Dr. Cristina Castro is an Ecuadorian researcher and principal investigator for Pacific Whale Foundation Ecuador. Dr. Castro has been leading PWF’s field studies on humpback whales in Machalilla National Park since 2001. Their Ecuador research started as a continuation of the population monitoring project that Dr. Castro implemented for her dissertation research and has expanded in scope to investigate emerging conservation threats to whales and dolphins, such as bycatch and entanglement in fishing gear.
Ecuador is a breeding and mating area for humpback whales that migrate yearly from the cold Southern Antarctic waters to Ecuador. The presence of the whales created new socio-economic opportunities through tourism for thousands of people along the Ecuadorian coast. PWF started researching whales in Puerto Lopez, the heart of Machalilla National Park, in 1997, when nobody knew anything about them. During all these years, they have linked their research projects with training and environmental education to develop tools for cetacean conservation in Ecuador.