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Hernan Vargas

Hernan Vargas


Neotropical Program Senior Scientist, The Peregrine Fund.
Responsible for design, implementation, and management of The Peregrine Fund’s Neotropical Science and Student Education Program in Latin America (Neotropical Region)

University of Oxford, UK. Conservation Biology, D.Phil., 2006.
Boise State University, Idaho, USA. Raptor Biology.M.Sc., 1995.
Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Quito, Ecuador, Biology, Licenciatura (B.Sc. eq.), 1990.

2006-Present: Neotropical Program Senior Scientist, The Peregrine Fund, Panama.
2003 - 2005: Darwin Initiative Project Coordinator, University of Oxford, UK
1995 - 2001: Head of Ornithology program, Charles Darwin Foundation, Ecuador.
1997 - 2001: Interim program leader, Vertebrate Ecology & Monitoring Program, Charles Darwin Foundation, Ecuador.
1985 - 1986: Naturalist Guide, Galápagos National Park Service, Ecuador.
1984 - 1985: Biology Teacher, Nacional Galápagos High School, Ecuador.

The Peregrine Fund
Casilla 17-17-1044  
Quito,    Ecuador
Phone: + (593)-22-443-144 (Quito, Ecuador) Fax: + (208) 362-2376 (Boise, USA)
Email: hvargas@peregrinefund.org

   Research Interests

My major area of interest is conservation biology, including aspects of ecological monitoring, population ecology and species extinctions. I consider it of paramount importance, in endangered species research, to determine and distinguish the effects of natural and anthropogenic factors on population fluctuations and extinctions. Therefore, I participate and/or promote research on the ecology and conservation of birds with small populations; effects of climate, particularly of El Niño events; movements and dispersal; effects of parasites and diseases; long-term research and ecological monitoring of the Harpy Eagle, Galapagos Hawk, Galapagos Penguin, Galapagos Flamingoes, Flightless Cormorant and Mangrove Finch; and last, but not least, impacts of training local people on conservation.

Conservation goals cannot have a lasting impact without involvement of qualified local professionals. Therefore, I am particularly interested in the training of students and enhancement of local capacities for long term research, wildlife management and conservation. Some of my high school students have already graduated as Biologists from Ecuadorian universities (e.g., Martha Veliz and Mariana Jaramillo).

Several undergraduate students who received hands-on training in previous research projects are now having significant impact on conservation action: Diógenes Aguirre, Juan Carlos Valarezo, Carolina Larrea, Gustavo Jiménez, Paola Buitrón, Susana Cárdenas, Paolo Piedrahita, Richard Vokes, Timo Koester, Carlos Fonseca, Carlos Carrión, Carlos Vinueza, Xavier Arturo López, Robert Baulfour, and Daniel Valdivieso.

As senior scientist of the Neotropical Science and Student Education program of the Peregrine Fund, I am currently co-supervising thesis research projects of the following students: Maximiliano Galmes (PhD, Argentina), Victor Escobar (PhD, Chile), Renzo Piana (PhD, Peru), Francisco Denes (PhD, Brazil) Marcus Canuto (MSc, Brazil), Jose de Jesus Vargas-Gonzales (MSc, Panama), Mari Cruz Jaramillo (MSc, Ecuador), Jose Luis Rivera (MSc, Ecuador), Edwin Campbell (MSc, Panama), Laura Riba-Hernandez (MSc, Costa Rica) Andrea Calispa (BSc, Ecuador), Saskia Santamaria (BSc, Panama), Sandra Quiroga (BSc, Colombia), Henry Delgado (BSc, Colombia). All of these students conduct thesis research on little known or endangered species of raptors.

