ACG Parataxonomists in Global Context

A recent article in Conservation Biology considers the ACG parataxonomist program in the context of similar parataxonomist and paraecologist programs in India, Papua New Guinea, and southern Africa.

Citizen science has been gaining momentum in the United States and Europe, where citizens are literate and often interested in science. However, in developing countries, which have a dire need for environmental data, such programs are slow to emerge, despite the large and untapped human resources in close proximity to areas of high biodiversity and poorly known floras and faunas. Thus, we propose that the parataxonomist and paraecologist approach, which originates from citizen-based science, is well suited to rural areas in developing countries. Being a paraecologist or a parataxonomist is a vocation and entails full-time employment underpinned by extensive training, whereas citizen science involves the temporary engagement of volunteers. Both approaches have their merits depending on the context and objectives of the research. We examined 4 ongoing paraecologist or parataxonomist programs in Costa Rica, India, Papua New Guinea, and southern Africa and compared their origins, long-term objectives, implementation strategies, activities, key challenges, achievements, and implications for resident communities. The programs supported ongoing research on biodiversity assessment, monitoring, and management, and participants engaged in non-academic capacity development in these fields. The programs in Southern Africa related to specific projects, whereas the programs in Costa Rica, India, and Papua New Guinea were designed for the long term, provided sufficient funding was available. The main focus of the paraecologists’ and parataxonomists’ activities ranged from collection and processing of specimens (Costa Rica and Papua New Guinea) or of socioeconomic and natural science data (India and Southern Africa) to communication between scientists and residents (India and Southern Africa). As members of both the local land user and research communities, paraecologists and parataxonomists can greatly improve the flow of biodiversity information to all users, from local stakeholders to international academia.

A previous academic article on ACG parataxonomists by Janzen and Hallwachs was published in PLOS one in 2011.

Schmiedel, U., Araya, Y., Bortolotto, M. I., Boeckenhoff, L., Hallwachs, W., Janzen, D., Kolipaka, S. S., Novotny, V., Palm, M., Parfondry, M., SMansis, A., & Toko, P. (2016). Contributions of paraecologists and parataxonomists to research, conservation, and social development. Conservation Biology, 30(3), 506–519.

Janzen, D. H., & Hallwachs, W. (2011). Joining Inventory by Parataxonomists with DNA Barcoding of a Large Complex Tropical Conserved Wildland in Northwestern Costa Rica. PLOS ONE, 6(8), e18123.

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Universal Access to the Sendero Natural

Congratulations are in order for the Programa de Ecoturismo of the ACG, who inaugurated the renovated sendero natural as a universal access trail this past Friday. The new trail is wheelchair accessible and has audio listening stations. Take a video tour and listen to the audio at the link.

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ACG Fire Control Program in the news

Many members of the ACG family are featured in this Teletica report on the ACG firefighters – Salvando el Bosque Seco. The video runs 17 minutes and is from the TV newsmagazine show 7 Dias (think 60 minutes for US-based folks). Contains nice drone footage of a controlled burn in the fire break and lots of commentary and background from Julio and Roger.

Take a look. This is well-deserved recognition for a group of people whose efforts underpin everything else that happens in the ACG.

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Tree planting / Green corridor initiative (updated)

The Restauración y Silvicultura program is starting a major tree planting initiative along the Pan-American highway to better connect the habitats of Santa Rosa with P.N. Guanacaste to the east. Read about it here.

Update 24 April 2016:

Vanessa Brenes writes to inform us that ACG researchers are invited to participate in an ‘ACG family’ planting day scheduled for Friday, June 10. poster for tree planting activities

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ACG research into forest recovery in Nature

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A group that includes current and former ACG researchers Justin Becknell, Jennifer Powers, Arturo Sanchez, and Nate Swenson has published a study of biomass resilience in secondary neotropical forests. The study draws on data collected from the ACG, among other sites, and was published in Nature magazine.

Poorter, L., Bongers, F., Aide, T. M., Almeyda Zambrano, A. M., Balvanera, P., Becknell, J. M., … Chazdon, R. L. (2016). Biomass resilience of Neotropical secondary forests. Nature, advance online publication.

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New US regulations for newt and salamander import

From Roger Blanco:

Public Bulletin 1-13-2016 Listing of 201Salamanders as Injurious

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Does research help to safeguard protected areas?

In a 2013 article titled Does research help to safeguard protected areas?, William Laurance asks if researchers provide some protective effects to biodiversity by their very presence in conserved wildlands. His answer is a qualified yes. The abstract is below:

Although many protected areas are foci for scientific research, they also face growing threats from illegal encroachment and overharvesting. Does the presence of field researchers help to limit such threats? Although evidence is largely anecdotal, researchers do appear to provide some protective effects, both actively (such as by deterring poachers) and passively (such as by benefiting local communities economically and thereby generating support for protected areas). However, much remains unknown about the generality and impacts of such benefits. A key priority is to develop a better understanding of the advantages and limitations of field research for aiding protected areas and their biodiversity.

Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Volume 28, Issue 5, May 2013, Pages 261–266, doi:10.1016/j.tree.2013.01.017

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Merry Christmas, here’s some ACG wildlife!

Merry Christmas from IACG! To brighten your holiday we’re sharing some camera trap photos from the Maritza Biological Station. Station biologist Rafa Morales of Stroud has set up the cameras over the water pipe trail in order to start monitoring the wildlife that depends on the quebradas. Thanks for sharing Rafa!

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New documents from SINAC

SINAC CR has new documents that may be of interest to the ACG community up on their ISSUU Page.

The first is the strategy for adaptation to climate change 2015-2025. The second is a one-sheet on improvements to physical infrastructure in the national parks – that shows the scope of the current work at Rincón de la Vieja and compares it to projects that are ongoing in Tortugero and Corcovado.

link to sinac issue page adaptationlink to sinac issue page avances en las obras

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Digitizing the ACG library – first steps

A long-term goal of IACG has been to support the ACG in the creation of a digital repository. One key step in that process is converting some of the existing resources in the ACG library to digital form. We are happy to be employing long-time ACG volunteer Felipe Pizarro to work on this effort. Federico Matarrita is supervising the training and helping with the creation of digital infrastructure.

Felipe and Federico scanning historical ACG documents

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