Howard Snell, (505) 277-3524
Michael Bliemsrieder, (505) 277-3692
Steve Carr, (505) 277-1821

December 5, 2001


The University of New Mexico Biology Department, in conjunction with the Charles Darwin Foundation, will present a public presentation on the “Conservation of the Galapagos Islands,” on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2001 at 3:30 p.m. in Castetter Hall, room 100 on main campus.

UNM is the only university in the United States that has a collaborative agreement with the Charles Darwin Foundation. Under the agreement, which has been in existence for the past 10 years, UNM has sent 20 graduate and undergraduate students, along with 10 faculty members to do research on the Galapagos Islands, home of a wide variety of unusual plants and animals.

Additionally, 25 Ecuadorian students have come to UNM to conduct laboratory research and training relevant to their Galapagos Islands research.

The collaborative agreement was renewed for five years through May 2006 in a memo of understanding signed between UNM, the Department of Biology, the Museum of Southwestern Biology and the Charles Darwin Research Station of the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands in June 2000.

Michael Bliemsrieder, coordinator of the Invasive Species Program at the Charles Darwin Foundation, and UNM Associate Professor Howard Snell, who is also the program leader of Vertebrate Ecology and Monitoring at the Darwin Foundation, will present the seminar.

“Their (Galapagos) influence on Darwin’s ideas about evolution and natural selection are famous,” said Snell. “However, many species of the Galapagos are threatened with extinction and the Islands could soon be recognized as a living laboratory for conservation biology rather than for evolution.”

UNM’s agreement with the Charles Darwin Foundation seeks to combine the university’s strengths in education and research along with the Foundation’s mission of promoting conservation. The agreement fosters exchange programs for students, faculty and staff of both institutions and provides unique opportunities for UNM students to become involved in important programs in one of the most biologically famous areas of Latin America.

“Alien invasive species are probably the one single problem that keeps us awake at night.” said Bliemsrieder. “For decades, the conservation community has been able to avert disaster from wildfires, oil spills and increasing development pressures. But now we are at a point where we must spend millions of dollars during the next few years just to avoid the most invasive of these aliens getting out of control.”

The Galapagos Islands were largely isolated from outside influences until the 1800s. Over the years, the invasive species, which includes goats, pigs, mules, cats, rats and mice, multiplied enough to become a threat to the native species by the early 1980s. A coordinated effort, including eradication, control and mitigation, is underway through the conservation program.

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