LAVA Lobos studies human impacts on Galapagos sea lions, an endemic and endangered species. We began studying these creatures based on the needs of the Galapagueños who live in close quarters with the animals and who are looking for ways to productively co-exist. To investigate how these sea lions respond to the presence of humans, our research team trains students in the International Baccalaureate Program at the Unidad Educativa San Cristóbal to conduct research on sea lions. These students perform behavioral assays, record observations, and photograph the sea lions for later re-identification. We are aiming to compare sea lions’ behavior on several different municipal beaches that have different levels of human disturbance in order to determine how humans are impacting their behavior and social structure. Because sea lions are an ecosystem sentinel for the archipelago, this study can help to inform us and our partners about the overall health of the marine environment.
Additionally, our team has been investigating how this project affects the students’ ecological literacy, scientific understanding, and attitudes towards conservation. By working collaboratively with Galapagueños, we hope to learn more about this endangered species and how to protect them, as well as to promote positive attitudes towards conservation.