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Celebrating the Rich Biodiversity of Baja in Pictures

A light painting of “Nat Geo” on Isla Espiritu Santo, to commemorate a fantastic field inspection to Baja and the Sea of Cortez. Photograph by Jen Shook.
A light painting of “Nat Geo” on Isla Espiritu Santo, to commemorate a fantastic field inspection to Baja and the Sea of Cortez. Photograph by Jen Shook.

Gulf of California, Mexico — From January 2 to January 9, 2016 the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration (CRE) traveled the Sea of Cortez aboard the National Geographic Sea Bird Lindblad ship. The CRE, consisting of leading scientists representing a variety of disciplines, were joined by explorers funded by National Geographic and other experts working in the Baja region, for a field inspection of their work.

The experience was one-of-a-kind. We heard about the discovery of new plant species and newly protected marine areas. The explorers presented on their research and field work and their mission to help the world better understand and protect sharks, blue whales, humpback whales, sea birds and vaquita. Then we saw many of these species in the wild!

Field Inspection linkThe field inspection provided a sense of awe for this region and an urgency to do more to support the excellent work being done in Baja and the Sea of Cortez.

A snapshot of the rich biodiversity of this region is shared in the gallery that follows.

 

Dr. Bill Gilly and Susan Shillinglaw lead a tidepooling excursion to a site which John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts visited during their voyage through the Sea of Cortez in 1940. Photograph by Jen Shook.
Dr. Bill Gilly and Susan Shillinglaw lead a tidepooling excursion to a site which John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts visited during their voyage through the Sea of Cortez in 1940. Photograph by Jen Shook.
A black brittle starfish found while tidepooling at a site John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts visited during their voyage through the Sea of Cortez. Photograph by Jen Shook.
A black brittle starfish found while tidepooling at a site John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts visited during their voyage through the Sea of Cortez. Photograph by Jen Shook.
Dr. Bill Gilly holds a dead cephalapod that he found beached on the rocky shore. After inspecting it under the ship’s microscope, he believed it to be an Abraliopsis pacificus cephalopod. Photograph by Jen Shook.
Dr. Bill Gilly holds a dead cephalapod that he found beached on the rocky shore. After inspecting it under the ship’s microscope, he believed it to be an Abraliopsis pacificus cephalopod. Photograph by Jen Shook.
The National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration (CRE) 2016 field inspection included a visit to Punta Colorado, at Isla San Jose, in Mexico's Gulf of California. This offered an opportunity to study uplifted ocean floor deposits, which revealed fossils of ancient marine life. Photograph by Jen Shook.
The National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration (CRE) 2016 field inspection included a visit to Punta Colorado, at Isla San Jose, in Mexico’s Gulf of California. This offered an opportunity to study uplifted ocean floor deposits, which revealed fossils of ancient marine life. Photograph by Jen Shook.
The Santa Catalina Island rattlesnake, only living on Santa Catalina Island in the Gulf of California, has evolved to have no rattle on its tail. It is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Photograph by Jen Shook.
The Santa Catalina Island rattlesnake, only living on Santa Catalina Island in the Gulf of California, has evolved to have no rattle on its tail. It is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Photograph by Jen Shook.
The Giant Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus diguetii) grows on Isla Catalina, in Baja. The species is endemic to a handful of islands in the Gulf of Caliornia and can grow to 12 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter. Photograph by Jen Shook.
The Giant Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus diguetii) grows on Isla Catalina, in Baja. The species is endemic to a handful of islands in the Gulf of Caliornia and can grow to 12 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter. Photograph by Jen Shook.
We encountered this male Costas hummingbird on Isla Carmen, in the Gulf of California. The males have bright violet gorgets. Photograph by Jen Shook.
We encountered this male Costas hummingbird on Isla Carmen, in the Gulf of California. The males have bright violet gorgets. Photograph by Jen Shook.
Kirk Johnson (left), Jonathan Losos (center), and Jorge Velez-Juarbe inspect the fossil remains of a marine turtle on Isla San Jose in the Gulf of California. Photograph by Jen Shook.
Kirk Johnson (left), Jonathan Losos (center), and Jorge Velez-Juarbe inspect the fossil remains of a marine turtle on Isla San Jose in the Gulf of California. Photograph by Jen Shook.
A whale shark feeds on plankton, in the Bay of La Paz in Baja California Sur. The whale shark, a filter feeder, is the largest fish in the ocean. Photograph by Jen Shook.
A whale shark feeds on plankton, in the Bay of La Paz in Baja California Sur. The whale shark, a filter feeder, is the largest fish in the ocean. Photograph by Jen Shook.
Antonella Wilby, a National Geographic Explorer, holds an underwater camera trap she designed to monitor the critically endangered vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus), found in the Gulf of California. Fewer than 100 vaquita porpoises remain in the wild. Their decline is largely due to illegal gill-nets fishing. Photograph by Jen Shook.
Antonella Wilby, a National Geographic Explorer, holds an underwater camera trap she designed to monitor the critically endangered vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus), found in the Gulf of California. Fewer than 100 vaquita porpoises remain in the wild. Their decline is largely due to illegal gill-nets fishing. Photograph by Jen Shook.
Dr. Winifred Frick holds a leaf-nosed bat –- a species she has been studying at Rancho El Chivato. The ranch is part of Rancho Cacachilas, which offers opportunities for multidisciplinary scientific research. Photograph by Jen Shook.
Dr. Winifred Frick holds a leaf-nosed bat –- a species she has been studying at Rancho El Chivato. The ranch is part of Rancho Cacachilas, which offers opportunities for multidisciplinary scientific research. Photograph by Jen Shook.
A humpback whale breaches near San José del Cabo, at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, in Mexico. Photograph by Jen Shook.
A humpback whale breaches near San José del Cabo, at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, in Mexico. Photograph by Jen Shook.
Los Islotes, in the Sea of Cortez, is home to California sea lions and number of sea birds, including blue-footed boobies, brown-footed boobies, yellow-footed gulls and frigatebirds. Photograph by Jen Shook.
Los Islotes, in the Sea of Cortez, is home to California sea lions and number of sea birds, including blue-footed boobies, brown-footed boobies, yellow-footed gulls and frigatebirds. Photograph by Jen Shook.

Jen Shook is the Program Manager for Research, Conservation and Exploration at the National Geographic Society. When she’s not working at Nat Geo headquarters in Washington, D.C., she can be found photographing explorers and their work in different parts of the world.

Read more posts about the CRE field inspection in the Gulf of California.

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