Every person who joins Equilibrio Azul receives their direct guidance and orientation from the time of their arrival. During the orientation, interns will receive detailed information about Ecuador and the area where they will be working. To Equilibrio Azul, security is one of the most important parts of the program. Therefore, before starting any project, all safety issues will be discussed in detail.
Equilibrio Azul (EA) strives to have Ecuadorian and international students work together as they believe that it is the best way to learn from one another and promote cultural exchange. All interns will spend most of their time in the field helping EA with various projects. Interns can be involved in more than one project depending on their interest and availability.
Internship project options may include:
SEA TURTLE PROJECT: Monitoring nesting beaches and tagging
Machalilla National Park beaches are considered some of the last nesting areas for sea turtles in Ecuador. Even though the number of sea turtles that arrive yearly to the coast is low compared to other areas of the world, it is very important to evaluate and protect the nests. Nesting season takes place annually between the months of November and April. During this time, interns make daily visits to the main beaches of the area in order to identify nests and protect them. Sea turtles nesting in the area should be tagged with tags provided by NOAA La Jolla (tagging will always be supervised). Interns work with local students on this project. Once the nesting season is over, Equilibrio Azul starts diving to observe sea turtles and try to identify marks and hopes for new tag deployment. Around our main islands, sea turtles gathered for unknown reasons. Using tested methods EA captures them to collect measurements, samples and to apply a fin tag. Please notice that nest numbers are low in this area. However, surveys must be developed everyday to protect every single nest. NOTE: this is project is best done during the winter term.
SHARK PROJECT: Fishery monitoring program
Shark populations are diminishing around the world. This project obtains data about shark landings in an artisanal fishery port. This information is very useful towards a population assessment of sharks and rays in Ecuador. Interns will visit fishing ports everyday and learn how to identify sharks and how to obtain different types of data. Interns will work with local students and a permanent supervisor in the project.
ENVIROMENTAL EDUCATION PROJECT
In order to do conservation properly, it is necesary to work with the community and transmit the results of scientific research. Equilibrio Azul takes this fact into consideration and has developed the Environmental Education Program. The main objective of this project is to educate people from Puerto Lopez and its surrounding areas about EA’s conservation projects and the importance of respecting the environment. Interns and volunteers are a fundamental part of the Evironmental Education Project and it is thanks to them that Equilibrio Azul has been able to create an Ecoclub in Puerto Lopez, which is presently made up of 20 local children. Through this Ecoclub, the children have participated in activities such as beach cleaning, construction of small gardens and excursions to the Machalilla National Park. Also, through the Environmental Education Program, Equilibrio Azul has been working with primary schools in the construction of murals and gardens.
FISHERIES PROJECT: Ecuador´s shifting baselines
Not knowing the past of our marine resources makes it very hard to establish the right policy of management because we do not know where we want to drive our resources today. Therefore this project –using proven techniques- interviews old fishermen to recreate the status of past Ecuador marine resources. Local students will be participating with international students and interns.
MARINE BIRD PROJECT (Seasonal): Marine bird census
Marine birds are bound to the sea, and therefore they are good indicators of the ocean’s health. Marine birds show important interactions with fisheries, and for this reason they are subjected to incidental captures by fishing hooks and nets. For this reason, it is necessary to evaluate the impact of fisheries in marine bird populations to be able to protect these animals. Equilibrio Azul carries out a monthly census of marine birds in the La Plata Island. During this census, EA’s staff and volunteers travel to La Plata Island to count birds and to record their different life-stages. Among the birds that we record are Blue Footed Boobies (Sula nebouxii), Red Footed Boobies (Sula sula), Nazca Boobies (Sula granti) and Galapagos Albatrosses (Phoebastria irrorata). The bird census is an activity that requires a lot of physical effort because it involves long walks of about 8 km every day. In addition, great patience is needed in order to properly count the birds, especially during breeding season when the colonies are numerous and extensive.
WHALE PROJECT (Seasonal): Humpback whale photo-identification
Pictures of whale tails are used as finger prints to identify individuals. During whale season, Equilibrio Azul usually helps other organizations with this task. Interns are required to join tourist boats and take pictures of whale tails. This activity is coordinated with other organizations and, therefore, depends on availability.
MANTARAY PROJECT (Seasonal)
Since 2004, Equilibrio Azul has run a photoidentification project of the Giant Manta Ray that annually migrate to La Plata Island. EA is now hoping to get images not only from Machalilla, but from other areas of Ecuador to compare them and create a catalog for international sharing. This project requires long hours on boats and in the water. All dives will be carried with a professional diver and photographer. Requires advanced open water diver certification (can be obtained while diving). NOTE: Extra costs apply for scuba diving (see below).
Some interns are interested in developing some new projects while working with Equilibrio Azul. EA is very open to receiving ideas that can be integrated into our work.