I recently returned from a month in Galapagos, first enjoying the Islands with a wonderful group of people on the annual Galapagos Conservancy cruise, and then delving into decades of herpetology files at the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) — a wonderful combination of new and old.
On my fifth cruise as tour leader for Galapagos Conservancy, I enjoyed sharing my passion for the Islands with new people and watching them discover Galapagos’ many wonders on their own. We visited behind-the-scenes at the Galapagos National Park’s tortoise breeding center on Santa Cruz and the herbarium of the CDRS. We saw a spectacular show of hundreds of common dolphins flying across blue waters between Fernandina and Isabela. The snorkelers returned excited every day after swimming with penguins, sea turtles, flightless cormorants, huge numbers of fishes, and of course the ever-playful sea lions. We talked evolution, conservation, tortoises (of course), and so much more with GC’s favorite naturalist guide, Richard Polatty. If you haven’t yet been to the Islands — or even if you have — you should consider joining one of our annual cruises.
After saying goodbye to my newfound friends at the Baltra airport, I returned to Puerto Ayora for two weeks buried in herpetology files. As so many years of my life have gone into creating them — especially during the more than ten years I worked at the CDRS — I volunteered to begin organizing and scanning five decades of documents to ensure we would not lose these historical and scientific treasures. I rediscovered work I had forgotten, remembered the individual park rangers and scientists I have worked with over the years, and began the long process of creating a knowledge management system for herpetology. The plan is that this will be the pilot project for the rest of the historical papers in the various science files at the CDRS.
I had many opportunities to continue discussions on the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative (GTRI) with Wacho Tapia (who is now leading the GTRI in Galapagos) and Dr. James Gibbs, our long-term colleague from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Look for James’ upcoming GC blog post on his trips to Santa Fe and Española when he returns to the US.
My timing was just right to attend Puerto Ayora’s premiere of The Galapagos Affair. It was fun to watch the Floreana story unfold in front of a Galapagos audience, leaving its many unanswered questions for us to continue to debate for years to come. When the show ended, we enjoyed discussing the film with its directors/producers/writers Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine, along with several of the second and third generation colonists who were interviewed onscreen — including Claudio Cruz, Tui de Roy, Steve Devine and others.
I’m looking forward to my return to Galapagos in November for the first of what I hope will become an annual review of the three tortoise breeding and rearing centers on Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristóbal Islands. This is a part of the GTRI focused on supporting the ongoing efforts of the Galapagos National Park to constantly improve conservation management in the Galapagos Islands.
Dr. Linda Cayot is GC’s Science Advisor and has played a critical role in Galapagos conservation efforts for more than 30 years.