For the past 55 years, responsibility for producing the science that is necessary for the protection of the islands has been carried by the Charles Darwin Foundation, which in 1964 took the significant step of establishing a Research Station there. This is now the base for more than 100 scientists, students, teachers and volunteers who work to research the flora and fauna of the Islands in order to help prevent the unique ecosystems from being irreparably damaged.
During the 50 years of its existence, the Research Station has played a crucial role in saving the archipelago’s iconic giant tortoises from extinction, been instrumental in the creation of the 135,000-square-kilometre Galapagos Marine Reserve and, since the early 1970s, has been securing funding and support to finance scientific scholarships for 1,300 Ecuadorian students. The work of the facility has played a crucial role in ensuring that the Galapagos remains a place where 95 percent of the original biodiversity is still intact.
This year marks the Research Station’s 50th anniversary. This is all the more significant as, until 3 years ago, the future of both it and the Galapagos itself looked decidedly bleak, with the Charles Darwin Foundation struggling for financial survival in the wake of the world recession and a lack of effective cost management. It was saved, however, when a 36-year-old German investor called Swen Lorenz visited the islands on holiday. Seeing that the situation was becoming critical, he abandoned his home and high-paying London job and returned to the Galapagos to work full-time as the Foundation’s CEO. He has since used his financial skills to turn it into a profitable organization with an annual budget of USD 3.5 million.