It Takes a Village: Students as a Catalyst for Conservation

January 23, 2006 - 12:00pm

Successful conservation projects must address human influences on species and their habitat by integrating local residents into the conservation solution. Involving local students in research can serve as a catalyst to gain community participation in protection efforts; educate those who have the most immediate connection to the issues; and empower individuals with tangible ways they can contribute to conservation.  Effective community response requires the collaboration of educational institutions, NGOs, landowners, government agencies, and individual community members. Ecology Project International (EPI) has integrated local students in conservation research in Costa Rica, the Galapagos Islands, Baja California, and Montana, positively impacting data collection and protection efforts. In Costa Rica and Galapagos, for example, hundreds of high school and university students participate as research assistants on established sea turtle monitoring projects.  Local students collect biometric data, augment the frequency and duration of patrols, contribute to habitat restoration of the nesting beaches, and provide energy and inspiration to resident researchers.  Project success depends on appropriate preparation and training of the students, teachers and biologists prior to and during the site visit, and support from relevant research institutions, landowners, and government agencies. I will describe the techniques we used to create an effective collaboration between these parties as part of a conservation model that can be applied at other conservation projects worldwide. I will also describe how U.S. high school students, including students from the Bay Area, have participated with EPI in these projects.

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