Grant Recipients Conference, Chile 2015

Grant Recipients Conference, Chile 2015

May 2015

Organised & Reported by: Luciano Hiriart-Bertrand

The Rufford Small Grant Conference South America was held by Costa Humboldt and the Centro de Investigaciones Marina de Quintay (CIMARQ) of the Universidad Andres Bello sponsored by The Rufford Foundation. The coastal town of Quintay was the perfect place to host grantees from diverse countries in the continent.

The RGS programme, offers grants to support a variety of environmental and conservation projects, involving both endangered species and ecosystems. In South American, it has been granted 724 projects, which include important contributions to Argentina with 187 projects, Brazil with 126, Peru and Colombia with 91 and 86 respectively, Chile with 56, Uruguay 52, Ecuador 47, Bolivia 44, 26 to Venezuela, Guyana 4 and Paraguay only 2. As a result, numerous initiatives have achieved significant impacts at different levels of organization. Since the creation of a whale sanctuary in Uruguay, the creation of a Marine Protected Area in Chile to protect feeding areas of Blue Whales, to the identification and description of the bacterial diversity associated with several groups or ecosystems. On the other hand, they have sponsored important projects to protect endangered animal species, such as the north-eastern Peruvian amazon giant otter, native deer species in Argentina’s Patagonia or the Pacific’s Ocean black marine turtle.

It is noteworthy that the history of such meetings began the year 2012. To date, it has been held 15 encounters across the world, including Armenia, Nepal, Bolivia, Peru, Cuba, India, Kenya, Bali, Indonesia, Myanmar, Rwanda, Madagascar, Mexico, South Africa, Vietnam, and finally Chile.

The purpose of this meeting was to learn about the issues and initiatives that our region is facing, and in consequence served as a cornerstone on the development and transfer of knowledge. It also we focused building a platform to creates opportunities for discussion aimed to improving our regional communication skills and foster transnational initiatives in order to achieve integrated and increase our efforts to generate greater impact.

The importance of sharing experiences

The Rufford Foundation promotes dialogue among their beneficiaries by organizing the RSG Conferences in different regions. This year the event was held in Chile for the first time and received participants from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Paraguay, Uruguay and Peru. RSG’s beneficiaries, which are mainly scientists from academic institutions, presented their projects and talked about the importance of having the kind of support The Rufford Foundation offers, in order to face the endangerment of species and ecosystem in our continent.

The reunion began with an opening speech from Luciano Hiriart-Bertrand, founder and Executive Director of Costa Humboldt. During his speech, Mr. Hiriart-Bertrand highlighted the importance of the conference “as a way of promoting the local and regional conservation efforts which take place in our continent”. In representation of the Andrés Bello University, Dr. Ariel Orellana welcomed the participants by pointing out the advantages “to be able to share, exchange and create useful bonds for scientific work”. The first part of the event ended with the presentation of the Dean of the Faculty of Ecology and Renewable Sources from the same academic institution, Dr. Gonzalo Medina. During his conference the professor showed how he did get started in his research about natural and human factors that have had an impact on the decrease of Chilean native´s otters population. His speech focused on the importance of having financial aid to get started on a long lasting project.

During the event, thirteen participants exposed their research work along with some of the results of their fieldwork. PhD student Micaela Camino, from the University of Buenos Aires, showed for example, her work in designing conservation plans for endemic mammal in Argentinian Chaco.

Chilean grantee, Andrés Valenzuela-Sánchez, exposed some results on his research on Darwin´s frog, showing its disappearance is most likely to be the result of a fungus associated disease, rather than the action of human presence. However, the focus of presentations wasn’t only focused on endangered animal species conservation plans. The problem of environmental preservation and its effect on local population were also approached. Brazilian student, María Joanna Silva, showed her work, which aims to mitigate environmental impact by educating local communities on how to consume their natural resources on a sustainable way.

