• Patricia Hernandez

I’m going through all the photos I took while away, and realize that I am missing one type of photograph: portraits. Prior to the trip I had envisioned my project to contain portraits of Ecuadorians and Galapagos residents showing their emotions, and having descriptions that told their stories — kind of like the popular photo blog Humans of New York (http://www.humansofnewyork.com/). I got a few snaps of people at the end, but they were of people in Quito who I’ve never spoken to and don’t know their backgrounds. However, I plan on compensating for this by elaborating on the stories of those people that I did meet. One of these is Patricia Fernandez, our absolutely wonderful tour guide in Ecuador, who is pictured here with my friend Ethan and me. She used to be a school teacher before going into the tourism industry, and gave me some insight into the inevitable development in the Galapagos.

My project still remains the same: to look at the development in the Galapagos, and consequently, the loss of biodiversity, from the vantage point of the residents and to find out what locals think of it. I had the project in the back of my mind throughout the trip, and thanks to the efforts of my trip leaders who helped me translate, I was able to communicate with my homestay families. Armed with the many photos of uninhibited animals on the Islands, I have high hopes for my project as I begin to plan everything and put the pieces together with my mentor.

Until August 5, I will be away on a trip to Brazil with National Geographic, so you won’t hear from me until then! I’m very excited for the trip, because like the GLA trip to the Galapagos, it focuses on my three favorite fields: environmental science, ecology, and conservation biology.

Until then,

Kevin

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  • Cigarette smoke contains over 4000 toxins such as arsenic, carbon monoxide, cyanide, ammonia and more than 50 carcinogens. -Ministry of Public Health of Ecuador
  • The front of the packs show a pregnant woman smoking and says -Smoke poisons the baby, causing premature birth and death

When I was in Ecuador, something interesting I noticed was that on all the cigarette boxes, they have graphic images showing the harmful effects of smoking. They also explicitly say that the product is toxic. This is in stark contrast with the U.S., where right now there are just text warning labels. I did some research when I got home, and discovered that recent legislation in Ecuador required the size of health warnings on cigarette packs to be increased. Cigarette packs there now require images that occupy 60% of the front cover. Their efforts have been acknowledged, as Ecuador was placed in 8th place for good management of health advertisements, among the 198 member countries of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Ministry of Public Health has also imposed regulations prohibiting cigarette advertisements in mass media, and actively watched and demanded their completion. They have also persistently carried out communication campaigns (“Ecuador free of tobacco smoke” and “The damages to health by tobacco consumption”), the production of educational and promotional material, the declaration of spaces 100% free of tobacco smoke, the prohibition of advertising and sponsorship of tobacco products.

A study conducted in 2012 shows that graphic tobacco warning labels are more effective than text-only warnings at delivering anti-smoking messages. The researchers found that 50 percent of subjects remembered the text-only warning label, while 83 percent correctly recalled the label that contained a graphic image.

In 2009, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act mandated the FDA to require graphic labels on cigarette packages. In June 2011, the FDA approved nine images it would require cigarette manufacturers to place on cigarette packs. While placing these images may seem like an excellent idea, there are certain groups not interested in consumer health, and rather place their profit first. Tobacco companies sued to block the requirement, and the cases are pending.

Do you think the U.S. will soon follow suit with Ecuador and other countries that are using repulsive images to dissuade consumers from purchasing cigarettes? Why or why not?

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  • Notice the human development: buildings, restaurants, hostels
    Puerto Villamil in Isabela Island

    Notice the human development: buildings, restaurants, hostels

  • Notice the human development: buildings, restaurants, hostels
    Puerto Villamil in Isabela Island

    Notice the human development: buildings, restaurants, hostels

  • Notice the human development: buildings, restaurants, hostels
    Puerto Villamil in Isabela Island

    Notice the human development: buildings, restaurants, hostels

  • These stray dogs kept on coming up to us as we were walking through the town!
    Stray dogs

    These stray dogs kept on coming up to us as we were walking through the town!

  • These stray dogs kept on coming up to us as we were walking through the town!
    Stray dogs

    These stray dogs kept on coming up to us as we were walking through the town!

Hey guys! I returned from Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands on June 29, and have gratefully had the last few days to get some much-needed rest (living at 10,000 feet in Quito is definitely exhausting!). I’ve also been able to reflect carefully on my trip and my documentation project. While in the Galapagos, something I noticed was development – or the lack thereof, on some islands.

While in Isabela, we stayed in the port village of Puerto Villamil, which is the third-largest human settlement of the Galapagos archipelago. On the car ride up to our hostel, I had noticed very few human settlements; it was mostly farmland. However, as we approached the hostel, there were significantly more houses, hostels, stores, and restaurants. As we approached the boardwalk of Puerto Villamil, there were even rental shops specifically targeted to tourists (all the signs were written in English!). This made me think: at what point does human development infringe upon the animals’ rights to the land? How has it already affected plants and animals?

I directed my concerns to Patricia, who was our local expert. She told me that the Galapagos is actively promoting sustainable development, and that they monitor who comes in and for what purposes. However, humans and tourists have brought in invasive animals and plants like animals and mora (blackberries) that outcompete with native species. It’s something that has been troubling residents of the Galapagos, but they do their best to not interrupt the natural environment around them.

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Hey everyone! I’m Kevin, and I was selected as one of this year’s fellows at the Wandering Scholar! I’m from Brooklyn, New York but go to school in Staten Island. I will be traveling with Global Leadership Adventures on a trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands on June 16th to the 29th.

I am passionate about environmental science and improving the quality of environmental education. I believe that environmental science is one of the most important, central sciences; it can be seen the air, water, soil, and trees around us. However, environmental science is frequently disregarded in traditional school curricula. I can personally attest to this, having received no actual education in environmental science in elementary and middle school. Only recently in high school have I received true environmental science education, and that too was in the form of extracurricular study.

This segues well into my most favorite extracurricular activity, which is Envirothon. It’s sort of like a quiz-bowl type of thing, except this environmental science competition actually occurs in nature. I specialize in aquatic ecology for the competition, and it is how I first became involved in studying the environment and realizing my love for learning about it.

I can’t wait to volunteer at organizations in Ecuador that are dedicated to conservation efforts – something that I believe is intrinsically important. I’m really excited to explore the Galapagos Islands, an amazing archipelago that is home to a vast number of unique, endemic species and is literally a natural science laboratory. I’ll be breathing the same air Darwin did in the 19th century when he first devised the theory of natural selection!

For fun, I love to go hiking and trail running – or basically any other type of outdoors activity involving nature! My favorite artists are Bon Iver, the Lumineers, and Passion Pit. Three words that my friends would use to describe me are probably random, driven, and an overthinker.

As for my documentation project, I plan on photographing the vast amounts of biodiversity and the unique species present in Ecuador and the Galapagos. With this, I also plan on photographing the effects, if any, of human interaction on biodiversity on the Islands, and how native Ecuadorians are reacting to it. However, I am a little worried now that the Galapagos might actually not be undergoing any biodiversity loss, eliminating one of the main parts of my project! It’s subject to strict legislature that aims to protect its natural biodiversity; this severely limits the amount of human interference allowed. read more →