Who we are
James Gibbs. James is Professor and Associate Chair, Department of Forest and Environmental Biology, State University of New York. Dr. Gibbs first came to Galapagos as a seventeen year old and worked in near complete isolation for six months on the island of Daphne Major as a Galapagos Finch research project. Dr. Gibbs is now a leader in the field of conservation biology, he has worked extensively in north and south America and Eurasia, published several text books and numerous scientific articles in the field of Conservation Biology with a focus on reptiles. James provides council on all aspects of tortoise biology and conservation. As the Principal Investigator on our US National Science Foundation grant, James is officially in charge! We like to think that we have all the fun and he does all the admin.
Charles Yackulic. Charles is the brains behind most of what we do. His professional training is primarily in statistics and modeling of animal movement and other complex ecological problems, but Charles also has a solid background in hands on field research and conservation. This combination gives him an unusual ability to see all sides of the research programme, think strategically about questions, hypotheses, data requirements and analytical procedures in advance of actually generating any of them. This is much needed help for some of the more exuberant members of the team. Unfortunately Charles has a full time job outside of the programme, and offers us his help in his spare time.
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Carolina Proaņo is an Ecuadorian ecologist, who has been connected to the Galapagos for many years. She has worked on several projects both in science and community education in Ecuador. At the moment he is finishing his PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology working on the movement ecology of the critically endangered Galapagos petrel. Carolina believes that building bridges between scientists and local communities is a priority for conserving ecosystems. Therefore Carolina is ideally suited to her role in the programme as Education Officer.
Dr. Sharon L. Deem is a wildlife veterinarian and epidemiologist with over 20 years experience spanning north and south America, Africa and Asia in over 25 countries. Dr. Deem has worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society, Smithsonian National Zoo, Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute, and currently is the Director of the Saint Louis Zoo Institute for Conservation Medicine. Sharon has a special fondness for elephants, turtles and jaguars! This is a stroke of luck since she oversees all aspects of tortoise health in our programme, the main responsibility of which is supervising a sub-study that is assessing the health status and reproductive potential of female tortoises that display different movement strategies.
Guillaume is a post-doctoral fellow at Department of Forest and Environmental Biology, State University of New York. He is the newest (and tallest) addition to the program and will be responsible for analysing the extensive dataset on tortoise movement. For his M.Sc and PhD, Guillaume studied the movement ecology and predator-prey interactions of black bears and migratory caribou in Canada. Despite his familiarity for large, Canadian mammals, Guillaume is excited to apply his expertise in animal movement ecology to the ongoing questions of the Giant tortoise movement ecology programme. As we can see from the photograph, Guillaume is ideally suited to life in the tropics, and we are confident he will make the transition.
Freddy Villamar was born and grew up on Santa Cruz Island. Like Fredy Cabrera, he spent many years working for the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Foundation on "Project Isabela", the largest goat eradication programme in history. Freddy's skills in logistics coupled with his capacity in the field make him an excellent field biologist on the tortoise programme.
Galo Quezada (left, and on the rim of Alcedo volcano ) is the Coordinator of Applied Science for the Galapagos National Park Service. As such he is central to the Galapagos Tortoise Movement Ecology Programme by maintaining a tight link between science and conservation. Mr. Quezada assures that the goals of the project are in line with those of the park service and that there are no conflicts between achieving scientific objectives and conservation. Mr. Quezada provides council in all aspects of the programme, technical, administrative and political. In this photo he is joined by Wacho Tapia who held the post of Coordinator of Applied Science prior to Mr. Quezada.
Martin Wikelski is Director of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, Germany, and Professor of Ecology at the University of Konstanz. Dr. Wikelski (officially Professor Doctor Wikelski, but we wont worry about that) has worked extensively on Galapagos for over 20 years, primarily on behavioural ecology and life histories of marine iguanas. His more recent work focuses on unravelling the complexity of animal migration, from bumblebees in Europe, to songbirds in the USA. Martin and his team developed the tracking technology that allows us to follow the detailed movements of Galapagos tortoises. Martin is one of the founders and visionary of www.movebank.org, an online animal movement database that allows diverse movement data from across many taxa to be stored and analysed in a coherent way.
The Galapagos Tortoise Programme is coordinated by Stephen Blake of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. His affiliations also include the Charles Darwin Foundation on Galapagos, The University of Missouri in St. Louis, Washington University in St. Louis, The St. Louis Zoo, and The College of Environmental Science and Forestry, State University of New York. Dr. Blake came to Galapagos in 2008 following the career of his wife, a wildlife veterinarian contracted to work on disease risks to Galapagos birds. In 2009 he started the programme with seed money from the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology. Prior to his involvement in Galapagos, Dr. Blake worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society in the Congo Basin for over 15 years, focusing on forest elephant conservation. These experiences were instrumental in helping develop the Galapagos Tortoise Movement Ecology Programme since there are many parallels in the ecology and conservation of giant tortoises in Galapagos and forest elephants in Africa.
Freddy Cabrera. Fredy is the Principal Field Technician of the programme. Employed by the Charles Darwin Foundation, Fredy is perfect in this role having grown up on Galapagos, and thus understands the terrain, knows most of the land owners, and has a good overall knowledge of tortoise distribution. For seven years, he was also a key member of one of the most successful conservation efforts ever undertaken on Galapagos - the eradication of goats from the islands. These qualities are indispensable when tracking tortoises over large, inaccessible areas of terrain. Within the programme, Freddy is developing computer skills to improve his capacity for data management and analysis.
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