I spent my childhood and youth as a nomad. I was born in Costa Rica, but by the time I was 20 years old I had lived in Colombia, Italy, Spain, Kenya, Honduras, Ecuador, and in the states of North Dakota and New Mexico. This varied cultural and geographic upbringing marked my outlook on life, giving me an appreciation for diversity in all its dimensions. I initiated my university studies with a B.S. in Biology from the University of New Mexico and continued with a M.Sc. in Tropical Plant Ecology from the University of Costa Rica. From the natural sciences I migrated into the social sciences obtaining a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of New Mexico. One of my permanent interests has been the relationship between peoples and their environment. For the last 20 years I have been teaching and doing research in Costa Rica in environmental anthropology, a field I have defined as that area in which humans deal with the environmental crisis in its varied manifestations.
My move to FES to direct the Las Nubes Project is in keeping with my past work and with my nomadic life as I will be travelling between Canada and Costa Rica bringing together stakeholders, scholars and researchers to promote the Las Nubes biological corridor as a model and component of a wider aim of facilitating sustained coexistence between humans and their surrounding ecosystems in the Neotropics.
There is much to be done in Las Nubes. I will begin by establishing an Educational Research Station that will accommodate Canadian, Costa Rican and international researchers to carry out studies that will contribute to greater knowledge and improved relations between humans and the rest of the biosphere. The ERS will also serve the interests and needs of local stakeholders, as a space for environmental education and training. My hope is that the ERS can become an international hub for research and extension in Neotropical conservation and community wellbeing, where researchers can find accommodation, where seminars and workshops can be held, and students and other stakeholders will be inspired to visit and learn about their local ecosystems, the application of appropriate technologies and the possibilities of sustainable systems of production.
I hope to facilitate a greater and richer North-South exchange of students, researchers and experts in the many fields that might contribute to improved human wellbeing and coexistence with the biosphere. These include the fields of engineering, the exact and natural sciences, the social sciences and the arts, among others. The FES at YORKU is a rich source of experts in a wide gamma of areas whose collaboration with the Las Nubes Project is of the utmost importance.
One of the major challenges facing the Las Nubes Project is achieving connectivity in the biological corridor between Las Nubes and Los Cusingos. This is a long-term process and we will need to monitor its progress. For this, I plan to establish at FES-YORKU a cartographic data base that will serve as a virtual representation of the biological corridor that will constantly be uploading the data and information gathered in the field. In this way we will better be able to visualize and monitor progress in aspects such as forest cover, sustainable and organic production, stakeholder participation, appropriate technology adoption, stream-water quality, species diversity, and carbon fixation, among many others.
The Peñas Blancas River watershed forms the core of the Las Nubes-Los Cusingos Biological Corridor. The neighboring watersheds that are also born in the Talamanca mountain range and are tributaries to the Rio General, later becoming the Rio Grande de Térraba, also have biological corridor initiatives in progress. An important goal of the Las Nubes Project is to link these initiatives to form a consolidated block of conservation that will connect the highland ecosystems of the Talamanca mountain range to the lowland and coastal regions of the Térraba River delta, contributing to a larger scale of Neotropical conservation, and serve as a model for other regions.
Ultimately, I envision Las Nubes to serve as a source of inspiration that will move a wide array of agents to explore ways of improving our relationship with the biosphere and increase the wellbeing of all.
Chair in Neo-Tropical Conservation
Faculty of Environmental Studies