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New research collaborative supports environmental conservation efforts in the Andean Amazon


FIU has been tapped by the federal government to support environmental conservation efforts in the Andean Amazon region of South America.

FIU has been awarded a nearly $750,000 grant to develop a research collaboration network in Colombia through a partnership with the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana and the Universidad de la Amazonia. The funding is provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through Higher Education for Development, an organization that mobilizes the higher education community to address global development challenges.

Andean Amazon“The Andean Amazon region is at risk of major landscape transformation as a result of land-use change, river alteration, human population growth and climate change,” said Elizabeth Anderson, program executive officer for FIU’s Global Water for Sustainability (GLOWS) program and research associate in the Department of Earth and Environment. “Our goal is to develop a greater scientific understanding of the unique ecosystems in the Colombian Andean Amazon by building education and research capacity within the country, and then put the science to work for environmental conservation.”

GLOWS focuses on increasing social, economic and environmental benefits to people of the developing world.

“The Andean Amazon partnership will explore one of the most biologically diverse, yet understudied, regions of the world,” Anderson said. “This new initiative provides a great opportunity for involving more faculty and staff in valuable research opportunities and expanding FIU’s collaborations in Colombia.”

Planned activities in Colombia include professional development workshops, new academic programs, research collaboration networks, scholarships for student research, conferences, citizen-science programs and more. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humboldt in Colombia have signed on to support the initiative.

“Leveraging the biodiversity expertise of universities will foster the next generation of experts and help get university practitioners in the field to work directly with communities on the toughest conservation challenges,” said Lawrence Rubey, director, USAID’s Office of Regional Sustainable Development for Latin America and the Caribbean. “These partnerships are critical to strengthening the ability of local actors to protect the Andean Amazon.”

Similar projects were awarded to the University of Florida working in Bolivia, the University of North Carolina working in Ecuador and the University of Richmond working in Peru. The conservation programs are part of USAID’s Initiative for Conservation in the Andean Amazon (ICAA), which has yielded successful region-wide results including the training of 70,896 people, the implementation of 167 policies, laws, agreements or regulations, and the completion of 329 policy-related dialogue activities.

“The partnerships that make up the ICAA II Higher Education Partnership Program have put forth strong plans that are as inclusive as they are ambitious,” said Tully R. Cornick, executive director of Higher Education for Development. “With goals to learn and teach, these partnerships are now on the way to strengthening capacity of local universities for long-term improvements.”