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As the Climate Changes, So Will the Galápagos

December 19, 2018

This morning, a front-page story in the digital New York Times was swimming with interactive imagery of marine species in the Galápagos Islands and expertise from Wake Forest biologist and CEES affiliate, Dr. Dave J. Anderson.

Since the 1980’s, Dr. Anderson has studied the Blue-Footed Booby, a seabird that finds its home on these islands and hunts for food in the ocean waters that surround them. But as ocean temperatures rise from El Niño weather patterns, this seabird and other marine subspecies face uncertain changes.

“Now we are wondering, how frequent do these things get? El Niños have a bulldozer effect,” Dr. Anderson is quoted saying in the New York Times article. “And they are happening more and more.”

Dr. Anderson (left) is an expert on the Blue-Footed Booby, having studied them for decades as indicators of marine ecosystem vitality.

According to UNESCO, the United Nations educational and cultural agency, the Galapagos Islands are one of the places most vulnerable to impacts of climate change.

For decades, Dr. Anderson and undergraduate and graduate members of his Avian Ecology group have conducted field research on the behavioral ecology and conservation biology of seabirds like the Blue-Footed Booby and Albatross. His research is informed by questions about the influence of variables like costs of reproduction, environmental heterogeneity, and genetic architecture on the evolution of characters like clutch size, offspring sex ratio, and sibling competition.

A student takes notes while conducting field research on the Blue-Footed Boobies in the Galapagos Islands.

Read the full New York Times story here: “As Seas Warm, Galápagos Islands Face a Giant Evolutionary Test.