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Conservation, Ethics, and Environmental Change


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Conservation & Development in Transition

The Lower Mekong Basin, extending over most of Cambodia and incorporating the great Tonle Sap Lake, hosts diverse ecosystems, including lowland evergreen forests, dry dipterocarp forests, seasonally flooded gallery forests, and estuarine mangroves which give rise to the Indo-Burma global biodiversity hotspot. Students examine the dynamics and ethical challenges surrounding environmental change and development in the Lower Mekong Basin. They also learn about the complexity of Cambodia's struggle to balance biodiversity, development, and human needs.

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    Conservation, Ethics, and Environmental Change


    This program explores the ethical challenges surrounding environmental change and development. Rural livelihoods in Cambodia remain very dependent upon natural resources. Yet research indicates that natural resources are declining, leaving many rural livelihoods in transition. The program looks at drivers of environmental change including economic development, deforestation, and climate change.

While The SFS Center for Mekong Studies is still in the formulation phase of developing a strategic research plan, many of the studies that have been undertaken so far (in 2014 and 2015) are scoping studies that have been invaluable in developing research themes and partnerships with government, local communities, and NGOs. So far the Center for Mekong Studies has explored a range of topics at a number of locations in and around Siem Reap province.

Examples of research undertaken to date include exploring; the range of medicinal plant usage in rural communities and the transmission of traditional ecological knowledge, niche partitioning and fecundity of a snakehead fish species, the impact of fishery reform on fishery resources and conservation management on the Tonle Sap Lake, and the role of Buddhist monks in environmental awareness and conservation.

Scoping studies have identified key themes that are pertinent to contemporary environmental research in this region. These themes are aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity and ecology, livelihoods and the environment interface, sustainable development and responsible tourism, natural resource governance and management. Our strategic research plan continues to be a work in progress; however SFS students and faculty have already begun to provide sought-after results to local partners.

CMS has established and continues to build partnerships with a range of local stakeholders, including government agencies such as the Forestry Administration, the Ministry of Environment, and the Ministry of Cults and Religions. Our non-governmental partners include FACT, (Fisheries Action Coalition Team), the Angkor Center for Conservation and Biodiversity, the Archaeology and Development Foundation and Wildlife Conservation Society. We also have an exciting developing partnership with Pannasastra University, one of Cambodia's leading private universities. As our partnerships continue to evolve, the CMS will continue to further develop and refine our research goals and strategic research plan. This will continue to be a collaborative process with ongoing input from our research partners and other local stakeholders.

In the meantime we are excited to undertake high quality field research in areas where baseline environmental studies have yet to be conducted. We are in a unique position where our research is providing sought-after information that can truly assist in decision-making and action in the field of environmental conservation and development.


Peer Reviewed Publications

For more information on the research conducted by the faculty and staff of this Center, please visit The SFS Center for Mekong Studies page and click on individual biographies.

For a complete list of peer-reviewed publications by SFS faculty, staff and students, click here.

Community reciprocity is at the heart of the SFS organizational and educational model. SFS students face the real-world complexities of issues affecting our host communities. With the results of our research, we offer data and recommendations that inform decision makers and build relationships between SFS and local stakeholders involved in biodiversity conservation and resource management.

As at our other Centers throughout the world, SFS is a part of the social fabric of the communities in which we are hosted. SFS students get involved in community volunteer projects and social activities such as:

  • Engaging with the rich cultural heritage of Cambodia, including Khmer language lessons and local homestays
  • Hosting community lectures
  • Interacting with local students inside and outside of Pannasastra's University’s campus through activities including community cleanup days, cooking, and traditional dance classes
  • Attending community festivals, pagodas, and traditional Apsara dance performances
  • Partnering with local NGOs and institutions to address environmental issues
  • Exploring local markets to practice language skills and try regional foods