the CDF holdings. As importantly, it will establish a library studies scholarship through which the CDF will identify scholarship students and ensure their training in this very important work. Ken makes regular visits to Galapagos, leading a study abroad course on the natural and cultural history of the Galapagos Islands. He has authored three college textbooks (11 editions) in human anatomy and physiology, the sales of which have allowed the Saladins to realize their dream of helping to preserve the Galapagos Islands for future generations. “This is one of the best outcomes I could imagine from my success as a writer—giving back to one of the places that truly inspired us—a place with global significance.”
In 2011, Michael and Denice Dan traveled to Galapagos aboard the Integrity with Dr. Linda Cayot, Galapagos Conservancy’s Science Advisor and long-time friend and caretaker of Lonesome George. Having worked in Galapagos for three decades, Linda enthusiastically (and unapologetically) talked throughout the week on Integrity about tortoise conservation and plans to create a tortoise action plan with a ten-year horizon. The Dans responded with great enthusiasm and were eager to help Linda and her colleagues at the Galapagos National Park move tortoise conservation forward, using George as a natural and very appropriate figurehead. Michael’s creativity in fundraising and problem-solving are not relegated to Galapagos. As former Chairman, President, and CEO of The Brink’s Company, Michael sought ways to bring the corporate and non-profit communities together in innovative ways. His work on the Business Roundtable’s Partnership for Disaster Response lead to creating new protocols on disaster response among business, the federal government and the American Red Cross. As a Corporate Board Member for The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Michael played a leadership role in fundraising for more than 13 years. Michael also served on the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business executive advisory group and hosted students globally. He continues to serve on the Board of the Principal Financial Group, a global financial services firm. He has spoken at several business schools throughout the past few years.
But Lonesome George’s plight intrigued both of them, and they worked with staff at Galapagos Conservancy to think through ways George could be an even more effective conservation spokesperson/tortoise. Perhaps a world tour to inspire others? All ideas were brought to the table. We were all devastated when Lonesome George died in June, and yet Michael and Denice saw an opportunity to ensure that George did indeed fulfill his ambassador role. Shortly after George’s death, he and Denice made a very generous contribution to underwrite the Galapagos National Park’s request to have George professionally preserved and mounted to form the central part of a new visitor center in Puerto Ayora. As part of that initiative, George will be allowed a short stay at the American Museum of Natural History in New York in 2013, and the Dans will be there to help tell George’s story and ensure that his legacy lives on.
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