The Barcode Galapagos project is aiming to have an impact in two major areas – one to provide alternative livelihoods for Galapagos community members to support conservation science and two, to describe the genetic profile of all species found in the Archipelago, from Scalesia trees to blue-footed boobies, from microbes to giant tortoises.
Many groups of species in Galapagos remain unstudied, particularly coral reef fish and microorganisms that make up most of the Islands’ biodiversity. Although it sounds ambitious, experts believe ecosystem-level barcoding is feasible due to the remote location and volcanic origins rendering the Galapagos ecosystem relatively ‘simple’, with around 9,000 multicellular species. Furthermore, having a Galapagos barcode biodiversity library will help scientists and conservationists measure the health of Galapagos environments and support species reintroductions or captive breeding programmes over the long term. It can also detect environmental threats by identifying new invasive species entering Galapagos or tracing illegally trafficked shark fins or animals sold as pets through black markets.
Engaging the local community in conservation science is essential for ensuring the protection of the natural environment. The Barcode Galapagos project was launched in 2020 with a grant from the UK Government’s Newton Fund and this first phase of the project employed local people in Galapagos, specifically Galapagos National Park guides who were hit hard at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Newly trained lab and field technicians carried out research on the genetic diversity of the species of the Galapagos Islands and the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Following the end of the Newton grant, and with the reopening of tourism in Galapagos meaning many of the guides returning to work, the project has been scaled down in size. Since November 2021, GCT has supported the continuation of the project by funding core staff and six lab assistants.
Robin Betancourt is a captain and fisher involved in the Barcode Galapagos project as a field assistant. Watch this video to find out more about his experience on the project:
“I’m from Quito and have been a resident of Galapagos for more than 40 years. I was a captain, but since the pandemic, I was forced to do any activity available in order to provide for my family. The main limitation I’ve encountered in this project is technology, but I’m learning through the process. I’m grateful for this opportunity.” – Robin Bellacourt, Barcode Galapagos.
Jaime Chaves, Corbin Jones and Diana Pazmiño explain more about the project in this webinar with NCSciFest:
To find out more about the project, please visit our blog for project updates.
How you can help
Please become a GCT member today and help us protect the magnificent wildlife of Galapagos.