The impact of RSG

As a great number of RSG´s beneficiaries are young Scientifics starting their research careers, it is important to enhance the impulse given by The Rufford Foundation to finance projects that otherwise wouldn’t be possible to conduct. It is the case of German student living in Ecuador, Maximilian Hirschfeld, from the Galápagos’ Science Centre, who explained that the grant allows him to finance important expenses associated with his extremely touristic fieldwork in the Galapagos’, “where the rent of a boat to go to open waters may cost up to 500 dollars”. For Dalia Barragán Barrera, from Macuáticos Colombia Foundation, the key advantage of these grants is that it gives a chance to young researchers. “Usually when someone is starting in the research field is very difficult to get financial aid. It is difficult too, when nobody knows you as a researcher, your work about an unknown subject or your work about species that are not particularly endangered. So The Rufford Foundation is really important for us. It gives us the first support to make conservation science”.

North American grantee, Aliana Piñeiro, who came representing Runa Foundation from Ecuador, highly recommended applying for this grants “because there is a huge chance to get financial aid in order to study different areas and work within scientific and social structures”. Hirshfeld did have a similar opinion: “The best part of this grant is that it covers a large margin of projects, with very different study subjects like, macro biology, applied conservation, education and scientific education. This makes the grants very interesting because they confront all sorts of conservation issues, it doesn’t matter whether it is about big species or small ones”.

Finally, Josh Cole, Grants Director de The Rufford Foundation, who travelled especially to Chile to participate in the conference, highlighted the importance for “researchers who work on the same species or in similar areas, to have the opportunity to share valuable information between them”. That was exactly the spirit of this group of Latin- American beneficiaries during those three days: nurture themselves with valuable information that will lead to preserve the flora and fauna of the continent.

About the workshop

The workshop “Evaluate the implementation of regional efforts to improve marine and terrestrial conservation through community and scientific-based management” served as an instance for participants to be asked about their personal reflection on three main aspects; the possibility of build integration between the field of knowledge and scientific research. It also focused on understanding the influence and the link among society and communities in order to strengthen the prospects for sustainable development and environmental conservation efforts. Thus, the workshop discussion focused on priorities for evaluate interaction of current programs with local communities and appropriate methodologies. The format included presentations of current knowledge by Organization Committee members, small break-out sessions to consider emerging ideas, and plenary discussion to synthesize findings.

Throughout the activity, diverse themes were analysed. Basically, it was possible to collect ideas and suggestions to produce concrete Regional Biodiversity Network (RBN) recommendations, question of scientific and societal concern that should guide RBN design and implementation, integration of observations and understanding across spatial and temporal scales, and merging knowledge from various methods. Finally, this workshop aimed to promote the creation of a RBN, based on the active participation of representatives from organizations, universities and governmental agencies from diverse countries of South America.

Break-out groups structure and questionnaire

Break-out groups focused on responding three main questions to characterize the full scope of biodiversity conservation through community using scientific-based approaches.

We provided the following question in addition with summarized responses.

    1. What links -activities and initiatives- can be established between the scientific community, society and communities to strengthen rational natural resources uses and conservation of biodiversity in the region?
    This dimension is characterized by the identification of opportunities for collaboration with the communities from strengthening the interest of the scientific community in the nature of local knowledge and the possibility of working with communities together with scientific work in the same way. Furthermore, raises the opportunity to
    build partnerships with local communities through collaboration and exchange of knowledge for the generation of sustainable development initiatives and conservation of ecosystems. In addition, this workshop presented an opportunity to strongly integrate scientific knowledge in different instances of outreach and education ecotourism initiatives, talks and instances of dialogue and knowledge transfer to its incorporation in mass media or thematic festivals. RBN also focuses on creating instances of collaboration among the academia, local communities and the private entities, from identifying opportunities for local development alternative that allows the conservation of natural resources, to obtaining financial resources through initiatives such as ecotourism, education or marketing of products that are sustainable and support conservation and community development.

