A Model for Sustainable Development

October 23, 2014
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Costa Rica: Sustainable Development Studies, SFS faculty posts

Achim Häger, Dr. forest
Resident Lecturer in Principles of Natural Resources Management
Sustainable Development Studies, Costa Rica

It all started about four years ago when some of our students started to ask how sustainable the Center for Sustainable Development Studies (CSDS) actually is. In fact we already had many initiatives in place at that time; a solid recycling program, constant community outreach activities, a stakeholder-driven research agenda according to the SFS model, and others more. However, we lacked a systematic, comprehensive plan about where our sustainability efforts were going. In particular, it was hard to explain why the mango and oranges farm on our campus was completely decoupled from academic activities. At that time the farm was managed by outside contractors and from time to time signs were put up in the orchard: ‘Pesticide application – Do not enter’. Obviously we were missing a major opportunity of teaching sustainable agriculture by doing it ourselves!

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Time To Go Back in the Water

October 22, 2014
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SFS faculty posts, Turks & Caicos: Marine Resource Studies

Dr. Aaron C. Henderson
Resident Lecturer in Marine Ecology
Marine Resource Studies, Turks & Caicos Islands

It’s hard to believe that we are already halfway through the semester; time flies when you’re having fun! In the first half of our semester, students learned about the organisms that are found in the waters around South Caicos, how these resources are exploited and managed, and the cultural attitudes towards marine resources and their conservation. Exams were followed by a three-day field trip to North Caicos, Middle Caicos and Providenciales, where the history and culture of the Turks & Caicos Islands were the main focus, and then it was time for everybody to go their own way and take a well deserved mid-semester break.

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Look, A Bird!

October 20, 2014
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Kenya & Tanzania: Wildlife Management Studies, SFS students

Hannah Storey
Dickinson College
International Relations
Wildlife Management Studies, Tanzania

Since I was a kid I have always been slightly obsessed with birds. There are countless types of birds here  in Tanzania and with the most amazing color combinations I have ever seen as an avid bird watcher. Even sitting outside working on assignments you see at least five species of birds. We had a field experiment in and around our camp and counted over twenty species of birds just within half a mile!

Lilac-breasted roller

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SFS Expands Partnership with Bhutan’s UWICE to Offer New Semester Program

October 17, 2014
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Bhutan: Himalayan Forests, Watersheds, and Rural Livelihoods

Building on Five-Year Partnership, SFS and UWICE Will Offer “Himalayan Environment and Society in Transition” in Fall 2015

On September 29, The School for Field Studies (SFS) and the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) of Bhutan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in New York City to offer a semester program beginning in the fall of 2015. The program builds on SFS’s productive five-year collaboration with UWICE, an international research and training facility, and part of Bhutan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forests.

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Biodiversity At Our Fingertips

October 17, 2014
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Panama: Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies, SFS students

Caroline Hobbs
Skidmore College
Environmental Studies
Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies, Panama

Our first month here in the Bocas del Toro archipelago has been a whirlwind of snorkel trips, nighttime bug catching, and excursions to various islands. It has been fascinating to be immersed in a culture so different from my own.

Last Saturday we presented our SWOT analysis projects; a plethora of information about the economic, social and environmental well-being of Bocas that we had accumulated through interviews with locals, business owners, and even the mayor!

After interviewing the owner’s daughter at Lili’s Café:

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A Look at Critically Endangered Species in the Mekong

October 16, 2014
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Cambodia & Vietnam: The Living Mekong, SFS faculty posts

Lisa Arensen, Ph.D.
Resident Lecturer in Ecosystems and Livelihoods
The Living Mekong, Cambodia & Vietnam

SFS Mekong students, staff, and faculty are on the road! Our pioneering gang has gamely bounced in a bus from one side of Cambodia to the other, and has only just returned from the provincial capital of Kratie, on the eastern banks of the mighty Mekong river.

