The three most dangerous narratives in conservation

So important to think about the narrative we use in Conservation! A great article by Chris Sandbrook. Check it out! and visit his blog!

Thinking like a human

Emery Roe, an American policy scholar, first developed the idea that ‘narratives’ – stories about the world and how it works – are used in policy making processes to cut through complexity and justify a particular course of action. We are a storytelling species, and people find it easy to understand and get behind a compelling story with strong internal logic and a beginning, middle and end. Once a narrative has taken hold they can be very difficult to shake off, at least until an even more compelling ‘counter-narrative’ arrives on the scene. A classic example from resource governance is the ‘resources will be over-exploited unless they are in private ownership’ narrative, based on Garrett Hardin’s 1968 Tragedy of the Common’s article. It took decades of careful scholarship, and ultimately a nobel prize for Elinor Ostrom, to demonstrate that this narrative was compelling, influential, and wrong.

There are numerous narratives…

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Urban biodiversity conservation

Why bother with urban biodiversity? … I can mention at least four reasons for knowing, caring and doing something to protect  all the species in our cities….

1.- cities offer an enormous niche and an opportunity for biodiversity conservation

2.-  urban settlements are inevitably growing in size and density and are one of the major threats to nature conservation.

3.- cities tend to be located in important biodiversity hotspots

4.- urban ecosystems provide a platform for citizens to understand the natural processes that govern global sustainability and provide them with several different social and psychological benefits.

Wanna do something about it? Get involved in urban planning and development in your home city! There is a lot of room for biologists, ecologist and conservationists in general. For example, green infrastructures such as green roofs and walls for food production, carbon sequestration, regulation of temperature could be the perfect scenario for the restoration of ecosystems, and the reintroduction of some native plants, birds, small mammals, insects that otherwise would not have a chance to co-exist with cities. It is true that many native species won’t resist to urban conditions but such technologies have the potential to restore the ecosystem’s functioning and to reconnect cities with the natural cycles.

How many species live next you? do you know them? Go out and explore!!!!! See below a beauty you can find in the North of Quito-Ecuador  😉



Creative science communication


FullSizeRender (4)

Have you ever thought about how much scientific knowledge remains frozen in very complicated scientific papers?

Don’t you think that science could be way more accesible and FUN for everybody?

Well! The Cambridge “Pint of Science”  does a great job communicating science in a very lively way.  They bring together around 50 local artists that create an artwork related to the scientific talks held in pubs around the city of Cambridge, UK.IMG_5756


Last night, I had the chance to drink a pint at the Boathouse, discuss about climate change resilience in Quito , answer a pub quiz and present Wendy Bohme’s  amazing art piece inspired by my work. It was a great experience! What a fun way to communicate science! Don’t you think 😉 ?


The festival takes place in over 100 cities in 12 countries around the world during the course of the three days, 23-25 May. Find some interesting facts about the history of Pint of Science here. Check it out!

pint of science


#‎creativereactions‬ ‪#‎sciencecommunication‬ bringing together ‪#‎art‬ and‪#‎science‬ ‪#‎pintofscience‬ ‪#‎cambridge‬


No estaba muerto… andaba de parranda ;)

Increíble pero cierto! El Jambato negro del páramo de Ecuador que se pensaba estaba extinto fue recientemente encontrado! Lee más sobre la historia del Atelopus ignescens que resucitó aquí 

“Un apasionado cura Salesiano y una familia campesina, llenos de fé, sonaron las campanas que anunciaban la presencia del Jambatiug, Caballito de Dios o Castillo en tierras que por ahora conviene mantenerlas en el anonimato y que oportunamente serán conocidas. A su llamado acudimos, incrédulos, Giovanni Onore y el autor de este artículo, luego se sumó Elicio E. Tapia. Ahí estaba el jambatito negro azabache, tal y como lo vimos en aquellos tiempos de juventud” (Coloma, 2016).