Break-out groups proposed a sequence of recommendations to face the lack of initiatives associate with the link between scientific community, society and local communities:

  • Strengthen the exchange of knowledge by creating spaces of interaction between parties and stakeholders;
  • Achieve integration of audio visual broadcast content (TV shows, stories, etc.) attractive, depending on the working group;
  • Integration of scientific content into school curriculum;
  • Develop interaction in the generation of knowledge from the community,training and validation;
  • Building capacity through training efforts for ecosystem services and training for people on the impact of people on biodiversity and natural resources;
  • Involving the community in research and conservation projects to give continuity and connection;
  • Conducting talks and field activities to promote scientific dissemination around conservation initiatives;
  • Conduct training in local communities to support monitoring of species or areas of research;
  • Strengthen management capacity and funding sources identification;
  • Development and implementation of tools and systems that contribute to the economy of local communities through the sustainable use and care of their bio diversity;
  • Integrating traditional knowledge - local, with scientific knowledge (workshops);
  • Use traditional mechanisms to achieve goals (through the local view);
  • Provide a service / product through science / conservation that can be attractive to individuals;
  • Improve communication skills with local communities;
  • Identify and enforce participation of local leaders and train local people to self-management, strengthen resilience through empowerment of many;
  • Keep a database of conservation projects (national museums, institutions, etc.);
  • Production of documentaries, outreach and education materials, which considered the community as part of the ecosystem;
  • Involvement of local communities in the process of research and/or conservation;
  • Build partnership between academia, NGOs and local communities, while the NGOs must be supported and connected with industry and government;
  • Link between the scientific community and local communities through society as a whole, through various initiatives and from a diagnosis and tracking of prior knowledge of the community;
  • Dissemination of knowledge in a dynamic, accessible and entertaining;
  • Developing ecotourism initiatives;
  • Support the development of volunteer participation within communities;
  • School curriculum should incorporate traditional elements of their environment, strengthening the educational link;
  • Integrate communities in educational programs at all levels of organization, from the school to the community;
  • Participation of researchers in outreach established (i.e., science week);
  • Generate dialogue with local and national policy makers; and
  • Strategies that give value to biodiversity and natural resources.

One of the most valuable approaches to improve RBN successful actions is to focuses on collaboration between academia and society. Mainly, characterized by starting with appropriate contacts with decision-makers in order to achieve conservation efforts. Thus, researchers must understand the communities’ needs within the ecosystem. Therefore, NGOs should focus on making the link bridge between politicians, academics and rural communities. Furthermore, to achieve efficacious initiatives, scientific information must be translated into common language to insert it into the media. This makes it possible to attract the interest of society and life sciences communities from an economic, ideological and/or cultural interest. Finally, it also recommended gaining the confidence of communities based on respect for their traditional knowledge, so as to recognize the complementary of them with scientific knowledge. Thus a collective work under which that can define the solution of the problem from different looks possible. This allows for continuity and confidence allowed by ties that are strengthened over time.

2. What support can be mobilized in favour of strengthening and realization of these initiatives?
Participants recognized the lack of opportunities to generate networks oriented to transfer knowledge and to empower local communities for conservation initiatives, in addition with the creation of multidisciplinary groups. It is recommended that working with communities require the consideration of including professionals from diverse disciplines to strengthen the capacity of communication, dissemination and linking projects to society.

It was also highlighted the complex scenario to generate partnerships between academia, private world, local political leadership and NGOs. In order to create regional networking groups, it appears critical to identify strategies for financial support basically for dissemination of projects. The need to develop sources of information and sharing specific knowledge, through databases and encounters based on the dissemination and
collaboration spaces that can also mobilize volunteer and organizations also should be increases.

Among the main supporters to mobilize mentioned:

