Press Releases

Tall ship Oosterschelde arrives in Fernando de Noronha, Brazil – the third port stop of the two-year planetary conservation mission DARWIN200

Next stop: arriving Salvador, Brazil 17 October and Rio de Janeiro 3 November 2023

On 30th September 2023 historic tall ship Oosterschelde arrived in Fernando de Noronha, a volcanic archipelago about 350 kilometres off Brazil’s northeast coast for a week of conservation leadership programmes having sailed 1,300 nautical miles from Cabo Verde.

When Charles Darwin first spotted Fernando de Noronha from the deck of the Beagle in 1832, in his diary he remarked, ‘‘It appears an extraordinary place.’’ The Fernando de Noronha archipelago, consisting of 21 islands, was formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago. Situated between the northeastern coast of Brazil and western Africa, one can travel directly north or south without encountering any land until reaching the poles. Noronha and Rocas serve as vital sites for the breeding, feeding, and resting of tropical seabirds, sea turtles, various fish species, and marine mammals. Consequently, these islands play a crucial role in preserving the biodiversity of the region and protecting endangered species, while also serving as critical hubs for the reproduction, dispersion, and survival of marine organisms throughout the tropical South Atlantic.

Fernando de Noronha, the primary island, named after the archipelago itself, accounts for over 90 percent of the total land area and is inhabited by 4,000 year-round residents who live along the north coast, situated between the airport and a small seaport. Noronha’s wildlife is distinctive, featuring several bird species and two types of lizards that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. The waters surrounding the archipelago serve as a gathering place for a diverse range of marine creatures, including sharks, tuna, billfish, and turtles. Additionally, resident dolphins can be found in Baía dos Golfinhos on the northern shore of the main island.

In each port of the DARWIN200 global voyage, small groups of ‘Darwin Leaders’, selected from around the world for their outstanding achievements in conservation, will 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 – hence the project name. While in port, they set up home on board the ship and use the historic vessel as their laboratory and classroom, just as Charles Darwin did.

On October 2nd 2023, a group of five Darwin Leaders from the Canary Islands, Uruguay, Austria and the United Kingdom will join the tall ship in Fernando de Noronha. They will be embedded with local conservation organisations and experts to study spinner dolphins, octopus, corals, invasive species and sharks in Fernando de Noronha.

  • DARWIN200 partners in Fernando de Noronha
  • ICMBio Fernando de Noronha – Centro Tamar
  • Reef Systems Ecology and Conservation Lab (LECAR)
  • Departamento de Ecologiae Zoologiada Universidade Federalde Santa Catarina (UFSC)
  • Laboratoriode Métodos de Estudos Subaquáticos e Cefalópodes (Projeto Cephalopoda)
  • Instituto Vida no Oceano – Projeto Tubarões e Raias de Noronha
  • Centro Golfinho Roteador (CGR)
  • Fundação Projeto Tamar

Fernando de Noronha is a paradise for marine life enthusiasts. Our Darwin Leaders will delve into cutting-edge research, immersing themselves in a unique environment. However, like many other remote islands, Fernando de Noronha faces the challenge of striking a balance between conserving its natural wonders and accommodating the growing tide of economic activity driven predominantly by tourism. Darwin200 is a welcomed guest in this vibrant and inspiring community of researchers and nature conservationists, actively participating in world-class projects. The renowned Spinner Dolphins of Noronha are being studied in the face of mounting pressures from tourism on their population. A newly described octopus species continues to astound researchers with its remarkable abilities and previously undocumented behaviour. In an ocean that is steadily warming, the health of coral reefs is under meticulous scrutiny. The introduction of exotic species, such as the Teju Lizard, poses a significant threat to iconic creatures like the Green Turtle, as well as endangered seabird populations. Fernando de Noronha boasts an exceptionally diverse array of sharks and rays. While these creatures are often less understood and, at times, feared, expanding our knowledge about them is crucial for their protection. Rolf Schreuder, Science Coordinator for DARWIN200

Working alongside local conservation experts, each Darwin Leader studies 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. They each produce a film, a photo essay and a report from their research. These are available for the general public to see on the DARWIN200 website along with hundreds of free, online, nature and conservation-related educational resources as the ship becomes the “World’s Most Exciting Classroom”.

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.

The DARWIN200 mission is an official contributor to the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030.

Darwin Leader Tom Schildbauer, 23 years, Austria 

Project: Spinner Dolphins and the impact of tourism and maritime traffic

Tom is a Biology graduate currently pursuing a Master’s in Ecology & Biodiversity at the University of Innsbruck, he has a particular interest in marine biology. Tom’s passion for the natural world and environmental preservation has been shaped by his upbringing in the picturesque Tyrolean alps and extensive global travel through Africa and SouthEast Asia.



Darwin Leader Gabriel Leralta, 22 years, La Gomera, Canary Islands 

Project: Turtle conservation and invasive species on Fernando de Noronha 

Gabriel is a graduate of sports, renewable energies, and sociology from the Canary Islands, with a deep-rooted passion for nature. His extensive work portfolio includes roles in conserving endangered species, eradicating invasive species, conducting beach cleanups, and contributing to bird censuses and environmental impact studies.




Darwin Leader Manuela Acosta, 20 years, Uruguay
Project: Sharks and Rays of Fernando de Noronha

Manuela is studying for a degree in Environmental Management in Uruguay and is passionate about shark conservation. Growing up in a family of artisanal fishermen, Manuela has a deep connection to the ocean and strives to protect marine ecosystems, particularly endangered sharks in Uruguay, to safeguard crucial ecosystems for future generations.








Darwin Leader Isla Richards, 24 years, England 

Project: The octopuses of Fernando de Noronha  , behaviour, adaptation and protection 

Isla has pursued her fascination with animal behaviour and marine conservation working at the Ocean Conservation Trust and West Midlands Safari Park where she has contributed to education, research, and breeding efforts for endangered species. She is passionate about plastic-free living and clean-up initiatives highlighting personal action for the environment.

Darwin Leader Isla Richards says “ I’ll be studying the behaviour and adaptations of the Brazilian Reef Octopus (Octopus insularist). Part of this will include the colour changing ability of these fascinating creatures, or as Darwin put it: ‘Octopus, the master of illusion’. Currently Octopus and other cephalopods (squids, cuttlefish and nautilus) do not receive much legislative protection. This is due to the lack of vertebrae (the base of which many UK welfare laws are based on). As invertebrates, they can be subjected to negative treatment due to lack of pain perception. Thus, understanding more is imperative to protecting cephalopods in many situations around the world.






Darwin leader Heather O’Keefe, 24 years, England 

Project: The conservation of coral reefs and reef fishes of Fernando de Noronha   

Heather is a dedicated Biologist and Ocean Science graduate, bringing marine conservation to life through her role as a support biologist at the National Marine Aquarium. She maintains marine life support systems, conducts groundbreaking coral research, and educates visitors on the wonders of the marine world.

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