Connecting with Nature: 2019 Project Updates from GCT’s Santa Cruz based Outreach Coordinator Anne Guezou

By Rosanna Hine and Beth Byrne

In 2019, Anne Guezou has continued to bring the beauty of Galapagos to life for young islanders, international students and teachers, and engaged the local community as she has driven significant progress with GCT’s educational outreach across the Galapagos Islands. Anne’s work as part of our Connecting with Nature programme is a vital component of our Plastic Pollution Free Galapagos Programme and Galapagos Tortoise Movement Ecology Programme (GTMEP).

Highlights of Anne’s 2019 work include:

  1. GTMEP

There were 20 students enrolled in the Mola Mola ecology club in 2019. Anne conducted nine exciting sessions covering an array of themes. They played a game called ‘A Paso de Tortuga’- a hunt for clues that teaches the students about giant tortoises, they tracked tortoises on the Pikaïa reserve, undertook biodiversity surveys, and identified tortoise blood cells in the laboratory.

Anne helped Ecology Project International (EPI) implement Galapagos Wildlife Ecology courses across the Islands in which local students were able to join five-day residential camps, which included joining tortoise scientists and taking part in microplastic surveys. A total of 80 students and teachers participated from Isabela, Santa Cruz and San Crisotbal and the students gained a 15% improvement in environmental literacy.

EPI students © Ecology Project International

Anne supports the Galapagos National Park education team to enable Galapagos school teachers to strengthen lessons with experiential learning. Anne visited the El Chato tortoise reserve on Santa Cruz with three kindergarten classes from the San Fransico school and a class from the Santa Rosa Delia Ibarra school. Over 130 children, their parents and teachers learned about giant tortoises in the wild and how GTMEP tracks tortoises for conservation. For many, this might have been the first time they would have ever seen a giant tortoise in the wild.

With Loma Linda High School, Anne organised four fun hands-on sessions for eighteen 16-17 year old students. They played the ‘A Paso de Tortgua’ game, also popular with the Student Participation ‘Proyectos de Participación Estudiantil’ (PPE) students. They also learned about radio telemetry, how to analyse the data from tracking tortoises, and looked at tortoise seed dispersal and the role giant tortoises play in the ecosystem.

Tortoise-related activities with Loma Linda High School © Anne Guezou

Anne is also expanding her tortoise outreach activities onto Isabela, carrying out field and classroom activities with the PPE students from Stella Maris High school.

  1. Plastic Pollution Free Galapagos

As well as running a set of microplastic surveys as part of our Plastic Pollution Free Galapagos programme with GCT’s head of Programmes and PhD student, Jen Jones on Turtle Bay, the Mola Mola students also enrolled in the regional ‘Científicos de la Basura’ programme where they researched the local perceptions of plastic and looked for biotic interactions with marine plastic litter.

Left: Mola Mola members running a survey in Puerto Ayora. Right: looking for biotic interactions on beach litter. © Anne Guezou

The twenty four 11th Grade PPE students from various Santa Cruz schools; ten children from the ‘Casa de la Cultura’ holiday programme; Charles Darwin Foundations ‘Tibu-embarjadores’ club; EPI students; and students from Falmouth University also all took part in complementary microplastic surveys. All this citizen science data will form part of Jens PhD research.

Anne and Jen supported Daniel, a Mola Mola member and student at the Colegio Nacional Galapagos in Puerto Ayora. Daniel chose to investigate microplastics for an extended essay as part of his studies – an independent piece of research that would contribute to the citizen science work on Santa Cruz. His work looked at the variation, composition and distribution of microplastics on Tortuga Bay, a turtle nesting beach. As well as graduating with a diploma, Daniel inspired the Mola Mola team and another student on Isabela island, Lady, who will continue with similar work in Puerto Villamil.

Left to right: Daniel sieving the sand collected through a 1-mm mesh; 60cm-deep hole out of which sediment was collected; samples from two different depths; Daniel explains his project to tourists visiting Turtle Bay. © Anne Guezou

What an exciting year of outreach from Anne! Find out more about our Connecting with Nature Programme. Help us support Anne as she continues to inspire even more young people across the Galapagos Islands by donating to this project today.