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Head of the Department involved in project to rid Galapagos of plastic pollution

Posted on 31 May 2018

Professor John Schofield has joined other experts on the Galapagos islands to help develop a plan that will see the archipelago become a model on how to deal with plastic pollution.

At least 18 species have either been entangled by plastic, or ingested it. Pic Credit: Andy Donnelly (GCT)

There is a growing movement in the Galapagos to drastically reduce marine plastic pollution with the aim, one day, of having a plastic-free Galapagos Marine Reserve.

As part of this ambitious programme, Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT) gathered a team of UK marine plastic pollution experts, local Galapagos agencies and the local community to help the authorities develop a plan that will see the islands become a model for the world on how to deal with plastic pollution.


The workshop, hosted by the Galapagos Science Center (GSC) and the Charles Darwin Research Station, explored three main themes: quantifying the impacts of plastics to the Galapagos wildlife; determining where marine plastic pollution is coming from and where it goes to; and identifying solutions such as alternative products and behaviour change.

Plastic pollution is one of the most pressing issues facing marine wildlife around the world. Whilst the Galapagos islands in Ecuador remain one of the most pristine ecosystems in the world, they too are under pressure from this growing problem.

At least 18 Galapagos species have been recorded either entangled by plastic, or have been found to have ingested it, including the endangered Galapagos sea lion.

Partners, including the Galapagos National Park (GNP), the Galapagos Science Center (GSC) and the Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT), are working to combine ground-breaking scientific research with coordinated outreach in order to eliminate plastic pollution from the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR).

Professor Schofield examines a piece of plastic. Pic Credit: Adam Porter

Professor John Schofield, Head of the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, described his participation as a logical extension of his previous archaeological work.

He said: “Archaeology is about the relationships that people have with things, and using those things to better understand past human behaviours. It is just that in this case those things are plastic, and the behaviours are recent.

“Working alongside an environmental psychologist and an oceanographer to explore the causes of the pollution on Galapagos is a wonderful and significant opportunity to make a difference.

 “And it is important that our work aligns with those marine biologists and ecotoxicologists whose focus is more on the consequences, and working with the local community.

 “I am optimistic that together we can change behaviours and start to reduce the impact of marine plastics on Galapagos. Providing a solution here may provide further opportunities to do so elsewhere.”


Sharon Johnson, chief executive of GCT, added: “The Galapagos Islands are one of the most unique, scientifically important places on Earth. Galapagos Conservation Trust is proud to be working with local Galapagos agencies to tackle the issue of marine plastic pollution.

 “There is a real opportunity, and at a relatively low cost, to provide the world with an example of how we tackle plastic pollution in our oceans. We need to act now in order to help protect some of the world’s rarest species in one of the world’s most iconic archipelagos before it is too late. Everything is in place, bar funding.”>

The ‘Science to Solutions’ workshop occurred in Galapagos from May 9 – 12 2018 and was run by Galapagos Conservation Trust and the Galapagos Science Center. It brought together experts from the University San Francisco Quito, the Galapagos National Park, the Government Council of Galapagos (CGREG), the Charles Darwin Foundation, the University of Exeter, the International Marine Litter Research Unit at the University of Plymouth, the University of Surrey, the University of York, Grupo Eco Cultural Organizado, Orcatec, Ecology Project International, the Municipality of Santa Cruz (Galapagos) and Conservation International. Explore our research