Dinner Meeting Monday 24th July 2023

President Les Haswell welcomed a larger-than-usual number of guests – including our two young speakers, Isabela Tapia and Anson Baker-Berry. The title of their presentation was undoubtedly the attraction for our increased attendance.

Business was swiftly dealt with facilitating the beginning of an exceptionally interesting and informative joint presentation entitled “The Wonders of the Galapagos and what they Teach Us”.  Isabela and Anson are both students at Southampton University.  Isabela comes from the Galapagos Islands, she holds an MSc in Biodiversity Conservation. She has a deep passion and interest in bridging the gap between scientific research and local knowledge. She wants to pioneer innovative and community-driven conservation models that will empower local people to be stewards of their own environment. 

Anson is an MSc student studying Maritime Science Engineering. He is also an avid sailor, and global traveller, and has lifelong wildlife photographic experience. His passion is protecting the environment and slowing climate change. He plans to use his degree to reduce carbon emissions through the development of emission-free, high-speed water transportation.  As a post-graduate, he will continue this work by designing an electro-hydro foiling fast ferry on the basis of an existing hull shape. This project has attracted a substantial government grant for the production of a prototype.

Anson opened their presentation by sharing with us some of his wonderfully detailed and evocative photographs showing us the great variety of landscape, and wildlife on the Galapagos Islands. Through his beautiful photographs, we saw a wealth of sea lions strolling the shores, many with their young ones, gently gliding sea turtles below shallow waters, huge, giant tortoises, some stretching their necks and heads beyond the sanctuary their huge, solid shells, darting lizards, dozing iguanas with their variety of colours and sizes. Through Anson’s camera lens, we saw a variety of sea and land birds, including the distinctive blue-footed booby – loved by visitors due to their brightly coloured, large blue feet. Apparently, females favour the males with the largest, most brightly coloured feet – so perhaps human males should invest in a pair of bright blue shoes!  We saw the cactus finch, a great pollinator, together with fishing birds. Because of the isolated location of the islands, biodiversity is low and many species require protection.

Isabela is a conservation biologist. Her long-term career aim is to create a shift in the field of science and conservation where traditionally unheard, underrepresented and undervalued local voices are invited to take part in the decision-making processes that will affect their environment and community. They will ultimately become stewards of their own environment. This innovative policy of inclusion should eventually lead to a vast reduction in animal trafficking, poaching, and death to many endangered species – such as the giant tortoises, whose welfare and future viability are of special scientific and biological interest to Isabela. The tortoise population is declining, due to a lack of supervision and enforcement of protection regulations. Climate change and visitor control are other factors.

Education, especially for the young, is the key to helping our vulnerable wildlife survive for our future wonder and enjoyment. 

Anson showed us the beauty of wildlife in danger, and Isabela described some of the solutions. Thank you both for uplifting us and making us more hopeful, through your research, for the future of our precious wildlife.

Diana Brooks

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