Restoration has the potential to help with pressing global threats such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and poverty. For this reason, massive restoration initiatives are underway to recover millions of hectares of forest around the world. Planning is key to achieving restoration goals that respond to ecological and social needs.
Restoration has the potential to help with pressing global threats such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and poverty. For this reason, massive restoration initiatives are underway to recover millions of hectares of forest around the world. Planning is key to achieving restoration goals that respond to ecological and social needs. Site selection for restoration is one of the most important components in restoration planning. Several challenges might arise when selecting restoration sites, such as: management limitations, lack of community engagement, high land degradation degree, and the potential effects of climate change. Achieving restoration goals depends on implementing strategic and adaptable planning to navigate the challenges that a long-term endeavor poses. My research aims to answer questions useful to support restoration practitioners on facing planning challenges. I assess the viability of trees used in restoration under climate change. I will share insights from multiple stakeholders involved in various types of restoration projects. I will help to inform the selection of restoration sites by building prioritization scenarios which incorporate social, ecological and climate mitigation goals. My study sites are in my home country, Ecuador. I hope that my PhD research can help to achieve restoration goals; thus, contributing to mitigating the global threats that we, as humanity, are facing. This work will be possible thanks to the support of my supervisor and collaborators, UBC, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) EFN. I have successfully completed the data collection phase. To date, I have had the opportunity to meet with multiple stakeholders. Through this experience, I learned that the major obstacle limiting planners and local authorities from making evidence-based decisions is poor access to scientific literature. The principal barriers are the manuscripts' complexity in terms of clarity, length and language. The papers are written in English, which limits access to people who do not speak the language. For this reason, in 2019, I created the website "RESTAURA CONsCIENCIA". The website features summaries written in Spanish which capture the most important findings of papers originally written in English. The papers are fully cited and there is a link to the journal. This is a side project which has the potential to expand with the support of the PSI and a larger community of students. This tool will support restoration practitioners in making evidence-based decisions for planning, implementing and monitoring restoration initiatives. This will also help scientists to gain visibility, and to unite a larger community of people who may want to join the effort.
What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?
To me, being a Public Scholar is the recognition and confirmation that I succeeded in shaping my academic research in the benefit of the public good with the guidance and support of my committee in UBC. It is also a reminder that I am not an isolated individual aiming to do good for the present and future times to come, but that I am part of a global community of individuals who have the power to improve the condition of our planet.
In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?
All students pursuing a PhD have a strong motivation which drives them to take this challenge. The wide-spreading the goals of the Public Scholars Initiative encourages students and faculty members to find ways to align their research with the broader goals of the initiative, and the most urgent needs of society at this time.
How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?
My PhD work is giving me the possibility to strengthen skills and to gain a wide range of skills. All this experience will give me the possibility to not only work in academia, but also it will give me the chance to pursue a non-academic job. Yet, the PhD experience is giving me a broader perspective on my limitations. It is coming with humility. This experience has been eye-opening on gaining a wide understanding about the importance of acknowledging the talents in the academic and non-academic community and the value of collaboration. I hope to keep in contact with the people that I met during my fieldwork seasons in Ecuador and during my studies in Canada. I do also hope to keep meeting people to potentially be part of academic and non-academic initiatives in the future.
How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?
I had the good fortune to initiate the PhD as part of a larger international community of students. Before starting the program, I was selected as a Russell E. Train Fellow of the program Education For Nature (EFN) of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for students pursuing degrees in conservation. I have the good fortune to receive funding to finance my fieldwork in Ecuador and some living expenses during my two initial years in the program. Being part of this network gives me the possibility to be in contact with many fellow students and conservationists worldwide. My supervisor supported me during the process of application when I was only a potential student, for which I feel grateful. Over the past two years of the PhD, I had the opportunity to meet with more than a hundred stakeholders, who are policy makers, community members, authorities of national and sectional governments, community leaders and representatives of NGOs. I emphasize the opportunity of collaborating with the local NGO ‘Páramos Tungurahua Fund’ Institution which has done a great job working with various grassroots organizations, and with the National Environmental Ministry of Ecuador which is starting a second initiative of large-scale restoration in the country. At the moment, I am part of a research group with UBC faculty members seeking opportunities for advancing science in restoration. When the opportunities come, the website will be a good communication platform to share these experiences. Currently, the PSI gives me the opportunity to seek collaboration with a larger community of UBC students and faculty members to expand the website project “RESTAURA CONsCIENCIA”. In collaboration with the Professor Cindy Prescott who teaches the course of Ecological Restoration in the Faculty of Forestry, students of the course will have the opportunity to make summaries that can be made available on the website. We hope that other faculty members and students will also join the effort. In the future, we hope that Spanish speakers will also share English summaries of papers initially written in Spanish. We also hope to publish original articles written by students and collaborators. This project will be a community effort.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I had the opportunity to write my dissertation about local land-use planning in a rural district in the Ecuadorian Amazon. I worked with policy makers, community members and local authorities. They shared their knowledge, their needs and hopes. I felt motivated to keep working in planning. Yet, I was also very concerned about climate change and biodiversity loss, so I decided to pursue a graduate degree in conservation biology. After graduating and gaining some work experience, I had time to think about new pathways. The PhD is a great opportunity to combine my interests in working in planning and conservation. Planning restoration is the perfect topic for me.
Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?
I learned about UBC when I started my master’s degree. I enjoyed taking MOOC courses on some popular education platforms, especially a UBC course on climate change literacy. I was delighted by the high quality of the academic content. I also saw some videos of outdoors. I thought that campus and the city were beautiful, and it was accurate. Also, it was great to learn that UBC, and the UBC Faculty of Forestry, are at the top for academic excellence worldwide. The opportunity to jump into this adventure at UBC showed up thanks to the support of many important people to me. I will always feel grateful for this.
Being a Public Scholar is the recognition and confirmation that I succeeded in shaping my academic research in the benefit of the public good. A reminder that I am not an isolated individual but part of a global community of individuals who have the power to improve the conditions of our planet.