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CDF scientists continue to train ABG staff in recognizing marine invasive species in Galapagos

News from the Charles Darwin Foundation and Galapagos


The Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) places significant emphasis on delivering local capacity building courses for partner organizations. Within this context, on July 15th and 16th, CDF held a marine invasive species identification workshop at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island for staff members of the Galapagos Biosecurity Agency (ABG in its Spanish acronym).

The principal aim of the CDF Marine invasive project is to minimize the negative impacts of marine invasives on marine biodiversity, ecosystems and on the overall health of the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR). The two day workshop was presented by CDF scientists Inti Keith and Priscilla Martinez – the project’s principal investigators.

Inti and Priscilla welcomed 10 ABG technicians and covered in detail the risks and threats of introduced marine species arriving to the GMR. ABG staff studied some of the species that could most likely find their way to the GMR, including an evaluation of possible routes and entry points. It was also an opportunity to analysis the measures currently in place for stopping marine invasives from entering the GMR in the first place.

In addition, the workshop provided an open dialogue for discussing some of the current issues related to maritime traffic in Galapagos and the management of control activities by on-the-ground Galapagos institutions. All ABG technicians were evaluated at the end of the course and received a certificate of attendance.

CDF receives no governmental funding for providing opportunities such as these; however, working with Ecuadorian public institutions and forging links with the community is a fundamental part of our mission in Galapagos.

The project is coordinated alongside the University of Southampton and the Galapagos National Park Directorate. Other local, national and international partners include the Ecuadorian Oceanographic Institute (INOCAR), the National Directorate of Aquatic Spaces (DIRNEA), the Galapagos Biosecurity Agency (ABG), the Ecuadorian Navy and University of Dundee, Scotland.

This project is possible thanks to funding support from Darwin Initiative, Galapagos Conservancy and the Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic Fund.

Tug boats arrive to help cargo ship in Galapagos

The cargo boat Galapaface I remains on the rocks in Wreck Bay on the Island of San Cristobal Galapagos. The salvage company is working day and night to try to re float the ship and safely remove it form the Galapagos Marine Reserve. In order for this operation to go ahead 2 tug boats where hired to come form continental Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands that are located about 1000km from the mainland. The Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) and myself  where called by local authorities, the Galapagos National Park (GNP) and the Biosecurity Agency for Galapagos (ABG) to go and inspect these tug boats. These boats spend a lot of time stationary in places where non native species can attach themselves to the hull of the boat and hitch a lift to the next port of entry. In the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) we are working to protect these species entering the GMR and causing damage to the surrounding ecosystem. A team of 4 divers from all institutions (GNP, ABG, CDF) inspected both tug boats and i have to say where pleasantly surprised. The owners of the boats respected the regulations that have been put in place to protect the GMR from the introduction of alien species. Both boats where examples of how boats should enter the GMR. I will keep you informed on this as it progresses, it looks like it will take a few more weeks to get the boat of the rocks.

On Friday Im going to the southern Islands of Española and Floreana looking for invasive species and doing monitoring of sites i visited last year. I will update you on that trip when i get back

Cheers from sunny galapagos

Intiphoto 4photo 2


Cargo ship runs aground in Galapagos

The cargo ship Galapaface I ran aground in Wreck Bay on the San Cristobal Island, Galapagos, on May 9, with 19,000 gallons of diesel, 1,250 gallons of oil and 300 tons of cargo. The local authorities worked together to make sure that 19,000 gallons of diesel on board ship where taken off as quickly as possible but unfortunately about 46 tanks of lubricating oil in the lower hold of the ship. On Monday, May 19th the salvage company located the contaminating material began the evacuation of the tanks which where luckily still in good condition, which ensures that there is no leakage. In parallel, three divers from the Galapagos National Park (GNP) , the Ministry of Environment and the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF), conducted ecological monitoring of the seafloor, in three strategic locations in the affected zone. Scientists myself included established transects and collected data of fish, macroinvertebrates and sessile organisms. The aim is to create a baseline of what is present at the time of the cargo ship running aground and in case of any catastrophe be able to compare the before and after data. Aboard the ship, officials of the GNP and the Biosecurity Agency for Galapagos (ABG) perform the unloading of perishable cargo. The Ecuadorian Navy and the Ministry of the Environment are working in collaboration to insure there are no direct effects on the surrounding environment and the species that inhabit this area, so far no changes have been reported, lets hope it ends well.