It is flood season in Cambodia, and the Mekong is high and wide and turbid, the color of milk-drenched tea. Our focus in Kratie was upon two critically endangered riverine species, the Mekong Irawaddy dolphin and Cantor’s giant softshell turtle. The international conservation organizations World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Conservation International are working in partnership with the Cambodian government to protect these species, and we were very pleased that both organizations shared about their respective programs to students.

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Sustainable Marketplaces

October 15, 2014
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Panama: Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies, SFS faculty posts

Julie Robinson, Ph.D.
Resident Lecturer in Environmental Policy & Socioeconomic Values
Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies, Panama

This week it was back to Panamá’s mainland to reconnect with Finca 51, home to a remarkable women’s artisanal cooperative that we were first introduced to last spring. As part of the Environmental Policy Directed Research project on community-based tourism in the previous semester, students met and interviewed members of the cooperative to learn about the governance structure and their vision to revive and market traditional Ngäbe arts and crafts to the growing number of tourists visiting Bocas del Toro each year.

Ostina Molina, a regional coordinator, served us delicious sancocho (a rich chicken soup prepared with local root vegetables cooked over an open fire) as we listened to stories that opened up a world of new ideas and learning.

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Learning Through Experience

October 14, 2014
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SFS students, Turks & Caicos: Marine Resource Studies

Shane Hunt
Point Loma Nazarene University
Environmental Science
Marine Resource Studies, Turks & Caicos Islands

Growing up and learning out of a textbook has always been a bit strange to me. I would learn a concept or a fact but never would see this in action outside of the text. It seemed like a foreign idea that applied only to the world of the textbook, not the world I was in.

The amazing thing about living at a field station is that the knowledge we are learning applies directly to the location we are in. It has been particularly powerful to learn about the lobster fishery here. Not only to learn about it, but to actually walk five minutes from the field station and watch the fishers come in, eager to unload their catch to the processing plant, get paid, and prepare for the next day on the water. We have the opportunity to talk to these fishers, to learn their opinions, and to pick their brains on their thoughts about Marine Protected Areas. This is truly something that could never be learned from a textbook, but something that can only be learned through experience.

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Think Like a River!

October 13, 2014
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Peru: Biodiversity and Conservation in the Amazon, SFS faculty posts

Mauricio Herrera Rodríguez, Ph.D.
Resident Lecturer in Political Ecology
Biodiversity and Development in the Amazon, Peru

When trying to improve human-environment relations we ought to think with nature, and when we seek her advice, nature in its many manifestations teaches us to nurture life as a gift passed to others and to reject greed. We learn this from rivers that spread nutrients and flood wetlands and estuaries; the tropical forests as they reinvent themselves without artificial ingredients; and the gardens that feed our desires without overwhelming our bodies with fats and sugars.  During our first month at our Peru program, students have had the chance to experience nature at its peak, both in terms of diversity and its prodigious presence.

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The Changemakers

October 10, 2014
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Cambodia & Vietnam: The Living Mekong, SFS students

Libby Alvin
Colorado College
Biological Sciences
The Living Mekong, Cambodia & Vietnam

After a long and bumpy ride, we finally arrived at Phnom Penh on Tuesday night. Bright and early Wednesday morning we headed off to the Conservation International (CI) office to talk to Tracey Farrel, the Senior Technical Advisor at CI. She talked to us about their Greater Mekong Program in Cambodia, which focuses on conservation of nature, that humans can still benefit from, as well as development of policy to help conserve biodiversity. Part of Tracey’s presentation included the opportunities and challenges for NGOs in Cambodia. The challenges with this kind of work, particularly in Cambodia, are overwhelming to say the least.

I find the most important and difficult challenge to overcome is that of the value of nature to the local people of Cambodia. Tracey touched on the need for a cultural value shift before any progress can be made. How can you change how a whole society thinks about their surrounding environment?  If it were possible, how long would it take for an individual’s value of nature to change from instrumental to intrinsic and aesthetic?  What about for a whole community who depend on the natural resources around them for their everyday lives?  These thoughts ran through my mind throughout our trips to multiple NGOs and conservation groups.

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