San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionSDNHM Biodiversity Research Center of the Californias

Expedition 2000 to Isla Guadalupe
A Binational Multidisciplinary Expedition

Project Overview

North end of Island, photo by W.T. Everett © 1998

The north end of Isla Guadalupe, showing the characteristic cloud bank created by the effects of the island's extreme high elevation on the prevailing trade winds. Warm surface air is abruptly forced to high altitude where it condenses and forms dense clouds and blasting local high winds (called "Von Karmen Vortices"). Photo by: W.T. Everett. © 1998. All rights reserved.

With a fortuitous convergence of factors, we have an unrivaled opportunity to launch a binational scientific expedition in June 2000 to Isla Guadalupe, a remote and rugged island 160 miles off the coast of the Baja California peninsula. This expedition could yield significant information about species thought to be extinct (most notably the Guadalupe Storm-Petrel) and provide insight into the impact of introduced species to the island by visiting for the first time a large offshore islet which remains undisturbed. We have established partnerships with committed professionals with appropriate expertise and have identified logistical requirements. Our reputation for binational collaboration helps make the permit acquisition process less cumbersome. We have a narrow window of time in which such an expedition would be most fruitful. We now have modest NSF support in the form of a Small Grant for Exploratory Research to help propel this momentum and carry out our plans in the year 2000.

Members of the Biodiversity Research Center of the Californias (BRCC) of the San Diego Natural History Museum (SDNHM), with American and Mexican colleagues, seek to examine the flora and fauna of this remote island. Many of Isla Guadalupe's native plant and bird species have gone extinct over the past century due to the direct and indirect effects of human-introduced non-native herbivores and predators (eg. goats, cats, rats), and many more species are extremely endangered. To assess the current status of the endangered species in order to design conservation measures, extensive scientific surveys are critical now. In particular:

  • We seek to determine whether or not the Guadalupe Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma macrodactyla), thought to be extinct, still exists. This nocturnal and elusive seabird spends most all of its time at sea, except for the breeding season when it nests in underground burrows in the pine and cypress forests at the higher elevations of the island. Some nesting sites may be inaccessible to predators, and may reveal storm-petrels if explored. Since 1912, when the species was last seen alive on the island, no one has ever searched at the right place, at the right time to determine the status of the Guadalupe Storm-Petrel's survival. In recent years, five nocturnal seabird species thought to be extinct have been rediscovered on other islands around the world.

  • Also, we plan to explore Islote Adentro, a 600-foot-high sheer offshore rock near the south end of the island, to conduct surveys of plants and animals thought to be extinct on the main island and/or to identify species new to science. This 10-acre islet has never been explored. Its vegetation offers an ideal opportunity to see undisturbed pristine conditions and thus to compare them with the effects of introduced species on the main island.

The months of May and June are an opportune time for our exploration, because that is the only time when the storm-petrel predictably occupies the breeding grounds, when annual vegetation is blooming and insect populations are peaking. Because of the storm-petrel's nesting season and its nocturnal habitats, our visit is scheduled from June 3 through 11, 2000 .

Our exploration will involve scientists from SDNHM and from Mexican universities, representing disciplines of ornithology, botany, entomology, herpetology, and ecology. We seek to investigate the status of land and sea bird species, study the insect and arthropod populations, search for secretive reptiles and amphibians, survey the plants, monitor the effects of overgrazing and prescribe needed conservation measures.

Introduction | Project Overview | Participants | Isla Guadalupe
Ornithology | Botany | Entomology | Herpetology