Stay Off of My Blue Suede Shoes

Forty miles away from any inhabited island in the Galapagos Islands, a boat drops off Dave Anderson, professor of biology and his crew of four from Wake Forest University. It won’t return for several months.

They are the only people on the island. Their communication with the outside world is spotty–there’s a cell tower some forty miles north. Their sole focus will be to study several bird species whose population is declining.

During those months, the team tends to their work, studying the mating habits of the Blue Footed Booby. The Booby is an iconic marine bird native to tropical regions of the Pacific Ocean, and known for its blue-footed mating dance.

The male Booby uses his beautiful blue feet to attract the female to show-off the prospective nest he’s built. He struts his feet, lifting them high into the air for several seconds, then raises his wings and peak skyward, then stops abruptly to present the pile of stones which he has gathered for her nest.

The female Booby chooses her mate based on the size and luminosity of his feet. The larger the feet, the better, as they will incubate the egg. And the brighter his feet the better, as the brilliant blue is a result of carotenoid pigments, an antioxidant from their diet of fresh fish, and indicates a strong immune system.

Española is the oldest island at around 3.5 million years, and the southernmost in the group. Due to its remote location, Española has a large number of endemic species

Since 1997, however, there has been less dancing. Dave’s research team discovered that less than a third of the Blue Footed Booby population remains. Only 6,423 boobies were found living in the Galápagos in 2012.

According to the research, the seabirds can breed only during periods when their diet consists almost exclusively of sardines. In the most recent study, the researchers found that sardines constituted less than half of the blue-footed birds’ current diet.

Now the task is to explain the shortage of sardines. Is it due to overfishing, or sardines leaving Galapagos waters due to climate change or other pressures?

Dave’s work is aided by Sunflare SUN2 solar panels. He relayed to us a dilemma. He told us , “At some times of year we have full sun all day, and at others we are overcast the entire day.  During the cloudy parts of the year we usually have trouble meeting our power needs with the current gear.” Sunflare is an excellent choice to help with that issue because our proprietary CIGS process produces solar panels that have better low-light capture. They also perform better during the hottest time of the day, when silicon cells over-heat. In total, they capture 10% more energy than traditional silicon solar panels. In addition, they’re light thin and flexible so they are easy to transport and install.

Philip Gao, Sunflare CEO said, “We’re excited to be collaborating with Wake Forest University research team in the Galapagos . The work of tracking the possible extinction of animals is important and what more fitting place than where Charles Darwin formed his evolutionary theories of survival of the fittest. Sunflare’s mission is to create a healthier planet for future generations and is proud to be a part of studying and saving wildlife in the Galapagos.”

 

Check out this feature article on the NY times about the Galapagos.