Species of Interest: 
  • Leucopternis occidentalis
  • Harpia harpyja
  • Buteo galapagoensis
  • Vultur gryphus
  • Spizaetus isidori
  • Phalcoboenus australis


Miranda, E.B.P., E. Campbell-Thompson, A. Muela and F.H. Vargas. 2017. Sex and breeding status affect prey composition of Harpy Eagles Harpia harpyja. Journal of Ornithology doi: 10.1007/s10336-017-1482-3       pdf

Miranda, E.B.P., E. Campbell-Thompson, A. Muela and F.H. Vargas. 2017. (Supplementary Data) Sex and breeding status affect prey composition of Harpy Eagles Harpia harpyja. Journal of Ornithology       pdf

Araoz R, J.M. Grande, C. Lopez, J. Cereghetti, and F.H.Vargas. 2017. The First Black-and-Chestnut Eagle (Spizaetus isidori) nest discovered in Argentina reveals potential human-predator conflicts. Journal of Raptor Research 51(1). pp. 79-82       pdf

Ibarra, J.T., T.A. Altamirano, A. Vermehren, F.H. Vargas, K. Martin. 2017. Observations of a tree-cavity nest of the Rufous-legged Owl and predation of an owl nestling by a Chimango Caracara in Andean temperate forests. Journal of Raptor Research 51(1). pp. 85-88.       pdf

Naveda-Rodriguez, A., F.H. Vargas, S. Kohn, and S. Kohn. 2016. Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) in Ecuador: geographic distribution, population size and extinction risk. PLoS ONE 11(3):e0151827. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0151827       pdf

Watson, R.T., C.J.W. McClure, F.H. Vargas, and J.P. Jenny. 2016. Trial restoration of the Harpy Eagle, a large, long-lived, tropical forest raptor, in Panama and Belize. Journal of Raptor Research 50(1):3-22.       pdf

Jaramillo, M., M. Donaghy-Cannon, F.H. Vargas, P.G. Parker. 2016. The diet of the Galapagos Hawk (Buteo galapagoensis) before and after goat eradication. Journal of Raptor Research 50(1):33-44.       pdf

Lawson, L.P., B. Fessl, F. Hernan Vargas, H.L. Farrington, H.F. Cunninghame, J.C. Mueller, E. Nemeth, P.C. Sevilla and K. Petren. 2016. Slow motion extinction: inbreeding, introgression, and lossin the critically endangered mangrove finch (Camarhynchus heliobates). Conservation Genetics DOI 10.1007/s10592-016-0890-x       pdf

Mendez, D.R., R.W. Soria-Auza, F.H. Vargas, & S.K. Herzog. 2015. Population status of Andean Condors in central and southern Bolivia. Journal of field Ornithology 86(3):205-212       pdf

Escobar-Gimpel, V., S. Alvarado, H. Vargas, & C. Bonacic. 2015. [Age and sex structure of Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) in feeding areas of central Chile. Ornitologia Neotropical 26:157-167.       pdf

Ibarra, J.T., T.A. Altamirano, G. Vergara, A. Vermehren, F.H. Vargas & K. Martin. 2015. [Natural history and autecology of the Austral Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium nana) in the Andean temperate forest of the La Araucania region, southern Chile]. Boletin Chileno de Ornitologia 21:29-40       pdf

Vargas Gonzalez, J. de J., F.H. Vargas, D. Carpio and C.J.W. McClure. 2014. [Vegetation characteristics in nesting sites of the Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) in Darien, Panama]. Ornitologia Neotropical 25:207-218.       pdf

Ibarra, J.T. T.A. Altamirano, K. Martin, F.H. Vargas, and C. Bonacic. 2014. Tree cavity-nesting of Austral Pygmy-owls (Glaucidium nana) in Andean temperate forests of southern Chile. Journal of Raptor Research 28(1):82-85.       pdf

Palmer, J.L., T.F. McCutchan, F.H. Vargas, S.L. Deem, M.Cruz, D.A. Hartman, and P.G. Parker. 2013. Seroprevalence of malarial antibodies in Galapagos Penguins (Spheniscus mendiculus). J. Parasitol. 99(5):770-776.       pdf

Boersma, P.D., A. Steinfurth, G. Merlen, G. Jimenez-Uzcategui, F.H. Vargas, and P.G. Parker. 2013. Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus). in P.G. Borboroglu and P.D. Boersma (Eds.), Penguins natural history and conservation (pp. 285-302). Seattle & London: University of Washington Press       pdf

