Press Releases

DARWIN200 to visit Punta del Este, Uruguay during two-year global voyage and conservation mission aboard tall ship Oosterschelde

DARWIN200, a two-year planetary conservation mission aboard the magnificent tall ship Oosterschelde, expected in Punta del Este between 24th November – 5th December 2023 for a week of youth conservation leadership programmes and public events.

Punta del Este, Uruguay is the sixth of 32 ports to be visited during DARWIN200, a 40,000+ nautical mile voyage and conservation mission. The DARWIN200 Global Voyage is retracing young Charles Darwin’s famous journey on HMS Beagle and aims to change the world for the better by empowering 200 next-gen leaders of conservation.

Darwin Leaders: Young conservation leadership programme in Punta del Este

In each port of the DARWIN200 global voyage, small groups of ‘Darwin Leaders’, selected from around the world for their outstanding achievements in conservation, join the tall ship for a week-long immersive conservation leadership training programme. Two hundred in total will take part over the two-year expedition. Working alongside local conservation experts, each Darwin Leader uses the ship as their base camp and goes into the field to study a species of animal, plant or an ecosystem, assesses its population status and how it has changed over the past two centuries, learns about conservation initiatives currently in place to protect it and develops their own ideas on how to better conserve the chosen species in the future.

The intention is that each Darwin Leader will be empowered with new ideas, skills, and experience that will have a positive impact on the work they are already doing in their home countries and inspire their future careers in conservation.

Eight Darwin Leaders from Netherlands, Spain, Canada, Guatemala, USA, France, Turkey and Brazil will join the tall ship in Punta del Este. They will be embedded with local conservation organisations and experts to study:

Darwin Leaders in Punta del Esta

1. Darwin Leader: Emily van Dijk, Netherlands
Project: Rescuing Sandy Beaches: assessing biodiversity and potential biological indicators. This project will focus on the ecology of coastal ecosystems, specifically on two adjacent estuarine sandy beaches that experience varying degrees of human impact.
Guiding expert: Anita Aisenberg, at Clemente Estable Biology Research Institute, Montevideo.

2. Darwin Leader: Hugo Diez, Spain
Project: Grasslands: an endangered ecosystem. Conservation values of grassland ecosystems have been prioritised for protection. How can we study this loss of its biodiversity? Which animal and plant groups are the most vulnerable to current human impacts? These and other aspects will be addressed in this project.
Guiding expert: Macarena Gonzalez, at Clemente Estable Biology Research Institute, Montevideo.

3. Darwin Leader: Hannah Anderson, Canada
Project: Native Forest: threats assessment and biodiversity monitoring. Native forests in Uruguay support important components of the country’s animal biodiversity. However, these ecosystems are under threats such as logging and invasion of exotic species. The study will focus on assessing at the local level the presence of native and exotic species and evaluating the impact of use of the timber as a source of firewood.
Guiding expert: Mariana Cosse, at Clemente Estable Biology Research Institute, Montevideo.

4. Darwin Leader: Daniel Núñez, Guatemala
Project: Conservation of the Darwin toad. The distinct Darwin toad inhabits coastal sandy ecosystems in Uruguay and Brazil. This iconic species, studied by Darwin, is undergoing drastic loss of its populations. This project will investigate the status of the population in zones subjected to increasing urban development causing habitat fragmentation.
Guiding expert: Raul Maneyro, Zoology Association Society, Uruguay

5. Darwin Leader: Gabriel Mirman, United States of America
Project: Conservation state of sharks in Uruguay. Sharks and rays in the region are suspected to be suffering long term impact particularly, due to the excessive catches by fishing fleets.
A statistical, bibliographical, and research analysis will be carried out to prepare a diagnostic report on the conservation status of Uruguayan sharks and rays.
Guiding expert: Andres Milessi, at Mar Azul Uruguayo, Montevideo.

6. Darwin Leader: Blandine Thommerel, France
Project: Impacts of fishing on sea turtles. Bycatch is one of the main threats to turtles and other marine biodiversity. Hundreds of specimens of sea turtle species appear dead on the Uruguayan coast, some with clear indications of been fished and discarded. This project will focus on questions like how does industrial trawling impact sea turtles? Is it possible to associate the mortality of sea turtles on the beaches with fishing activity? Is it possible to reduce turtle mortality somehow? An analysis of registered mortalities with fishing activity will be carried out.
Guiding expert: Andres Estrades, at Karumbé – Biodiversity and Conservation, Montevideo.

7. Darwin Leader: Rumeysa Lacin, Turkey
Project: How to reduce plastic pollution in rivers that flow into the “Rio de la Plata” to progressively reduce its negative effects on the coast of Montevideo. The Project will focus on investigating how to reduce increasing plastic pollution and its negative effects on the Uruguayan tributaries to the great Rio de la Plata.
Guiding expert: Pablo Quezada, at Urumepa, Montevideo.

