The “Ecosystem Science Program” at Laguna San Ignacio, Baja California Sur, Mexico develops social awareness and community participation in the conservation of this unique marine protected area. The program promotes the use of science based information to support sustainable development alternatives that are in balance with the natural components of the region. The program focuses on monitoring the status of gray whales that winter in Laguna San Ignacio, the lagoon as a habitat, and its marine wildlife as an entire interrelated system. The program’s purpose is to establish a long-term sustained science based “ecosystem” monitoring program for the Laguna San Ignacio Wetlands Complex (LSIWC) that will provide scientific information on the ecological status of the lagoon and its living marine resources that is relevant to resource management questions and concerns about development, eco-tourism and the sustainability of the lagoon ecosystem as a viable habitat for marine wildlife.
The program provides graduate students opportunities to participate in applied wildlife conservation field research methods and to learn skills that will serve them in their careers as wildlife conservation scientists. As appropriate, the program forms partnerships and coordinates its activities with other groups investigating various aspects of the LSIWC (e.g., Pronatura-Noroeste, Biosphere El Vizcanio). Annual post-field season peer review workshops review program findings and conclusions. Independent subject experts provide recommendations on the appropriateness and adequacy of monitoring methods, and validity of the results and conclusions drawn from them. Representatives of the responsible regulatory agencies, affected industry and resident groups, environmental organizations, and interested public participate in these workshops. The program findings and workshop recommendations arre distributed by publication in peer reviewed journals, and via a dedicated internet Web-Site.