Zamorano Alumni: Leaders in Action
Danny Rueda Córdova ‘99
Director General, Galapagos National Park Directorate, Ecuador
I was born in Galapagos, just like my parents. All my family has lived in Galapagos since approximately 1930, therefore, my relationship with the nature and ecosystems of Galapagos has always been a part of my life. I always had a desire to work in activities to conserve and protect the Galapagos Islands. I finished my first three years at Zamorano in December 1999 and returned to Galapagos to volunteer for three months in the National Park. Through that volunteer experience, I learned about the different techniques that were used to control introduced plants, and carried out different field tests using application variations for chemical control.
I graduated from Zamorano in April 2001, obtaining my degree as an Agricultural Engineer with an emphasis on Socioeconomic Development and Environment. After graduation I immediately returned to Galapagos and began work in the National Park as coordinator of the Pest Monitoring and Epidemiological Surveillance Program. Over the years I assumed other roles, such as coordinator of the Inspection and Quarantine System for Galapagos; responsibilities for the Sub-process of the Quarantine System, the Process of Sustainable Use of Natural Resources, the Component of Conservation and Agricultural Development and Management of Special Uses, and Process Conservation and Restoration of Island Ecosystems; and the directorship of Ecosystems. In March 2020, I became the Director General of the Galapagos National Park.
In all the positions that I have held, I have always focused on achieving the conservation of the ecological integrity and biodiversity of the island and marine ecosystems of the protected areas of the archipelago, as well as the rational use of the goods and services that they generate for the community. I have participated in the design and execution of several emblematic species conservation projects, both native and endemic. Key projects include: the establishment of land tortoises in a semi-captive breeding center on San Cristóbal Island; reintroduction of tortoises on Santa Fe Island; population monitoring of land iguanas on Baltra, Seymour and Plazas Islands; population monitoring of tortoises on Santa Island Cruz; follow-up to the pink iguana population monitoring project in Wolf Volcano; and follow-up to the population monitoring of blue-footed boobies, penguins, cormorants, albatrosses and flamingos.
In addition, I was part of the technical team that produced the Management Plans for the Galapagos National Park and the Protected Areas of Galapagos for Good, and provided technical coordination of the new Zoning System of the Protected Areas of Galapagos. Other important activities in which I participated are: the eradication of rodents from the Rábida and Pinzón islands; the reintroduction of land iguanas to Santiago Island; and the establishment of three forest nurseries for the reproduction of native and endemic plants with the aim of expanding reforestation in ecosystems of high ecological value and to begin their restoration.
My role at the helm of the Galapagos National Park
Currently, the main role that I perform as director general of the National Park is to direct, guide and execute the policy and guidelines established in the Law of Special Regime for the Province of Galapagos and other rules and regulations established for that purpose. In addition, I am responsible for the policy and guidelines determined by the Ministry of the Environment relative to sustainable development in the field of conservation, ecological integrity, biodiversity of island and marine ecosystems, environmental management, public use, education, research of the protected areas of the archipelago, and the rational use of the goods and services that the protected areas generate for the community.
The idea is to promote the operation of an adaptive and participatory management system of the National Park and the Marine Reserve in which the best available scientific knowledge is used for decision-making so that adjustments can be made to the management objectives in accordance with the socioeconomic and environmental reality of the archipelago.
The conservation and / or restoration of the integrity and ecological resilience of the Galapagos ecosystems is very important to allow the ecosystems to continue to generate environmental services in a way that allows the local community to meet their social and economic needs. On the other hand, an integrated management of the entire Galapagos territory (protected areas, urban and rural areas) is required due to the increase in anthropic-type pressures. From the viewpoint of the Galapagos National Park, we want to contribute not only to actively protecting the ecosystems that have maintained their integrity, but to recovering the integrity of those that have been totally or partially degraded.
The Positive Influence of Zamorano
Without a doubt, Zamorano had a positive influence on how I face different scenarios and provide results to the problems that arise in the administration on a daily basis. My specialization at Zamorano was in the Socioeconomic Development and Environment career, and although conservation issues were very familiar due to my link with Galapagos, different field modules and subjects strengthened my knowledge in natural resource management. I clearly remember modules such as Rural Economy, in which we visited different communities in situ. We saw the families’ dependence on natural resources and need for management plans to ensure that the use of these resources was sustainable.
In the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park we have hosted two Zamorano students who carried out their internships and degree thesis projects in the park. They were able to learn about the different activities required to conserve the protected ecosystems of Galapagos. The Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve – just as all the protected areas of the world – requires a lot of effort to ensure the conservation of its ecological integrity. Therefore, it is important that Zamorano graduates get involved in these activities in each of their countries. The conservation of natural resources and the sustainable use of them provide direct and indirect benefits to all communities.