The FundaciónGaloPlaza Lasso (FGPL) was established in 1995 to continue the legacy of former President Galo Plaza. We are a nonprofit which sponsors projects benefiting the community of Zuleta and communities in the surrounding area. Zuleta is a village of about 1,550 and the majority of the residents are indigenous. The Foundation's mission is to support, develop and implement programs and activities which improve the quality of life for the local communities through programs of education, conservation, and socioeconomic development.
The FGLP believes that education is a life-long endeavor and therefore started a public library in the center of town. The library offers a selection of books for the old and young alike and houses an after-school and touring program, workshops, and a summer camp for the children. The children are currently participating in a photography workshop.
The FGLP supports the continuing education of the adult community by providing workshops on topics requested by the adults. Many of the requests are around sustainable methods of farming. Thus, there are opportunities for interns to run the after school program, the summer camp, and design and deliver workshops.
Condor Huasi Intern
The Foundation is a part of the Grupo Nacionalde Trabajo del Condor Andino which is the government licensed reproduction and liberation organization for the Andean Condor in Ecuador. Condors are critically endangered in Ecuador with only 50 wild condors and almost 20 of them living in Zuleta. Therefore, the Conservation of the Andean Condor in Ecuador project was started in 2009 in collaboration with FGLP, Hacienda Zuleta, and the Zuleta community.
FGPL & Hacienda Zuleta operate the project "Condor Huasi" on land belonging to the Hacienda. Zuleta's 7 captive condors and 4 condors in the Quito Zoo, are part of a program to breed condors with the aim of returning the chicks to the wild. The local people are interested in saving "their" condors and have an excellent relationship with the FGPL and they feel a strong ownership of the project.
The project aims to understand more about wild and captive condor through ethograms, making detailed observation of the behavior of wild and captive condors, and identifying factors impacting their behavior, breeding, survival, and the actions needed to save the species from extinction. Project components include captive breeding working towards reintroduction, recording sightings of wild condors, community education, interpretive services for tourists, and raising awareness in the hope of saving this species from extinction.
Independent Research Interns
The condors share their páramo habitat with spectacled bears, pumas, páramo foxes and a wide variety of other animals and birdlife. In order to save the condor, we must save the páramo and the Andean forest and ensure that there are healthy populations of other wildlife. As Zuleta is located in the Andean páramo and in the Andean forest, both of which still require a great deal of exploration, the Foundation is interested in promoting research and investigation of the local ecosystems. The Foundation aims to catalogue wildlife in the area, to study and understand the roles of other species living in the páramo and Andean forest, and how the ecosystems, flora, fauna, and humans impact each other. There is particular interest in studying two critically endangered species - the Andean marsupial tree frog and the spectacled bear. The spectacled bear is the only surviving bear native to South America and the foundation is planning to began genetic testing of the bears.
Therefore, the Foundation hosts students and researchers who are at least in their final years of undergraduate studies, in a masters program, doing postgraduate work or somewhere in between. We are looking for people with energy and initiative to conduct independent research on topics of their choosing. Due to the multidisciplinary approach of the Foundation's work it makes the perfect site for students with multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary interests to do research.
Interns will be supported in their day to day research by two on-site biologists and will be mentored by a faculty member from either Universidad San Francisco de Quito (www.usfq.edu.ec/) or Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador(www.puce.edu.ec).
Here area few potential areas of research:
- Cataloging frog species
- Cataloging any set of species
- Studying any of the frog species
- Studying the endangered Andean Marsupial Tree Frog
- Studying the endangered Spectacled Bear
- Studying Zuleta's impact on the watershed and its importance to the surrounding cities
Over 50 years ago the Zuleta community petitioned the Ecuadorian government to make 4,000 hectares (9884 acres) surrounding Zuleta protected land and they won. Zuleta and the Hacienda now sit within a protected area. The land that had already been converted for agricultural use would remain agricultural, but untouched ecosystem would stay untouched and cattle with hooves would no longer be grazed on páramo, but only animals, such as alpacas that have padded feet. Their effort to protect the land is credited with saving the Zuleteno watershed, which still healthy and able to support the surrounding major cities. The community would like to continue to learn how to implement more sustainable practices from construction to farming. People interested in teaching about aspects of sustainable living, farming, and building are very welcomed.
Traditionally, Hacienda Zuleta employed the majority of the community members, but the era of haciendas has ended and Hacienda Zuleta is no exception. Therefore, Hacienda Zuleta and the Foundation have been trying to help the community find other forms of supporting themselves. Within Hacienda Zuleta the Foundation runs a store to sell community made goods including: leather, alpaca wool clothing, and hand embroidered items.
The Foundation's main approach to economic development has been through supporting the local tradition of embroidery, which is a female craft. Not only does a focus on embroidery help empower the women of the community, while preserving their culture,it also helps ensure the money is spent on the children, as the women spend most of their income on the education of their children.
The Foundation also hasa store in Quito and is starting a website which focus on providing the women space to sell their embroidery. The Foundation would like to help the women organize themselves so they are working together to make, distribute, and sell their nationally recognized embroidery. People with marketing and community organizing skills would be a great asset to the community.