Archive for October 31st, 2019

A Sabbatical in Ecuador

In the run-up to our move to Ecuador, we were often asked “Why Ecuador”.  In the coming weeks, I’ll highlight some of our reasons for wanting to come here as a family – the people, the culture, the tranquility (apart from the recent civil unrest), the environment, etc.   For now, I want to briefly mention some of the local projects that I’m fortunate enough to research.

To begin, we’re living in Cuenca, the third largest city in Ecuador, located up in the Andes  (8500 ft of elevation) in the southern part of the country.  Here’s a photo of the iconic cathedral in the city center.

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And here’s a photo of one of the several rivers that flows through town.  It’s the Rio Yanuncay, right next to our home, with people washing their clothes as a festival is about to start in the background.

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The first research project that I’m working on is in the Galapagos.  With colleagues at the Darwin Foundation, we are looking at the history of co-management arrangements in the Galapagos. In particular, we are examining the aftermath of the creation of a large marine protected area around Wolf and Darwin Islands.  This resulted in a breakdown of the co-management group due to increased restrictions on local fishers.

The second research project is in the Amazon, working with David Manuel-Navarrete, Tod Swanson and his field school at Iyarina, linking indigenous culture and the environment through language immersion (Kichwa, Wao, Achuar, etc).  It’s a beautiful setting, right on the Rio Napo (See photo).  One aspect of my research on collaboration that David and I are exploring is about what collaboration even means when we look at indigenous cultures of collective life and livelihood.

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The third research project is in Cajas National Park, which is a core part of a newly created Man and Biosphere Reserve.  This is a beautiful Páramo landscape of the high Andes and is the source of Cuenca’s water supply – one of the few in Latin America that I’m comfortable telling short-term visitors that they can drink.  The park management, including our dear friend, Jose Caceras, actually falls under the auspices of ETAPA, the water utility – a great example of ecosystem services in practice.

Here, we are again looking at collaboration and conflict in environmental governance.  Cajas is a wonderful, well-run protected area, but it has conflict with neighboring campesinos, with potential mining interests, and with a highway that runs through the middle of the park.  We are looking at mechanisms to mitigate conflict and improve overall outcomes.  Also in Cajas, there is a humorous story about the local Bigfoot or Monster of Cajas.  Here’s a view of one of the hundreds of lakes in the park:

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