Tobias, J.A., Ҫ.H.Sekercioglu, and F.H. Vargas. 2013. Bird conservation in tropical ecosystems: challenges and opportunities. pp. 258-276 in D.W. Macdonald and K.J. Willis (eds.), Key topics in conservation biology 2. John Wiley & Sons       pdf

Meile, R.J., R.C. Lacy, F.H. Vargas, and P.G. Parker. 2013. Modeling Plasmodium parasite arrival in the Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus). Auk 130(3):440-448       pdf

Campbell-Thompson, E., F.H. Vargas, R.T. Watson, A. Muela, and N.C. Ciceres. 2012. Effect of sex and age at release on the independence of hacked Harpy Eagles. Journal of Raptor Research 46:158-167.       pdf

Rivera-Parra, J.L., K.M. Levenstein, J.C. Bednarz, F.H. Vargas, V. Carrion. and P.G. Parker. 2012. Implications of goat eradication on the survivorship of the Galapagos Hawk. Journal of Wildlife Management 76:1197-1204.       pdf

Palasios, D., S. Salazar, and H. Vargas. 2011. Galapagos marine vertebrates: Responses to environmental variability and potential impacts of climate change . Pp. 69-80 in I. Larrea and G. Di Carlo (eds.) Galápagos Marine Vertebrates: Responses to Environmental Variability and Potential Impacts of Climate Change. WWF, Gland, Switzerland and Conservation International, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Alava, J.J., M. Saavedra, X. Arosemena, M. Calle, C. Vinueza, P.J. Jiménez, R. Carvajal, and F.H. Vargas. 2011. Registros de distribución y amenazas potenciales del Gavilán Negro de Manglar en el suroeste de Ecuador [Distributional records and potential threats to the Common (Mangrove) Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus subtilis) in southwestern Ecuador]. Boletín SAO 20:1-11. (In Spanish with English summary)        pdf

Rivera, J.L., F.H. Vargas, and P.G. Parker. 2011. Natal dispersal and sociality of young Galapagos Hawks on Santiago Island. Open Ornithology Journal 4:12-16.       pdf

Vargas González, J. de J., and F.H. Vargas. 2011. Nesting density of Harpy Eagles in Darien with population size estimates for Panama. Journal of Raptor Research 45:199-210.       pdf

Jaramillo, M.C., and H. Vargas. 2010. The Galapagos Hawk (Buteo galapagoensis) living in an ever-changing environment. Spizaetus 10:2-7.

Vargas, H. 2009. Penguins on the equator, hanging on by a thread. 2009. In, De Roy, T. (ed), Galapagos, Preserving Darwin's Legacy, 2009 David Bateman (New Zealand), Firefly (USA), A&C Black (UK), pp 154-161.

Levin, I. I., D. C. Outlaw, F. H. Vargas, and P. G. Parker. 2009. Plasmodium blood parasite found in endangered Galapagos Penguins (Spheniscus mendiculus). Biological Conservation 142:3191-3195.

Duffie C. V., C. G. Travis, F. H. Vargas, and P. Parker. 2009. Genetic structure within and among island populations of the Flightless Cormorant (Phalacrocorax harrisi). Molecular Ecology 18:2103-2111

Wilson, R. P., F.H. Vargas, A. Steinfurth, P. Riordan, Y. Roupert-Coudert, & D. W. Macdonald. 2008. What grounds some birds for life? Movement and diving in the sexually dimorphic Galápagos Cormorant. Ecological Monographs 78 (4):633-652

Vargas, F.H., S. Barlow, G. Jimenez-Uzcategui, J. Chavez, S. Naranjo, & D.W. Macdonald. 2008. Effect of climate variation on the abundance and distribution of flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber) in the Galápagos Islands. Journal of Zoology 276: 252-265

Nims, B.D., F.H. Vargas, J. Markel, & P.G. Parker, 2007. Low genetic diversity and lack of population structure in the endangered Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus). Consevation Genetics 9(6): 1413-1420.

Steinfurth, A., F. H. Vargas, R. P. Wilson, M. Spindler, and D. W. Macdonald. 2007. Space use by foraging Galápagos Penguins during chick-rearing. Endangered Species Research. DOI 10.3354/esr00046.