Learning from experiences: Some reflections on my UNESCO Internship with Disaster Risk Reduction

UNESCO Case Study

1) Introduction

This short case study outlines a two month internship at UNESCO’s HQ in Paris working with Disaster Risk Reduction Programs. It gives a brief background of UNESCO’s work, and details key areas of learning gained from the internship which is based on non-participatory observations and personal reflection.

2) Summary key points

  • Inclusive learning with a focus on vulnerable groups as change agents is worthwhile
  • Accessible knowledge exchange from across different stakeholder groups can create impact if it is captured
  • Multilateral engagement in processes are more rewarding than bi-lateral structures for developing DRR intelligence
  • Creating spaces creates unlikely alliances and networks which use resources and efforts more effectively

3) UNESCO Background

UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, and is a specialised agency which first originated in 1946. Its purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science, and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the UN Charter. It is recognised as being the intelligence organisation of the United Nations and focuses on five major priority areas and include; Education, Social Science, Culture and Communication Information and Natural Sciences. It is within the Natural Sciences priority area where Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programs which also include Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation exist. Due to UNESCO’s diverse range of priority areas, UNESCO has such a multidisciplinary approach to the development of DRR intelligence spanning 45 years, with studies on earthquakes and oceanography dating back to the 1960s. As a result of UNESCO’s expertise in over the decades it has developed a pioneering shift in thinking about DRR away from post-disaster reaction to pre-disaster action.

UNESCO’s work is underpinned by the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), which focus around poverty, equality, health, sustainable development and education (UNESCO, 2014). This can be seen in UNESCO’s approach to DRR which was announced during the International Disaster Reduction Day in 2004: “disaster reduction emphasises that crucial role of human thought and action in the minimization of risk where need to educate people, in particular young people, about disasters and the implications for the way we live.”(Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO). With such strong links between the aims of MDG’s and DRR, UNESCO understands its role to be about strengthening the interface between education, science, communication and culture with a particular focus on learning as a key element of developing a ‘culture of prevention’ (UNESCO 2014).

4) What did the placement involve?

I was involved with the Gender Equality (GE) department working on DRR related projects; as women and children are classed as being the most vulnerable groups in society, DRR related projects represented a large portion of the GE Program. During the placement I had the opportunity to liaise with colleagues across all priority areas during DRR meetings. This provided a good insight into how UNESCO’s multidisciplinary approach was able to cultivate a global culture of resilience through not only the content of UNESCO’s programs but also how it operated as an organisation. For instance, a strong ethos of UNESCO’s work within DRR is the requirements if new partnerships which can draw together stakeholders from all levels of society, across different regions, sectors and disciplines. In addition to the active approach to partnership development, UNESCO’s projects are created so to be more multi-lateral than bi-lateral, where relationships on a horizontal rather than vertical (top-down) are fostered in the development and implementation of a project. This is done during different phases of a project, for instance during the development of a project during meetings, field agents local to a particular area will be contacted and asked for local specific advice and updates. Most importantly however, UNESCO works directly with communities, and builds alliances which and tap into existing knowledge capacities. These relationships of knowledge are continually built upon and which also result in a tradition of feedbacks from the community, and for this reason multilateral structures are the most efficient.

In addition to this, colleagues working on different priority area will be able to scope out the projects aims and collaborate on the outcomes and outputs which synthesises their efforts and resources. Understanding this interconnectivity at an international level was personally very beneficial for gaining an insight into how the make-up of an organisation and its networks are able to best share and develop learning. For instance, UNESCO exists as a kind of membership body of around 195 Member States representing a vast and vibrant community of expertise and international insights, which come together regularly to discuss issues. This allows UNESCO to be as permeable to knowledge as possible by having an international expert community providing real time information which can be turned into lessons for sharing. This was very interesting to learn about from an international perspective, as my research looks at community stakeholder group’s engagement with policy processes and so understanding how UNESCO develops projects involving members from different groups in societies was very worthwhile.

