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TEACHING GUIDES


Voyage to the Galapagos:
"Paradise Lost"


When the Galápagos archipelago first appeared, it was completely isolated. But today the islands face multiple threats. Hunters, pirates and settlers introduced alien species to this remote location and brought many native species close to extinction. In the 20th century, tourism threatens this fragile ecosystem, as adventurers hunt not for the kill but for the thrill.

Curriculum Links
National Science Education Standards
Activity 1: Conservation Challenges
Activity 2: Alien Invaders
Think About It!




CURRICULUM LINKS


BIOLOGY/
LIFE SCIENCE


adaptation, evolution

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE


habitat destruction

SOCIAL STUDIES

conservation issues

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NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS

SCIENCE AS INQUIRY / LIFE SCIENCE
5-8: Regulation and Behavior; Populations and Ecosystems; Diversity and Adaptations of Organisms
9-12: Interdependence of Organisms; Matter, Energy and Organization in Living Systems; Behavior of Organisms
SCIENCE IN PERSONAL AND SOCIAL PERSPECTIVES
5-8: Populations; Resources and Environments; Natural Hazards; Risks and Benefits
9-12: Population Growth; Natural Resources; Natural and Human-induced Hazards
HISTORY AND NATURE OF SCIENCE
5-8: Science as a Human Endeavor; Nature of Science; History of Science
9-12: Science as a Human Endeavor; Nature of Scientific Knowledge; Historical Perspectives



ACTIVITY 1: CONSERVATION CHALLENGES

The Galápagos Islands first appeared on printed maps about 1570. In the centuries that followed, whalers and hunters visited often, nearly wiping out seals and giant tortoises. Settlers introduced invasive plant and animal species that overran some islands and threatened native species. As you see on Frontiers, alien invaders of all kinds continue to be a problem here.

Each year, 60,000 people visit the Galápagos, and this tourism contributes to the economy. But if allowed to go on without monitoring or regulation, tourism could wreak havoc on delicate ecosystems, upsetting natural balances with additional pressures. Special care must be taken to prevent this from happening.

Galápagos National Park Rules ask that visitors do not take any food to the uninhabited islands ("the orange seed you drop may become a tree") and remind them to be careful about transporting any live material to the islands or from island to island. But as tourist traffic increases, the islands are in jeopardy of losing the very qualities that make them special.

Although most of the archipelago and its wildlife is protected by law, the arrival of humans continues to cause the decline of species through unlawful fishing and collecting, and most significantly through habitat destruction and the introduction of non-native species.

In your class, discuss and debate the conservation issues. Think about how these issues apply not only to the Galápagos, but to many regions of the world, especially to oceanic islands, and perhaps to protected areas near you. What does it mean to "take only pictures and leave only footprints"?

Debate the "fairness" of the rules and current legislation from these different viewpoints: a tourist who wants to photograph iguanas; a scientist who wants to study penguins; a resident who makes an income from tourism; an environmentalist who believes ecotourism should be severely limited. Remember, Ecuador is suffering from a near-bankrupt economy. Tourism is big business.



QUESTIONS
  • Do you think the rules are fair to tourists? Do the rules go far enough in protecting the islands?

  • Should tourism be limited? Should anyone who wants to visit be allowed to do so?

  • What are the alternatives for fishermen who make a living catching and selling popular but endangered sea cucumbers (as one example)?

To find out more about pressures and threats to the Galápagos, explore the Destination: Galápagos Islands website. National Park rules may be found in Galápagos: A Natural History by Michael H. Jackson or at www.igtoa.org/galapgs.htm.

The Galápagos Islands are not the only isolated area threatened by ecotourists. As part of your research into these issues, find out what other countries are doing to protect native ecosystems. Tourists are not permitted to visit the island of Surtsey, born in a volcanic eruption in 1963, and scientists must apply for special permission to study there. Even visitors to New Zealand must obey some restrictions and precautions.



ACTIVITY 2: ALIEN INVADERS

Introduced species can have a deadly impact. Investigate the current status of these imported pests and how they have affected native species and ecosystems in the U.S.: fire ants, kudzu vine, the Asian longhorn beetle, zebra mussels, killer bees.



THINK ABOUT IT!

Probably the greatest threats to native wildlife in the Galápagos are the introduced species. On several islands, feral cattle, horses, rats, donkeys, goats, pigs, cats and dogs run wild. In what ways do these animals threaten the native species? Can you brainstorm plans to keep the penguin population from crashing? Is saving one species worth the effort?






 

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