Citizen Science Portal

Welcome to the Discovering Galapagos Citizen Science Portal brought to you by Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT). Here you will find details of all our active citizen science projects that you can get involved with right now. Through involvement in these projects, your contribution will directly support the conservation of Galapagos and its unique wildlife.

Use your detective skills to help tackle plastic pollution

Use your smartphone to become a citizen scientist while in Galapagos

Investigate marine iguana distribution using drone imagery

Plastics © JP Munoz and Galapagos Conservation Trust

Garbology Project

Iguanas from Above

Iguanas from Above

Garbology Project

This expedition is made up of two parts. One in person as part of a beach clean in Galapagos and the second from your PC whether you are in the world. Once garbage has been collected and catalogued on our online portal, you will need to use your detective and research skills to help us find out where the rubbish found on beaches originated. You will be providing data to directly feed into the research around the sources and sinks of plastic pollution in Galapagos. The life stories of plastics also provide us with a great educational tool to influence more sustainable life choices in the UK, Galapagos, Latin America and worldwide.

If you are part of a beach clean, then you can use our handy guides found at the link below to collect photos for Garbology. Phase 1 of our online expedition has now been been completed and our researchers are currently analysing the results. We will be launching phase 2 in April 2022 although our example research project is still live.

Our Garbology expeditions are kindly hosted by the Australian Museum and DigiVol.

Plastic pollution is one of the most pressing issues facing marine wildlife around the world. Whilst the Galapagos Archipelago remains one of the most pristine ecosystems globally, sadly it is not exempt from the issue. At least 18 different species in the Galapagos Islands, including turtles, marine iguanas and sea lions have been recorded entangled by plastic such as bags and lines, or having ingested it after mistaking it for food.

Galapagos Conservation Trust has been working closely with the Galapagos National Park and other island partners to understand the best approach to tackling the issue of plastic pollution in the Archipelago since 2017. The result is the Plastic Pollution Free Galapagos programme, a £1.5 million multi-year project, which will feed into broader work looking to tackle pollution across the Eastern Pacific region.

Learn more about the programme on GCT’s website here

Shark Count Galapagos

Travelling to Galapagos soon? Download the Shark Count App before you go to become citizen scientists on holiday. Make important contributions to our understanding of Galapagos marine ecosystems by recording the sharks, sea turtles, rays and ocean sunfish you encounter during your dives or snorkels. All the data you submit will be shared with the Galapagos National Park and will benefit research and management decisions focused on protecting the Galapagos Marine Reserve’s incredible marine life.

You can find out more about the app on the Shark Count website here or download the app using the buttons below.

Shark Count was produced by Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Galapagos Science Center and Galapagos Conservancy.

This is a critical time for sharks globally. They are facing increasing pressured from industrial fishing and plastic pollution. The Galapagos Marine Reserve is unique in its high concentration of shark species. We are supporting research that will ensure protection for these wonderful creatures throughout their lifetime. As part of our Endangered Sharks of Galapagos programme, GCT is:

  • Building upon the research already undertaken to improve our understanding of the migratory movements of whale sharks and other other open ocean species
  • Use this evidence to enhance the protection of these migratory species including the creation of the world’s first protected ‘swimway’ between Galapagos and Cocos Island National Park in Costa Rica
  • Enhancing protections for shark nursary grounds within the Galapagos Marine Reserve
  • Undertaking outreach in the local community and schools with our partners Galapagos Science Center using our Marti the Hammerhead storybook

Learn more about the  Endangered Sharks Programme on GCT’s website

Iguanas from Above

Marine iguanas are threatened by invasive species, pollution, and climate change. We are collecting the first good comprehensive population size estimates for this endangered species. To do this, we used drones to collect images of the Galapagos coastlines. From these images, we will count the iguanas to estimate the number of iguanas in different locations. From these estimates, we can make a solid plan to protect them. And by helping us count them, you are directly contributing to saving this awesome species!

Phase 1 of this project has been completed and the next phase is expected to launch in early 2022.

Iguanas from Above

The marine iguana is the only lizard in the world with the ability to live and forage at sea and is only found in Galapagos. The adults are black for most of the year, however the males change colour during the mating season. Marine iguanas are not very agile on land, but they are excellent swimmers – moving easily through the water as they feed on algae.

The introduction of cats and dogs by humans has greatly affected the number of marine iguanas as they predate upon the juveniles, which are poorly adapted to defending themselves against large land predators. El niño periodically decreases the iguana population (by up to 85%), as it cuts short food supplies. Oil spills may also have similarly dramatic effects on the population. They are also threatened by marine plastic pollution – specifically microplastics that they could ingest while foraging for algae.

Currently GCT is working with partners to assess the risk of marine plastic pollution to marine iguanas as part of our Plastic Pollution Free Galapagos Programme. GCT has previously funded a research project investigating the population dynamics of marine iguanas on San Cristobal as there may in fact be more than one species of marine iguana present on the island.

Learn more about the programme on GCT’s website


The Citizen Science Portal has been sponsored by Steppes Travel. In 2020, Steppes Travel celebrates 30 years of offering inspirational holidays to over 100 destinations worldwide. Their goal is simple – to create memorable and fulfilling holidays that benefit local people, wildlife and habitats as much as they do the traveller.

This portal has been built with the help of Gavin Wu who awarded a grant from Imperial College London’s Professional Project Fund.