Galapagos: Floreana

The second island destination for Estefania (Tefa) Boada’s PhD work was on the island of Floreana. The island supports a much smaller population of human inhabitants and the experience was a stark (and welcomed) contrast with our previous island of San Cristóbal.

Our home for the next week or so was the Black Beach House, which provided us with a fantastic and comfortable base to conduct our work (not to mention a beach bar on site).

We had three options for our activities. One of these was a boat ride away with an uncertain number of lizards and an expensive daily commute so we ruled that out quickly. The second option was to the west of the township where the area is dominated by volcanic rock and very sparsely vegetated. Probably more like what many of us picture when we think of the Galapagos, we found very few lizards in this environment and difficult to see how we could complete the work here.

A harsh environment to the west of the township.

Luckily, walking to the east of our accommodation provided what we needed, not to mention a beautiful site to ‘work’ – La Loberia.

La Loberia with a view back to the township
Walking home after a hard day’s work

Our focal species on the island was M. grayii. In comparison to male San Cristóbal lava lizards (M. bivittatus) that exhibit prominent raised crests when interacting with other males, M. grayii don’t show quite the same crest but do produce an impressive change in colouration during such interactions.

Male M. grayii displaying aggressively to another male

Female M. grayii exhibit an orange colouration on their head and throat, and a quite a bit smaller than males.

Female M. grayii

We completed the same set of activities as other locations – population counts, focal and behavioural sampling, filming of communicative signals and conducting habitat surveys. The lizards at this site were very active in the morning but tended to be very inactive in the afternoon. 

Tefa generously allowed for one full day off while on Floreana. We took advantage of this by visiting another part of the island. Starting at 0600 in a truck complete with organic waste destined for the few farms, a 2.5 hour long walk from high elevation to a popular tourist destination known as post office bay. Here was enjoyed the view on land at the observation point, and while snorkeling in the bay. We then caught a boat back to the township, stopping for a couple of hours to go for another snorkel.

Although it was the worst start to a day weather wise and an uneventful walk, it ended on a real high and with all of Tefa’s volunteers returning to town with big smiles! As we did when we left the island.

Sebastian, Estefany and Tefa smiling as we leave Floreana after a memorable week.