Enriqueta Velarde’s work focuses on seabird ecology. She has visited Isla Rasa every spring for the past 35 years to measure, weigh, census, band, and observe the seabirds. Year after year, she has followed the survival of the banded birds, estimated their breeding effort and success, quantified their diet, and recorded behavioral patterns. As a result of her data, she extended her studies to research the interrelation of bird population size to anchovy and sardine stocks in the Gulf of California. Anchovies and sardines are the main economic bases for the large fishing community in the area.
Velarde’s ongoing conservation efforts on Isla Rasa have transformed the island from a place of destruction and exploitation to an international example of conservation and orderly ecotourism. During the time she has studied the birdlife on Isla Rasa, she and her team have totally eradicated invasive rats that had a devastating effect on the seabird population. The success of this effort triggered a broader program of invasive species management in other Gulf of California islands and has become an example for controlling invasive species in island systems in general. Velarde and her team have also been successful in convincing fishermen to stop illegally ransacking birds’ nests to sell the eggs.
In addition, Velarde has established a close collaboration with the indigenous Mexican Comcaac community and collaborated with colleagues on a project for training Comcaac “paraecologists” in the towns of Punta Chueca and El Desemboque in the state of Sonora.
Velarde’s book, Islas del Golfo de California, written in the 1980s, was used 20 years later as the base for the designation of the islands of the Gulf of California as a World Heritage site.
Learn more to recognize and celebrate unsung heroes working in the field. Awardees have demonstrated outstanding leadership in managing and protecting the natural resources in his or her country and region. They are each inspirational conservation advocates, who serve as role models and mentors.
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