Connecting with Nature: engagement opportunities with ocean conservation for the San Cristobal island community, schools and tourists

Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT) and Galapagos Science Center (GSC) were thrilled to welcome Leidy Apolo to the team as the new San Cristobal based Oceans Outreach Coordinator in 2019. Leidy, whose background is in environmental education, has also worked within the tourism industry and has lived on San Cristobal since 2007 with strong relationships with local institutions and community organisations. Her post at the Galapagos Science Centre has been fuly funded by GCT and complements the work of Anne Guezou, GCT’s Outreach Coordinator on Santa Cruz as part of our wider Connecting with Nature programme.

Leidy’s work throughout 2019 has focused on developing and delivering ocean-themed engagement activities, in particular supporting local teachers, school groups and families. Leidy played a significant role in delivering the Marti the Hammerhead Shark school activities as seen in our Marti update blog. In February and March 2019, she also helped deliver vacation courses for 72 children from the local community.

Marti the Hammeread Shark educational Session © Galapagos Science Center + Archipielago Films

Throughout 2019 and into 2020, Leidy and her colleague Ashleigh Klingman organised free monthly Connecting with Nature activities for the San Cristobal community. These events are delivered on the first Saturday of every month with a different theme on Playa Mann, a popular public beach in front of the Galapagos Science Center. The target audience is families with younger children (<10 years) but the sessions are open to the whole community. There is growing empathy from local families towards wildlife and increased interest in learning about sharks and mega marine fauna.

Connecting with Nature Days © Galapagos Conservation Trust

Connecting with Nature Days © Galapagos Conservation Trust

Another initiative in which Leidy played a significant part was the 2019 Galapagos Shark Hero campaign. A total of 51 locals participated and 11 winners (one first, five second and five third prizes) were publicly announced for their dedication to shark conservation projects. They received prizes and certificates during the Galapagos Research and Conservation conference in San Cristobal (June 2019).

Shark Heroes 2019 © Adrian Vasquez, Archipielago Films

Shark Heroes 2019 © Adrian Vasquez, Archipielago Films

Dr Carlos Mena, Co-Director of the Galapagos Science Center said “We have made a lot of progress, with a special focus on establishing trust in our community and creating the social networks we need to communicate our message of conservation and sustainability in Galapagos. We want to continue working on this very special project, which we consider a successful and productive endeavour”.

Find out more about our Connecting with Nature Programme. Help us inspire even more young people across the Galapagos Islands by donating to this project today.

This work benefits from the support of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.

By Stephanie Strutt and Beth Byrne