Connecting with Nature: Join Science

By Stephanie Strutt and Beth Byrne

One of the goals of the Galapagos Ocean Outreach part of our wider Connecting with Nature programme is to enable engaged young people in Galapagos to get quality work experience placements linked to conservation science programmes.

It aims to improve career prospects for young adults (18+) by providing opportunities for them to develop their skills. More than 15 local undergraduate students based at the Galapagos Science Center (GSC) are participating in GSC’s Join Science Programme – an initiative to connect students with international researchers and real science projects on San Cristobal. The students have the opportunity to support projects both in the field and the lab. In the field, students are taught robust scientific sampling techniques, and as an added benefit, many of the sites visited for fieldwork would not normally be accessible for locals. The programme has provided more structure for student volunteers at the GSC, and resulted in improved pre-field briefings and safety measures. As undergraduate students, their involvement helps them to refine ideas for their dissertations, and even become specialist volunteers in some cases. Moreover, via the students, the programme has provided more opportunity to report research findings to the local community, including on a weekly local radio show and at ‘Coloquios’ (small community presentations). As a whole, Join Science is proving an effective method for building local capacity in scientific research and conservation communication.

Join Science students sampling microplastics at Punta Pitt © Sara Medor

Through our collaboration with Exeter University, three students received sponsorship to attend a plastics conference in Quito, Ecuador hosted at Universidad San Francisco de Quito with international experts from all over the world. Exeter University also provided counterpart funding for Wilson Andrade to come to the UK for three weeks in December 2019 to get valuable experience at Exeter’s plastic labs and at GCT’s office. Wilson is one of Join Science’s founding students. He says of the programme:

Since Join Science was created, things have improved a lot…..In addition to helping researchers with work in the field, we are now in charge of several scientific projects, since we have the necessary experience to work in it. We also have the opportunity to work in the laboratories of the Galapagos Science Center, processing samples or helping as necessary. Here everyone does everything. This program also allows us to work for the community and with the community. We perform various recreational activities to provide mutual and family learning. At this time, there are more than 20 members in the program, but we want more local students to join our project so they have the same experiences and opportunities as we do. I know this program has great potential, we are improving and we hope this family will grow much more.”

Wilson Andrade (right) representing the Galapagos Science Center and the Join Science programme at international workshop on plastics in Quito in September 2019.

You can read more about Wilson in our Q&A.

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.