Separate to being involved in cross-priority meetings, I also assisted in the development of a DRR e-learning platform which was to be used by vulnerable groups specifically women and young people in communities recognised as risk sensitive ( i.e. climatic variability, economic or political hazard). The course was specifically designed to be accessible for a variety of learner’s backgrounds, and that used limited text, in favour of emotional prompts which developed learning about local risks and skills in preparedness through a realistic narrative. As part of the task, I was involved in reviewing a selection of bids from various webpage developers who had previous experience in creating e-learning platforms which due to the nature of the project, involved criteria such as accessibility to terminology, inclusive design such as ‘friendly’  user prompts and existing experience with developing e-learning for vulnerable groups.

Whilst women are considered the most vulnerable groups in society they are also recognised as the most underused resource in DRR, which was raised during a seminar for UNESCO colleagues titled Gender in Disaster Risk Reduction. My role was to support the development of the seminar by assisting with conference room bookings, communicate with colleagues and source case studies. An interesting aspect of this training was how it was framed; this was the second seminar on the subject and there was some useful deliberation on whether it should be classed as an introduction or a review. This was an interesting dialogue to be part of because it gave a perspective that whilst UNESCO are a key actor in developing DRR intelligence, they are also as an organisation on their own journey, which could be seen across many other organisations involved in developing DRR programs.  Similar to this, another beneficial insight from the internship was understanding UNESCO’s current attempts at transformation; UNESCO like many other organisations have experienced increasing limitations on their resources, and as a consequence of this the organisation is currently going through its own restructure which has encouraged new methods of assessing a projects performance such as its timescale, method of evaluation, and how effective its means at disseminating learning are. In this respect, whilst UNESCO is a very large international organisation, as an intern during this time it was a useful insight to understand that it too was agile in how it operated.

5) Main findings – clearly explained.

The main findings of this placement with UNESCO are based on my fist hand experiences as an intern working with DRR related projects. The most impressive learning that I took away from the experience was that creating the right kinds of spaces and networks are really fundamental for shaping effective DRR projects. UNESCO has such a wealth of expertise made up in the fabric of its membership that it can gain intelligence from the community setting, as well as that of the field practitioners, but what is key to the success of its projects is the level by which UNESCO aligns people across the stakeholder groups to play an inclusive role. This insight represents that learning can and does come from different levels of society either by one community’s experience of a hazard or a review of a project, but what is important is for the experience to be captured and the knowledge shared so that it can be accessed by different communities for their own DRR needs.

In creating the right opportunities for stakeholder groups to engage, project outcomes and outputs can be merged together, and resources and efforts made best use of which is an effective approach given the current stress on resources. But opportunities to unify projects like this is largely only possible when people across the priorities are able to come together and talk about their projects using time specially allocated for DRR interests. In this respect, whilst an organisation at an either international or national level has diverse interests and responsibilities, there are often overlaps which can be combined.

6) Conclusion

In conclusion to this case study, my experience with UNESCO has led me to think more critically about how processes of learning can in themselves be an effective outcome for developing a culture of DRR. It has led me to reflect on how the DRR culture is being cultivated within Scotland across stakeholder groups, and whether the processes of developing this culture is influenced by the types of structures that are in place. As an experience, this placement has helped me understand that there is so much learning to be shared which can further DRR efforts, even if it is something as simple as a post evaluation tool used by participants or practitioners which assesses their learning post involvement with a DRR project. This has helped me to define the topic of my PhD research in collaboration with the Scottish Government Resilience Division where I am interested to know about how tools and processes for resilience learning can influence effective policy processes. Through this I will be exploring what kinds of networks, processes and tools stakeholder groups, particular those from the community currently use for sharing learning to see if there is an opportunity to better capture and mainstream this information.