8. Darwin Leader: Mattheus Serra, Brazil
Project: Protected coastal lagoons: how to address urban development speculation.
The project aims at quantifying biodiversity at selected sites to generate baselines that can be used to support biodiversity protection initiatives. These baselines are also intended to be used for designing green indexed bonds to conserve these regions.
Guiding expert: Maria Victoria Pereira, at Lagunas Costeras Foundation , Montevideo.

Adventure seekers can sail the ship

The general public can sign up to sail the magnificent tall ship Oosterschelde between ports alongside adventure travellers and environmental researchers, who are tasked with steering, navigating and manning the ropes of the three-masted topsail schooner under the guidance of a professional crew. People ranging from 11 to 86 years old and of more than 25 nationalities have signed up to take part as guest crew on the voyage. The voyage legs range in duration, from a single day, to the longest being an epic 5,300 nautical miles and taking 48 days to Cape Horn. Previous sailing experience is not always required for those wanting to join.

See more information on dates, costs and availability at

The World’s Most Exciting Classroom

In continuation of Charles Darwin’s work aboard HMS Beagle, the DARWIN200 ship offers a unique platform to support research into many of the world’s most critical environmental problems. This includes eight engaging research projects, featuring real-time data feeds, informative results presentations, interactive online lectures, and insightful interviews with the talented teams of researchers driving each initiative. Four research projects will be undertaken aboard the tall ship Oosterschelde while it is sailing, the other four will be undertaken in the ports that we visit. Through these research projects, DARWIN200 aims to captivate global audiences, particularly students, enabling the public to delve into and gain deeper insights into some of the world’s most critical environmental challenges.

DARWIN200 Founder and Mission Director Stewart McPherson says: 

Charles Darwin was only 22 when he set sail on his life-changing voyage in 1831, famously saying that it was by far the most important event in his life, determining his whole career. We wanted to create a similarly transformative experience for members of the public and 200 of the world’s brightest young environmentalists, who have the potential to be the STEM and conservation leaders of tomorrow and the catalysts to change the future of planet Earth for the better

With a focus on practical solutions, each project will delve into actionable measures and ways in which we can all play a role in addressing these issues, working together to build a more promising and sustainable future.


About the ship Oosterschelde

Oosterschelde is a three mast tall ship, and one of the world’s finest, fully restored historic tall ships and the largest sailing vessel ever to be restored in the Netherlands.

She is registered by the Dutch Government as a monument of great cultural and historical value. The ship is one of the oldest and most authentic ships in the international fleet of Tall Ships. Oosterschelde relaunched after a major refurbishment in 1996 and was recommissioned by Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet of The Netherlands. She is a bastion of Dutch ship building and is described by the ship’s Director and Captain Gerben Nab as having had at least five lives, starting in 1917 as a cargo vessel. Over the past 30 years Oosterschelde has welcomed thousands of sailors and adventure seekers on board including royalty, politicians, presidents and pop stars, even once hosting a birthday party for Sir Tom Jones!

Oosterschelde was the first Dutch commercial tall ship to sail to both the north and south poles and successfully tackle the infamous Cape Horn, a rocky headland on Hornos Island, in southern Chile known for its hazardous waters. During the pandemic when the world was locked down, a team of Dutch ship builders worked tirelessly to elevate Oosterschelde to the next level in preparation for DARWIN200. As part of the DARWIN200 voyage Oosterschelde will once again navigate Cape Horn, considered the Mount Everest of sailing.

Oosterschelde’s Director and Captain Gerben Nab says,:

The history of the ship and the passion of our crew tell a story that gets under the skin of all who sail aboard her. Not only in Europe, but also in South America, in Africa, in Asia and Australasia. Oosterschelde’s restoration for many was deemed an impossible dream. But not for Dick van Andel who was a young man of just 27 years in age whose vision and enthusiasm saw the dream realised with the efforts and support of many others. We have proven that it is possible to do something outside the box and make it into a success. Connecting to the Darwin200 project, we hope to empower that project in the same way, and show ‘the world’ that with a clear vision and spirit of adventure it is possible to achieve the impossible


Follow on Social Media

DARWIN200 on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube
Social media: Oosterschelde on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube

#DARWIN200 #Oosterschelde

The DARWIN200 mission is an official contributor to the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030. The Global Voyage carriers The Explorers Club flag #101.

DARWIN200 patrons and supporters include Dame Jane Goodall, Dr Sylvia Earle and Charles Darwin’s great-great-grand-daughter, Dr Sarah Darwin

Join the DARWIN200 Community and follow our Journey of Discovery

Sign up to our newsletter and follow the DARWIN200 global voyage as we sail around the world.