‪#‎conservacion ‪#‎Ecuador


Art and Conservation

“ Drawing strength and inspiration from Nature ” -Gunther Pauli-

How important is to understand that conservation needs to be tackled from all the possible angles you can think of. Conservation is by nature interdisciplinary but we still tend to believe that it can be achieved by hard sciences alone. The truth is that the issue is so complex, that it needs the understanding and the contribution  from all us, no matter the position you are in or the subject you studied at college.  Everybody can make a difference from wherever they are. I find that one of most engaging, colourful and fun approaches to conservation is through visual arts. From scientific illustration to photography, video, documentaries, street art to name a few.  The purpose is to  make conservation more inclusive. To make the matter visible to non-experts, catch their attention,  INSPIRE them and invite them to contribute. When these visual arts are combined with the intuitive wisdom from my female  entrepreneur fellows it becomes even more motivating to me 🙂 (sorry if I am biased)

Diana Troya

Diana Troya-Visual Communicator

I am proud  and happy to introduce you all to Diana Troya and Noemi Cevallos, ecuadorian biologists, artists, innate communicators and friends. They are both doing an amazing job by organising workshops to spread the word about conservation through visual arts in Ecuador.

If you want to know about their work, like their Facebook page and check out the videos about their last two workshops held in Quito.

Botanical Illustration


Noemi Cevallos-Scientific Illustrator






Do NO Harm…

Lake Malawi Malawi

Lake Malawi-Malawi

Too many times I have heard that development aid implements millionaire programmes to tackle one issue and accidentally causes another problem. This time, I want to share with you the case of mosquito nets, lake Malawi and the endemic endangered Chambo fish. Imagine for a second this amazing lake full of fishes…. thousands of people  depending on Chambo as a source of protein and as a source of income. Imagine now,  a huge amount of mosquito nets impregnated with toxic pesticides (to kill the mosquito) been distributed in the country to prevent Malaria and other mosquito-transmitted diseases.  Not a direct relation between these two facts right? well, these facts are very closely related…. People are sleeping without mosquito nets and are using the nets to capture baby Chambo fishes in the breeding areas.  Such practice has almost driven the specie to extinction. Ooooops!!!?

Chambo Fish

Chambo fish

I am not saying that a strategy for preventing Malaria is a bad thing, because it is not! .. but c’mon people! let’s pay attention to the implementation process of such strategies. The solution is not to distribute mosquito nets without proper education and communication about how to use the nets appropriately.  Let’s always be aware and prepared to mitigate the unintended consequences of our actions in any field. Luckily some actions have been taken to conserve the breeding grounds of the fish and people are now actively involved in the process. Local people are aware of the importance of protecting the baby Chambo fishes to ensure their food security and their jobs.


¿Vives fuera de tu presupuesto? para reflexionar…

Según, el Global Network Footprint, hoy 19 de agosto sobrepasamos el límite de regeneración natural de la Tierra para este año… es decir que el resto del año 2014 viviremos fuera de nuestro presupuesto natural… cada año esta fecha llega más temprano, 1 de octubre en el 2000 vs 19 de agosto en el 2014… para reflexionar no? 🙂 Busquemos ser más consecuentes con nuestro discurso y busquemos vivir de manera más sostenible.

Les comparto el artículo de el Global Network Footprint: 

In less than 8 Months, Humanity exhausts Earth’s budget for the year

y el de la WWF al respecto:

In the red for the rest of 2014: today we exceed nature’s budget

Ilustración:  Alicia Franco

Ilustración: Alicia Franco

Sueños de Otonga por Alvaro Barragán

DSC_0671 Conocí la Otonga cuando era estudiantes de biología, debo haber tenido 20 años. Giovanni Onore era nuestro profesor de entomología y en esa época los viajes lo hacíamos en buses de servicio público hasta la Unión del Toachi y luego en los camiones para vacas hacía el poblado de San Francisco de las Pampas. DSC_0613 El primer día solo fueron largos viajes por caminos malos hasta llegar a los límites de Otonga a la casa de Don César Tapia.

Él nos recibió en su humilde morada, nos brindó su comida y sus historias. Ese es el recuerdo más nítido que tengo de aquella salida. Pues luego de comer, la mayoría de los compañeros se fueron a dormir, mientras uno o dos amigos nos quedamos junto a Patricia Ortiz, conversando con Don César. Recuerdo todas las historias sobre los animales que vio en su vida, los pumas, las culebras, osos, pájaros y demás. Mezclado con sus relatos personales de su vida, de como migró desde Sigchos a trabajar la montaña junto a su mujer y luego el crecimiento de su familia y su arduo trabajo con la caña para hacer panelas.