6) Some useful links for anyone who wants to know more

Information on the Millennium Development Goals

Information on Gender Equality

Information on developing culture of resiliency through education

7) References

UNESCO (2014)

Trip to the west of the archipelago

Hello from Galapagos,

Sorry I have not been in touch for a while, but I’m back with lots of news. During the month of February my supervisors Professor Terry Dawson and Dr Ken Collins came to visit me in the Galapagos Islands. For their arrival I organised a diving trip to the west of the archipelago to search for marine invasive species. The itinerary was to leave the Island of Santa Cruz and travel toward the island of Santiago spend a day diving there and then travel all the way up the coast of Santiago and the east of Isabela Island round the top to Punta Vicente Roca where to our surprise we found orcas and sunfish at one of our dive spots. From this point we travelled to the island of Fernandina, which is the island most west of the archipelago where a huge upwelling occurs. After Fernandina we slowly made our way down Canal Bolivar stopping at different dive spots we have on the way. During the dives we found Caulerpa racemosa var. occidentalis and Asparagopsis taxiformis in a few of the sites. These two types of algae are known to be invasive in other parts of the world and are established in the Galapagos Marine Reserve but do not show an invasive behaviour. At this time there are 6 of these species that are on our watch list. This means we are keeping an eye on them in case they change their behaviour and start affecting the ecosystems because of some change in the environment due to climate variations or physical changes.

This trip was part of the yearly monitoring for marine invasive species around the archipelago. At the end of the trip we stopped off at Puerto Villamil, which is one of the inhabited ports on the island of Isabela, here I presented our findings to the Galapagos National Park and the community. There was a lot of interested and I have been asked to return to the island and give another talk to the schools in the area. In Puerto Villamil we also held meetings with some of the collaborating institution that are the Galapagos NationalPark and the Ecuadorian Navy. The last activity we conducted was theport monitoring around the main passenger docks, cargo docks and navigation buoys.

 More from the Galapagos soon,



Living and Learning in a New Culture

During my fieldwork, I have been fortunate enough to become affiliated with the Geology and Geography Department at the University of West Indies Mona Campus here in Kingston. My supervisor at the University of Dundee, Dr Susan Mains was a member of the teaching staff for many years (and sorely missed may I add). It is through her connections that I have been allowed to connect with the academics here, something I am really appreciative of. The staff’s research interests include Environmental Sustainability, Biogeography, Hydrology, Agriculture and Tourism. The campus also boasts a Geo Informatics Department and Disaster Studies Unit which tie in with the hazards element of my work.

On Thursday, I presented at one of the ‘Brown Bag’ sessions that take place in the department on Thursday lunchtimes. This is an opportunity for lecturers and postgraduate students to come together and learn and converse current research occurring in their own department and from outside research community. I was very impressed with the engagement of my audience and the huge amount of feedback, advice and interest in my work. This was especially significant as a majority of those in attendance were native to Jamaica and gaining context specific knowledge from locals is invaluable to my thesis.

One of the many reasons behind choosing to study street-connected young people in Jamaica was the limited amount of literature that I had access to in the United Kingdom from the Jamaican and wider Caribbean context on the topic. In my opinion, this is due to both a greater emphasis on the cause within other regions of the world namely; Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa and additionally a lack of international circulation of some excellent work being done in the Caribbean.

By having access to the facilities here on Mona Campus, I have become more attuned to the perceptions and concerns of Jamaican academics on the subject. Personally, I have also been fortunate to live with a local Jamaican family in Kingston which has been a really positive and insightful experience. Being able to discuss and query events, interactions and ideas with them on a daily basis has been such a bonus and is making my time in Jamaica a much more culturally rich one.

