Fun fact: The ecosystems within the Galapagos Islands in the Republic of Ecuador house species of plants and animals that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. In fact, this archipelago’s biodiversity is so rich that the celebrated oceanographer Sylvia Earle – a Rolex Testimonee who also founded the non-profit Mission Blue, which is dedicated to marine conservation – described it as “the sharkiest, fishiest place” that she’s ever been to. So it made sense then for the location to become one of Mission Blue’s earliest Hope Spots: areas critical to the health of the ocean and call for extra attention and TLC.
An aerial view of Darwin Island in the Galapagos Islands. The archipelago of 21 volcanic islands in the eastern Pacific Ocean is now a Mission Blue Hope Spot a.k.a. areas critical to the health of the ocean.
Last year – with the support of Rolex – the 87-year-old Earle led a two-week-long expedition to evaluate the state of the region’s ecosystems. Joined by a team of scientists, she uncovered plenty that proves there’s much more to learn and love about this world. For example, the group used cutting-edge technology such as environmental DNA analysis to collect vital population data for little-studied animals such as seahorses and slipper lobsters. Descending into the depths of the sea with Salome Buglass of the Charles Darwin Foundation on board the state-of-the-art DeepSee submersible, Earle also found lush forests of kelp believed to play a crucial role in supporting the area’s biodiversity.
In 2022, famed oceanographer and Rolex Testimonee Sylvia Earle led a two-week-long expedition supported by the watchmaker to assess the rich biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands.
In all, the wide-spanning study that covered measuring levels of microplastics to mapping the foraging grounds of penguin colonies underscored the deep extent to which ecosystems are interconnected – and how cooperation on an international scale is needed to help preserve them. This idea of going beyond boundaries can be said to be one that Rolex is familiar with: In seeking the perfect living laboratories to test its timepieces, it’s long advocated for pioneering explorers striving to bring light to parts unknown. Says Alex Hearn of the Galapagos Science Center, principal investigator on the 2022 expedition under Earle: “If we can get it right here in the Galapagos, that is a blueprint for getting it right across the planet.
A version of this article first appeared in the April 2023 Community Edition of FEMALE