Compass Blog

Explorer In Residence, Jonathan Green: Founder Of The Galapagos Whale Shark Project

Locations: Ecuador, Galapagos

Jonathan Green's acclaimed work as a naturalist, diver and photographer already more than qualifies him as a sterling Explorer In Residence. His current efforts, however, go above and beyond the calling. He is the founder of the Galapagos Whale Shark Project, a massive effort to shed light on - and ultimately save - the mysterious and threatened whale sharks, about which practically nothing is known.

A history of exploration
Jonathan originally trained as a diver in the Irish Sea and has since dived all over the world, with tours of South America, the North Sea and the Antarctic. He got his scientific start at the University of North London with a bachelor's of science in geology and geography. Afterward he moved to the Galapagos, hoping to put his training as a naturalist and dive master to use.

While he has lived there and off the mainland of Ecuador ever since - having worked at the Charles Darwin Research Station and with the Galapagos National Park - he has also been traveling and diving constantly, photographing and filming life under the sea, earning him exhibition space at the Natural History Museum of London and spots in Time Magazine and BBC Wildlife Magazine.

Discovering the whale shark
Jonathan discovered one of the greatest mysteries, however, in the place he has called home for 25 years. The Pacific brims with a biodiversity that Jon found astonishing. Amid all that life, he came across the whale shark.

"When I saw my first whale shark I was obviously captivated, as is everyone when they see one," said Jon. Upon further investigation he found that almost nothing was known about the species. "Here is an animal that belongs to a bygone era, is larger than most of the dinosaurs that roamed our earth 70 million years ago, has been around perhaps for 70-80 million years itself and yet we know virtually nothing about it."

That is not an understatement. Among the baseline facts yet to be discovered about whale sharks is where they breed, how they breed, how they feed, their migratory routes, how they travel and even how many of them there are in the world. What makes the Galapagos whale sharks fascinating is that they are 99 percent female and mostly all pregnant, whereas most groups studied around the world are 70 percent males. Jonathan suspects his project might be on the verge of discovering the illusive pupping grounds.

Until more information is discovered about the whale sharks and their habitat, little can be done to protect them from a booming industry in Asia that hunts them for food. While technically categorized as threatened, Jonathan thinks they could be endangered. The urgency of this research has made the Galapagos Whale Shark Project a higher calling for Jonathan.

"It is a way of giving back to an environment that has given me so much, in some way an inheritance that I might leave behind," said Jon. "It is something I feel I have to do."

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