Vargas, F. H., R. C. Lacy, P. J. Johnson, A. Steinfurth, R. J. M. Crawford, P. D. Boersma, & D. W. Macdonald. 2007. Modeling the effect of El Niño on the persistence of small populations: the Galápagos Penguin as a case study. Biological Conservation 137:138-14

Merkel, J., H. I. Jones, N. K. Whiteman, N. Gottdenker, F. H. Vargas, E. K. Travis, E. Miller, & P. G. Parker. 2007. Microfilariae in Galapagos Penguins Spheniscus mendiculus and Flightless Cormorants Phalacrocorax harrisi: genetics, morphology and prevalence. Journal of Wildlife Diseases: 93(3):495-503

Bollmer, J. L., F. H. Vargas, & P. G. Parker. 2007. Low MHC variation in the endangered Galapagos Penguin Spheniscus mendiculus. Immunogenetics 59:593-602 .

Travis, E. K., F. H. Vargas, J. Merkel, N. Gottdenker, R. E. Miller, and P. G. Parker. 2006. Hematology, serum chemistry, and serology of Galapagos Penguins Spheniscus mendiculus in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 42:625-632.

Vargas, F. H., S. Harrison, S. Rea, and D. W. Macdonald. 2006. Biological effects of El Niño on the Galápagos Penguin. Biological Conservation 127:107-114.

Travis, E.K., F. H Vargas, J. Merkel, N. Gottdenker, R.E. Miller and P.G Parker. 2006. Hematology, plasma chemistry, and disease serology of the Flightless Cormorant Phalacrocorax harrisi in the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador. Journal of Wildlife Diseases: 42 (1): 133-141.

Vargas, H., C. Lougheed, and H. Snell. 2005. Population size and trends of the Galápagos Penguin Spheniscus mendiculus. Ibis 147:367-374

Boersma, P. D., H. Vargas, and G. Merlen. 2005. Living laboratory in peril (Science Editorial). Science 308:925.

Gottdenker, N., T. Walsh, H. Vargas, M. Duncan, J. Merkel, G. Jimenez, R.E. Miller, M. Dailey and P.G. Parker. 2005. Assessing the risks of introduced chickens and their pathogens to native birds in the Galápagos Archipelago. Biological Conservation 126:429-439.

Dvorak, M., H. Vargas, B. Fessl, and S. Tebbich. 2004. On the verge of extinction: a survey of the Mangrove Finch Cactospiza heliobates and its habitat on the Galápagos Islands. Oryx 38: 1-10

Wikelski, M., J. Foufopoulos, H. Vargas, and H. Snell. 2004. Galápagos Birds and Diseases: Invasive Pathogens as Threats for Island Species. Ecology and Society 9(1): 5. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol9/iss1/art5/

Gibbs, J. P., W. G. Shriver, and H. Vargas. 2003. An assessment of a Galápagos Rail population over thirteen years (1986 to 2000). Journal of Field Ornithology 74:136-140

Marquez, C., H. Vargas, H. Snell, A. Mauchamp, G. Gibbs, and W. Tapia. 2003. Porque tan pocas Opuntia en la Isla Espanola, Galápagos? Ecologia Aplicada 2:21-29.

Anderson, D. J., K. P. Huyvaert, V. Apanius, H. Townsend, C. L. Gillikin, L. D. Hill, F. Juola, E. T. Porter, C. Lougheed, and H. Vargas. 2002. Population size and trends of the Waved Albatross Phoebastria irrorata. Marine Ornithology 30:63-69

Vargas, H., and R. Bensted-Smith. 2000. Past and present ornithology in Galápagos. In: N. Sitwell, L. Baert and G. Cuppois (eds). Proceedings of the Symposium Science and Conservation in Galápagos. Bulletin de´l Institut Royal des Siences Naturalles de Belgique 70: 47-52

Vargas, H. 1995. Food habits and breeding biology of the Gray-backed Hawk Leucopternis occidentalis in western Ecuador. M.Sc. thesis, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho.

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