ECOVENTURA partners with Ecology Project International in Galapagos

ECOVENTURA partners with Ecology Project International in Galapagos




ECOVENTURA partners with Ecology Project International in Galapagos


Ecology Project International or EPI is a non-profit organization whose main
goal is to inspire conservation in young people through education and field
science programs. EPI develops field-based academic courses for 15-17 year
old students who live in Galapagos, focusing on experiential learning in
three main areas: science, conservation and intercultural exchange. From
February to August, several groups of 12 students and two teachers spend 50
hours in the field and then design and carry-out a research project using
the data they collect. In 2014, a total of 120 students participated in the



Course work includes tortoise monitoring in the Galapagos National Park and
breeding center, eradication of invasive species, seed dispersal, nest
protection from invasive animal species through team activities, art and
journaling. EPI oversees the Mola Mola Ecology Club made up of students
dedicated to take an active role in conservation and influence positive
change in their community. The club organizes beach cleanups and cultural
exchanges with visiting students.



Ecoventura, a recognized leader in sustainable tourism in the Galapagos
Islands, has offered life-enriching experiences since 1990, as owner and
operator of an expedition cruise company, with a fleet of superior
first-class 20-passenger motor yachts, Eric, Flamingo & Letty, for active
adults and families, providing an authentic experience in small compatible
groups, and on the 16-passenger luxury dive live-aboard, MV Galapagos Sky
for experienced scuba divers. Ecoventura was the first company to earn the
voluntary certification, Smart Voyager in 2000 and The Rainforest Alliance
Verification in 2011. The company was the first to offset carbon emissions
from 2006 to 2011 and reduced CO2 by 10% through the installation of solar
panels and wind generators to the MY Eric, the first hybrid yacht in
Galapagos. In 2006, Ecoventura established the Galapagos Marine Biodiversity
Fund in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund that supports environmental
education and marine conservation by strengthening the local communities’
ability to manage natural resources.


Ecoventura first became involved with EPI in 2012 when we agreed to sponsor
12 students in the EPI ecology field course. Since then, Ecoventura has
sponsored 25 students each year, a total of 62 students with a donation of
$500 per student of $31,000 total to date. The goal is to develop
critical-thinking skills and a conservation ethic along with knowledge of
the problems that threaten the sustainability of the islands.



In 2014 Ecoventura included a cultural exchange and/or scientific project
during the cruise on four designated family teen departures. The families
visit the EPI camp in the highlands called “Reserva Parajo Brujo” where they
are able to join the EPI students in a scientific project of seed dispersal,
followed by lunch at the camp. In the afternoon, the families got a tour of
the Puerto Ayora from a unique perspective given by the EPI Ecology Club
“Mola Mola” followed by a social activity. These trips were so successful
that four departure dates will be offered in 2015.



Ecoventura also launched an initiative for EPI students to assist them with
career exploration and decision making by offering the opportunity to
observe or “shadow” an Ecoventura naturalist guide. The Guides served as
mentors to four students in the field during a week-long cruise in 2012
aboard an Ecoventura yacht. In 2014, the career program was expanded to
include mentorship for all positions on board including Captain, chefs,
engineer. Local residents rarely get the opportunity to visit many of the
non-populated visitor sites in the archipelago. Often, even after guides
have passed the rigorous guide course, they have yet to experience the
islands themselves first hand. This program provides a valuable link to
motivate and encourage local students to pursue a career in science,
conservation/ ecology or as a professional naturalist guide or crew member. 



From EPI student Walter Pisco, who participated in our career mentoring

“This experience made a large impact on my outlook for the future. I would
like to explore the possibility of studying to become a boat Captain and to
study environmental sciences” Cecibel taught me there is nothing more
important than working for what one is passionate about. She showed me you
can be protective of the environment, while remaining highly professional
and patient with the tourists.”


Ecoventura also donates cruises to EPI teachers for their professional
development and donates a cruise for two toward the annual EPI fundraiser in
San Francisco CA. Through, Ecoventura sells cruises whereby 10%
of the proceeds go to EPI, around $800 for every cabin sold. Santiago Dunn,
the owner of Ecoventura, is the newest board member at EPI, based in
Missoula Montana.



Why we chose to support EPI:


Lack of quality education was among the 15 issues identified by the World
Heritage Committee when it recommended that Galapagos be placed on the list
of World Heritage sites in Danger in 2007. Specifically, local education
places little emphasis on independent thought and active learning.
Environmental themes have not been integrated into the curriculum and
teachers are not taking advantage of the physical surroundings as a natural
laboratory to teach and apply concepts. There is an absence of a general
capacity-building strategy among local residents to enable them to be better
prepared to undertake technical or professional work traditionally done by
people from the mainland or foreigners.  


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