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The girls from Gills Club learning to snorkel
17/12/2020 History of Galapagos

GCT’s 25th Anniversary Blog Series – Part 3

This year, Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT) celebrated its 25th anniversary. Here is the third blog from our three part interview series.

Photograph of Ben Stockwell

Ben Stockwell

Former Communications & Membership Officer at Galapagos Conservation Trust

This year, Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT) celebrated its 25th anniversary. To mark this historic occasion, we decided to ask some of our founders, ex-trustees and partners, as well as long-term members, supporters and volunteers about their experiences of GCT, the Islands and to get their thoughts on their hopes for GCT in the future. Below you can find part three of our interview series.

What education work do you deliver on the Islands, and how has it changed since you first started?

Diana Alexandra Pazmiño Jaramillo, Galapagos Science Center and GCT’s Connecting With Nature Programme:

I work in different education projects; one of them is a scientist’s club for girls aged 8-13: Gills Club (Chicas con agallas in Spanish). We started almost a year ago with a pilot project, and it has been amazing! Twelve girls joined in 2019. They have participated in field monitoring trips, laboratory practices, and other activities to learn more about the oceans. Although it is a young project, it has got the interest and support from other local institutions. We expect this project continues to grow in the coming years, with more girls participating and experiencing science first hand.

The girls from Gills Club learning to snorkel © Galapagos Science Center

The girls from Gills Club learning to snorkel © Galapagos Science Center

Anne Guezou, GCT’s Education and Outreach Coordinator: 

When I first arrived on the Islands, over 30 years ago, there were less formal educational opportunities, but most of the local residents had direct contact with the natural surroundings and wildlife. Over the years, children have become less connected with the outdoors and Galapagos’ wildlife. Fortunately, a variety of great educational initiatives have emerged in the Islands over the past few years.

Promoted by the Galapagos Governing Council and the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education, among others, an inclusive consultation process named ‘Galapagos Agreement for Education’ has recently started to understand what is taking place and how the specific needs of children living in Galapagos can be integrated into the main Ecuadorian curriculum, as well as how to enable the different local projects to collaborate. The collective includes groups and individuals involved in formal and non-formal education from the Galapagos civil society, as well as the public and private sectors. I am pleased to be involved in this work as I think it could achieve great progress in nature-based education, and I am sitting on a couple of the working committees.

In the meantime, we are doing our best to keep local youths involved in our projects via virtual activities while COVID-19 restrictions are in place. We hope to be able to resume our experiential activities in the first trimester of 2021, with field and hands-on work to support and learn about our giant tortoise research, or about the problems caused by the plastic that washes up onshore and how to do a microplastics survey.

How do you see your education work changing in the future? Alternatively, how would you like it to change?

Diana Alexandra Pazmiño Jaramillo, Galapagos Science Center and GCT’s Connecting With Nature Programme:

As a woman growing up in Galapagos and pursuing a science career, I am extremely aware of the day to day challenges for local girls. The Gills Club offers an opportunity for local girls to get involved in science while meeting female role models from an early stage. The pilot project has demonstrated the potential of the girls to learn and communicate the message to their families and friends. But, most importantly, the potential to engage and empower them to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics careers, and to be part of the change we want to see in Galapagos.

Why is education on the Islands so important?

Diana Alexandra Pazmiño Jaramillo, Galapagos Science Center and GCT’s Connecting With Nature Programme:

We are surrounded by nature in Galapagos, and our economy is largely based on this nature. Still, our connection with the ecological system is very limited. It is crucial that we become aware of this rich environment, its problems, its challenges, but most importantly, we must take an active part in the development of solutions. Education is a key component to achieve local participation.

What are your aspirations for GCT for the next 25 years?

Alan Chapman, GCT Guardian member and long-term volunteer:

To continue its vital work on contributing to the conservation of the unique environment of Galapagos.

Landscape Runner Up - Land Meets the Sea © Stephen Lamb

GCT’s primary goal is to preserve this unique and ecologically important set of islands © Stephen Lamb

Julian Fitter, GCT’s Inaugural Chair:

When we set up GCT back in the last century, I always felt that it was important that GCT grew into an organisation that played a significant role in the protection and preservation of the Islands. While helping to fund research and other studies is important, I would like to see that it has a voice in the planning of the conservation of the Islands. There needs to be really broad support from many organisations, all with the same desires and objectives; that way any plans and actions for the future will be soundly based and well supported worldwide.

Richard Robinson, Ex-Chair and Ex-Trustee of GCT:

Preserving the ecosystem of the Islands as best we can; no more extinctions; providing a beacon and example of what can be achieved living with wildlife and the environment.

Ways to get involved

In our 25th year, the conservation of the Islands has never been more vital, as this unique Archipelago faces pressures from invasive species, plastic pollution, overfishing, climate change and habitat degradation. Why not become a member today for as little as £3 a month, and help to preserve these Islands for years to come? Or head over to our shop to purchase a Galapagos themed gift.

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