My social background and appearance make it difficult to become completely immersed in Jamaican society but I like to think that I have made a strong effort to engage with the culture and everyday practices of both my young participants and the wider population that I encounter daily. Interestingly friends and colleagues in Jamaica have been equally fascinated in learning about my own cultural background, some aspects of which I may promote this weekend for St Patrick’s Day… 🙂

View from Geography and Geology Department at UWI Mona Campus

View from Geography and Geology Department at UWI Mona Campus

View from Geography and Geology Department at UWI Mona CampusView from Geography and Geology Department at UWI Mona Campus


Earthquake Awareness in Jamaica

Hi all,

Apologies for the delay in blogging recently; having passed the mid-way point of my stay here in Kingston, my schedule has gotten a little crazy as I push to explore all possible avenues in my research topic. Fieldwork is going as hoped though and I am happy with the progress so far. Of course there are always setbacks and challenges, especially when using a variety of different participatory methods with a range of young people. I am definitely excited to share some of my findings though when I return to Scotland in a few months.

Aside from working with street-connected young people, I have been making efforts to enhance my knowledge on the natural disaster element of my thesis. As a social geographer, this aspect of the fieldwork is something I am less acquainted with but through the support of various environmental and disaster management organisations in the city, this is quickly changing.

The week ending 18th January was Earthquake Awareness Week here in Jamaica and I was fortunate enough to attend the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) Open Day. The Open Day brought together a range of experts from media, emergency services, charities, researchers and governmental organisations. All of the representatives demonstrated their own contributions to disaster management and risk reduction efforts through talks, activities and displays.

A group of young representatives from a range of schools in the city came along to the event and performed on stage under the theme of Earthquake Awareness. In true Jamaican style these performances were soulful, vibrant and very entertaining for everyone to watch. Music is a very important aspect of life in Jamaica, particularly for young people, so I felt that allowing students to learn about disaster risk reduction through song and dance was a particularly clever approach.

Jamaica encounters approximately 200 earthquakes a year, usually with a magnitude under 4.0 which means a majority of them go unnoticed by the general public. Nonetheless, Jamaica has not experienced a serious major earthquake since Kingston was hit in 1907 and experts have warned that another one is very overdue. Well documented reasons for this include poor building regulations and overcrowding in Kingston and the reclaimed land in the surrounding areas. ODPEM’s motto is “Disasters do happen…be Prepared” and I believe that they, with the support of other likeminded organisations, will continue to promote the importance of planning within the wider community over time. Through my own research, I am interested to know to what extent street-connected young people can participate in these preparations and hopefully as my fieldwork continues, this will become more apparent.

Jade Catterson

Tower Street, Kingston after the 1907 Earthquake (Taken from Gleaner Online 2012) Are Jamaicans more prepared 107 years later?

Tower Street, Kingston after the 1907 Earthquake (Taken from Gleaner Online 2012) Are Jamaicans more prepared 107 years later?

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kingston after 1907 Earthquake (Taken from Gleaner Online 2012) Are Jamaicans more prepared 107 years later?

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kingston after 1907 Earthquake (Taken from Gleaner Online 2012) Are Jamaicans more prepared 107 years later?

G’day from down under!

I’m Sophie, a CECHR PhD student currently on placement studying at the University of Tasmania, Australia (UTAS). I am only a few days in but rapidly finding my feet thanks to being welcomed into a great department- and of course the good weather helps. Ordinarily I’m based in Wexford, Ireland studying sediment dynamics in agricultural catchments. My project is funded by the Walsh Fellowship Programme, Teagasc and collaborates with the University of Dundee/CECHR so really, I get the best of both worlds. This specific placement has been supported by the Australian Bicentennial Scholarship Fund from Kings College in London, UTAS and University of Dundee. I’m here to work on some exciting research so there’s a bit of background below to explain exactly what my project is, why I’m doing it and how my placement fits into my overall work programme.


The University of Tasmania

Sediment is an important and often underestimated pollutant in watercourses. It comes from eroded soils from a combination of places upstream. If we think about intensive agriculture, big bare fields which have just been seeded with a new crop may be at a high risk from heavy rain which causes soil particles to be washed in stream. The same can be said for rivers where stock can access the stream, the channel banks can be trampled causing sediment to move into the stream. However, the story isn’t quite so simple… There are many alternative sources of sediments such as naturally eroding channel banks which activate when river levels are high, and the edges of roads that can get eroded when vehicles pull in. My work is to identify where sediment is coming from and compare agricultural and non-agricultural sources in order to inform effective mitigation strategies and support increasing level of production, under increasing challenging climatic changes whilst protecting water quality.