  • Achieving a virtual space for the transmission of linking strategy/outreach, and content with its positive and negative results;
  • Spaces for encounter and collaboration between scientists in related topics, that allowing to cultivate and maintain formal and informal links with authority;
  • Incentives for participation in dissemination/disclosure for scientists;
  • Databases with specific dissemination material
  • Support and assistance in the design of broadcast content with graphic designers, sociologists, lawyers, etc.;
  • Support of scientists to share laboratories, equipment, and research platforms;
  • Building a virtual space where scientists publish their equipment at their disposal;
  • Incentives for publication in local scientific journals;
  • Raise the added value of product: links with foreign economies, training, technology use and access;
  • Legal/bilateral agreements;
  • Mapping of all stakeholders of worldwide issues;
  • Find points of shared values;
  • Knowing what the media who come to the community approach are;
  • Involving local people and a focus group to stay in place (constantly present);
  • Enhance human resources on economic;
  • Achieve mutual support with other NGOs with similar national and international visions;
  • Gain support of local leaders;
  • Access to sources of volunteers among youth institutions (colleges, universities);
  • Access solvents figures like politicians and public figures;
  • Access to research funds, regional development to be directed toward conservation initiatives;
  • Obtaining international political commitments;
  • Establish databases with diffusion material;
  • Dissemination sessions dissemination strategies and/or or links;
  • Environmental activities designed for youth education and community members in monitoring conservation projects;
  • Environmental education should be included as part of the course (educational curriculum);
  • It is necessary to cycle based on the human dimension of scientific research, based on interviews with tools such as communities, from this understanding their vision and then to systematize that knowledge;
  • It is necessary to cultivate mutual trust for working together with other scientific and social institutions, but this requires investment in time resource;
  • It is necessary to influence the education system to achieve a paradigm shift in relation to the value of conservation and its relationship with science;
  • From the perspective of the economy it is necessary to give value to influence the environment, in terms of establishing a “Fair Trade” appealing to the consumer’s responsibility;
  • Establish adaptive management to the communities and resources;
  • Establish multidisciplinary conservation initiatives;
  • Establishment of formal and informal networks of collaboration;
  • Relying on networks to improve communication strategies;
  • Take advantage of technology and mass communication media platforms;
  • Develop work in interdisciplinary groups also consider traditional knowledge, allowing a holistic work; and
  • The initiatives should seek to be sustainable for integrating communities and ensure the continuity of research and conservation programs.

3. What are difficulties and obstacles in the implementation of these initiatives?
This analysis refers mainly to issues related to the absence of communities’ participation on research activities and involvements in develop conservation initiatives. At the same time, the importance of bridging links between academic communities and political decision-making, which represents an area where scientists have not explored due to lack of interest or competence mentioned. Moreover, the deficiency of human and financial resources, coupled with limited and demanding scientific work impedes investment of this resource in improving partnerships with the community mentioned time. Finally, the nonappearance of training and interest from scientists in communication, dissemination and linkage of scientific projects among stakeholders and the communities in which the research and conservation initiatives mentioned develop.

Main difficulties recognized:

  • Lack of knowledge of the local reality;
  • Lack of communication and knowledge of the tools and resources available;
  • Lack of interest of local authorities and communities;
  • Low profile of participation in the dissemination and linkage systems in science and technology;
  • Unwillingness to perform scientific meeting spaces with the authorities;
  • Lack of coordination and continuity of government institutions;
  • Lack of training of officials, species and resources;
  • Lack of training in outreach and linkage;
  • Gossip against conservationist;
  • Lack of history, heritage and link to the place, recent settlers;
  • Assume that everyone in a community have the same priorities, belief etc.;
  • Seek to implement a common goal through different techniques, actions and individualized for each site;
  • Lack of economic alternatives for the local community;
  • Support from governments for productive activities on those focused on conservation, given the scarcity of strategic vision on sustainability;
  • Ego”of scientists;
  • Lack of interest from local communities;
  • Attitudes, beliefs and negative values with conservation projects;
  • Lack of control;
  • Lack of technical skills of communication and dissemination by researchers;
  • Lack of a long-term perspective;
  • Scarcity of resources to address scientific activities and more so associated with conservation;
  • Threats from the industry;
  • Researchers believe it is not part of their job disclose their results;
  • Researchers who do their own principles, are not always able or do not have the necessary tools;
  • Time researcher, local situation (cost of living);
  • Lower Local resource assessment of the species;
  • Framework of the project within a working group versus individual work;
  • Stakeholders get support, recognizing the value of the participation of each of the stakeholders;
  • The main obstacles are in the bridge contact between academic and political, in the sense of achieving government control in protected areas, so the problem is political rather than technical or quality of information;
  • The main obstacles are given by ignorance and conflicts of interest, given that the objectives of preserving, understand and protect are not possible to achieve without political, so that the existence of neutral intermediary, represented by NGOs is necessary;
  • Variable Shortage of time and economic resources;
  • Shortage of political will and financial support;
  • Shortages will of the large landholders;
  • Limited funds for periods not exceeding one year or two whose continuity is not guaranteed;
  • Changing community leaders;
  • Failures in effective communication among researchers;
  • Lack of understanding of the needs and interests of the community; and
  • Excessive government bureaucracies to perform initiatives.


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