After 15 hours’ traveling from New York City, I arrived on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos and started my summer as a Seamounts Research Intern at the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF). On World Oceans Day, just two days into my new position, I experienced first-hand the prevailing passion in the archipelago for conservation. Since 2002, this annual celebration of the beauty and intrinsic value of the ocean has taken place , where the community is encouraged to collaborate, find solutions for a healthier future, and become stewards of the world’s oceans. On World Oceans Day, the Seamounts team at CDF shared the unique mysteries of deep-water ecosystems with the community.
Seamounts in the Galapagos Marine Reserve
Seamounts – underwater mountains that don’t breach the surface – are hotspots of biodiversity which reconfigure ocean currents, control movement of nutrient-rich waters and supply local fisheries. Seamounts are one of the most abundant ecosystems globally, yet remain heavily understudied. Scientists at CDF are the first to study the seamounts in the Galapagos Marine Reserve, and have already discovered several new species: mysterious creatures that are unknown to humankind!
Seamount research at CDF will hopefully lead to increased protection of these ecosystems from harmful anthropogenic impacts. After the Deep Rover 2 expedition in the Galapagos Marine Reserve, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute stated: “Seamounts were teeming with fish and marine invertebrate life, including many species of economic importance for the archipelago, and many new potential records for the GMR”.
The seamounts team led informative discussions, shared submarine video footage, and inspired the next generation of conservationists with coloring activities of seamount fauna and face-painting. Those who attended were introduced for the first time to the deep-sea organisms that inhabit seamounts and learned the value of conserving seamounts in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Passersby captured photos in a recreation of a submarine, and spoke to scientists from CDF about their innovative work. “We need to understand and inform about seamount ecosystems at the Galapagos Marine Reserve to protect them for future generations,” said Patricia Marti Puig, Senior Marine Ecologist/Seamounts Project Leader at Charles Darwin Foundation.
The seas are undoubtedly Earth’s largest physical feature, and often it seems too much of a task to restore its former level of biodiversity, mitigate climate change impacts, and rebuild marine communities. On World Oceans Day, scientists, citizens, and tourists were able to join together as champions of progress in the worldwide movement to celebrate the promise of the oceans. For CDF, this day marked the beginning of increased engagement with the community, collaboration with local schools, and spreading research and outreach to other Galapagos Islands.
World Oceans Day in Santa Cruz was made possible by World Wildlife Fund, Galapagos National Park Directorate, Conservation International, and Charles Darwin Foundation, among others. The Seamounts project is BioMar’s latest research initiative that began in 2015 as a collaborative effort between the Galapagos National Park Directorate, Nautilus Exploration Program/Ocean Exploration Trust, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and Pristine Seas/National Geographic Society.
Isaac Deonarine Jr. is a senior studying Applied Mathematics and Biology at CUNY Queens College in New York City. Through the Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship, he arrived at Charles Darwin Foundation in June 2017 as a Seamounts Research Intern.
Isaac is a passionate environmentalist and artist, in addition to being a Jeannette K. Watson Fellow and Golden Key International Honour student. Having previously worked for Wildlife Conservation Society and 100 Resilient Cities, Isaac is interested in analyzing and addressing potential conflicts to biodiversity, sustainability, and ecological and public health to strategically plan for future change.
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