It is difficult to measure soil loss from each source individually for a whole river catchment but what we can use a technique called sediment fingerprinting. This method can identify the contribution of sediment from the potential source areas of a mixed river sample based on the natural characteristics of the sediment particles. So the idea is, we can sample all potential sources and run samples through a range of instruments to get data on the geochemistry of the sample, the radionuclide assemblage and mineral magnetic characteristics. Each potential source area e.g. field topsoil, channel banks should have a different set of characteristics or ‘fingerprint’. We can then compare these source area fingerprints to a sediment sample collected in-stream which is assumed to be a mixture of potential sources. This river sample can be statistically ‘un-mixed’ in order to trace back the origin of the sample. So after two years of project planning, data collection and lab processing I can finally spend some time brushing up my stats skills and work on this component.

Fortunately, an un-mixing model already exists which not only allows us to report how much sediment is coming from where, but can give an uncertainty estimation too. And that is why I’m here as it was co-written by Prof. Stewart Franks at UTAS. Over the next three months, I’ll be keeping you posted on developments. Feel free to comment, ask questions etc.

New Year and New Experiences

Hi all,

Hope everyone had an enjoyable Festive period and New Year wherever and however it was spent.

I spent my holidays in Kingston, a completely different experience from my usual Christmas activities in Ireland. The food was fantastic – ackee and saltfish (national dish of Jamaica) and all the other trimmings. Can’t say I missed the cold weather either…

Fieldwork resumed a few weeks ago and I have now moved on to my second case study area in the outskirts of Kingston. The area in question (which will remain anonymous for now) has had recurring problems from storms, hurricanes and landslides for many years due to the terrain and soil quality there. Gilbert, Gustav, Dean and Sandy have all troubled the location and made life incredibly difficult for those who live there, particularly the young people who walk up to two hours to and from school everyday in this challenging environment.

I have been meeting with a group of young people between the ages of eight and 14 for the past two weeks and so far their cooperation and response to the research has been really positive and enthusiastic. Previous efforts with the mapping element of my participatory techniques hadn’t proved to be as straightforward as I had hoped but through working with the young people and adapting my original plans to fit with their ideas, I feel that I am starting to make better progress. I am discovering first hand the importance of providing participants with the opportunity to guide and manipulate the methods to best fit with their own situation, interest and knowledge. After a successful day on Thursday, I am excited to say that I may have found some budding cartographers of the future.

Look forward to updating you again soon.

I have included a picture I have taken of the road situation (still remaining from Hurricane Sandy 2012) in parts of St Andrews Parish, Jamaica where all of my research is taking place. Something which can be extremely dangerous and inconvenient for the residents who live close by.

Road damage from Hurricane

Galapagos Islands

The New Year brings, new research and with it this great new initiative called CECHR Sphere. My name is Inti and I am excited to share my research and adventures on this site.

 I am a PhD candidate at the University of Dundee in the School of the Environment studying Marine Invasive Species in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. I am based in the Galapagos Islands on the Island of Santa Cruz and in the town of Puerto Ayora where I work in collaboration with the Charles Darwin Research Station. My research looks to minimise the negative impacts of invasive species on marine biodiversity, ecosystem services and the health of the Galapagos Marine Reserve, I will be using geospatial treatments of local and regional marine invasive species distributions and combining them with marine traffic routes that will help me identify hotspots of transmission and propagation within the Galapagos Marine Reserve and the wider Eastern Tropical Pacific. Furthermore the use of oceanographic modelling systems and risk assessment tools will be used to predict possible invasions and assist local stakeholders such as the Galapagos National Park and the Biosecurity Agency with management strategies. In the following months I will be organising field trips around the Galapagos Marine Reserve and the main ports of the islands conducting monitoring surveys looking for marine invasive species. I will update you on my adventures and post my findings.

Wishing you a great day from the Galapagos Islands