Investigadores del Área de Conservación Guanacaste (iACG)
IACG is a volunteer organization lead by an international community of scientists, resource managers, students and conservationists whose mission is to promote research in the Área de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG). The primary goal of IACG is to provide tools and activities that foster an interface for communication for the exchange of information between researchers and the larger ACG community of administrators and users. To meet this challenge, IACG works to bring together and grow the extended ACG community through a central web-site, meetings, workshops, field courses, and other related research, development and education activities.
The mission of the ACG is to conserve both the biodiversity and the cultural heritage contained within its borders, and also to be a pilot project for strategies that integrate wildland conservation efforts with the interests of the societies in which those wildlands are embedded. Broadly speaking, this is conservation through non-damaging biodiversity development, and scientific research is an integral part of this effort. The products of research provide much of the raw information on the biodiversity of the ACG that is subsequently used in conservation decisions and biodiversity development. The process of research builds capacity among the biodiversity managers tasked with carrying out the mission of the ACG and among the neighboring resident populace whose understanding and valuing of wild biodiversity is necessary for achieving integration between the ACG and its resident, national, and international society.
Historically, there have been a large number of researchers working independently in the ACG, but (with notable exceptions) the investments, efforts, and outputs of those researchers have been only loosely coordinated. As a result, there are high start-up costs for would-be ACG researchers, and despite its great biological, logistic, and administrative potential, the ACG is relatively underexploited as a destination for scientific research.
In order to address this, we envision IACG as a consortium of investigators organized around a central web-resource whose first priority is to distill and disseminate their product to one another, the greater ACG, its affiliates, and beyond. Our goal is to increase the research output of the ACG and to make that output useful to the larger ACG community. We conceive of this web-resource as having two main components: communications tools which allow investigators to communicate effectively and directly with one another and the larger ACG community, and storage and organizational tools which will make available commonly useful data, including metadata on current and past research in ACG. We believe these goals can be best achieved in a decentralized structure that is equally accessible to all users. It is the nature of science that no administrator, however competent or knowledgeable, will ever be able to know many of the pieces of information that may be pertinent to a research program; the best solution is to make the information as accessible as possible to the community of investigators and the ACG community as a whole. It is also an experiment: can a web-based community be created out of a group of investigators with diverse goals and interests, and durations, and if so, what will that community produce?
Finally, suggesting ways in which the research environment could be improved and formulating a mission which broadly overlaps that of the ACG’s Programa de Investigación is in no way meant to imply criticism of that program. The achievements of Investigación in facilitating research, generating information, and developing the research potential of the ACG have been nothing short of heroic. Due to its small size and legally mandated restricted reach, the ACG research program does not currently have the luxury of embarking on major new investments in intellectual infrastructure that will mostly benefit outside investigators at the expense of the ACG’s endogenous research projects and infrastructure. It is thus up to those who will be the primary beneficiaries of this infrastructure to make the effort to develop it. We also hope that by providing a central web resource for information for investigators and an interface for interacting with other park programs, we can eventually alleviate some of the logistical burden of managing investigator activities and serving as a conduit between researchers and the ACG that currently falls to the staff of the research program.
In conclusion, IACG functions to harness researcher energy to work side by side with the research program, BioGuanacaste, the Guanacaste Dry Forest Conservation Fund, the larger ACG community, and other groups and organizations to promote and strengthen the ACG as a destination for scientific research.
Immediate Goals 2005-2007:
- Propose the iACG concept and obtain approval and feedback from ACG administrators and senior researchers in the form of written statements, informal discussion, and a planned meeting in summer 2005.
- Generate a mailing list of current ACG researchers (and therefore potential iACG members) including senior researchers, post-docs, graduate students, and ACG staff.
- Develop a list of statutes outlining the organizational structure of iACG
- Create a web-based infrastructure (http://www.investigadoresacg.org) to consolidate and centralize information for ACG investigators to:
- Promote continuity and preventing duplication of research effort.
- Facilitate the ACG administrators in dealing with researchers by, for example, providing online information for prospective ACG researchers.
- Facilitate exchange of information among researchers (by creating a listserve and/or news blog) and between the ACG and the group of researchers as a whole.
- Archive and link data and metadata of past and ongoing projects.
- Promote synergy among researchers in order to elucidate connections between projects, distill primary research findings, and disseminate these findings to the larger ACG community and beyond.
- Provide links to other organizations, databases, web sites, and individual homepages of interest to those working in the ACG.
- Find external funding and human resources for the creation of a searchable, online bibliography of primary and secondary literature that is directly or indirectly related to the ecology, natural history, conservation, and sociology of the ACG.
- Assess interest in and find external funding and human resources for organization of an initial combined iACG organizational meeting/symposium and web-publication of its proceedings.
- Generate and maintain a web-searchable data/metadata database of past and ongoing ACG research efforts and their output.
- Foster and maintain a strong sense of community, collaboration, and information sharing among ACG researchers and between researchers and ACG program staff.
Jeffrey A. Klemens, Philadelphia University
Salvatore J. Agosta,Department of Biology, Wilkes University
Jennifer S. Powers Departments of Ecology, Evolution & Behavior and Plant Biology, University of Minnesota
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