Don César Tapia

Don César Tapia

Al día siguiente la larga caminata a la reserva nos quitó la vida, pero valió la pena pues pudimos entrar en el corazón de Otonga y ver lo grandioso del bosque. La salida era corta y llovía mucho por lo que salimos casi después de estar apenas unas pocas horas.

Volví a la Otonga luego de al menos 10 años. Regresé como profesor con mi estudiante de tesis, Carolina Proaño-Castro. Nos perdimos en la búsqueda del sendero, cargados con unas mochilas llenas de comida y las fundas de dormir deambulamos como dos horas hasta que una señora nos indicó el camino correcto hacia la estación. La estación era y aún es una casa de madera abierta con una cocina de leña en donde uno se la pasa para matar el frío de la niebla.

El bosque sigue siendo mágico, intacto e incluso avanza por el trabajo de Onore y los Tapia que reforestaron muchos terrenos aledaños.

He regresado varias veces a Otonga desde hace más de nueve años. Cada viaje es mágico, tiene momentos que no se olvidan nunca, experiencias personales emocionantes, encuentros con el humilde Don César quien no para en su labor de guardián de la vida, guardián de los seres que esconde Otonga, incluido el Olinguito el más famoso mamífero del Ecuador. Cada vez valoro más el trabajo de Onore y los Tapia, quienes como hormigas han mantenido algo que crece cada vez más y que es un regalo para todos. Muy pocos saben de todo este esfuerzo, de todo el amor que hay detrás de conservar, de todos los recursos empleados en esta empresa de locos, recursos humanos sobre todo.
Pero Otonga no solo es bosque y naturaleza salvaje. Son seres humanos que viven en sus alrededores, sobre todo niños, que han recibido ayudas de la Fundación de Otonga que hacen que ellos puedan estudiar, que tengan la posibilidad de acceder a ese derecho universal que no se cumple en la mayoría del país y que puede ser la razón de que estemos destruyendo nuestro entorno. Esa fue mi mayor sorpresa, el mirar que existe un esfuerzo orientado a una Otonga integral en donde los seres humanos son parte de los sueños de conservación.

Sin duda, Giovanni Onore pasará a la historia como el gran científico que refundó el estudio de la zoología en el país, como educador de algunos de los mejores científicos que tiene el país, como motivador de soñadores, como conservacionista pero sobre todo será recordado por el gran apoyo a la educación de cientos de niños que no tenían alternativas para surgir…..y así cierra el ciclo con la primera generación de conservacionistas que tomarán sus sueños como propios, los Tapia……Pero este es otro cuento…

Alvaro y Giovanni

Alvaro y Giovanni

Meeting LAC fellows

It has been a long time since my last blog post…here I am again….keeping up Vivamos el Bosque 🙂

The Do School program, ¨Engage in Conservation¨ has officially ended this year, but the initiative of protecting the Otonga Cloud Forest is still up and running. Some news about my favorite place in the world coming soon 🙂
I´ve now become an alumni of the DO school,  and with my fellow Diego from Chile we were selected as ambassadors for Latin America. yeyyyy!!! what does that mean? 😉 Diego-CaroWell, we are planning an Alumni meet-up in Latin America in fall next year and hope to organize a Challenge 2.0. The isea is that all participating Alumni from LAC,  with their multidisciplinary backgrounds and ventures, will work on a challenge to create an impact in the region. Keep an eye on this coming meet up! Any ideas from you…are more than welcome 🙂

Beside that I was lucky to meet Lucia from Perú and learn about her great initiative Willakuni. willakuni A social and artistic project that work with women affected by political violence in Peru. I hope to visit her soon again!! Here a picture of both …

Lucia Caro

Next steps of Vivamos el bosque?? well I am first finally translating my blog into spanish and sharing with you news and exciting interviews from some good friends of the Otonga Forest….People who has been following and supporting the initiative want to learn more about Otonga, its people and friends.  Some of the questions I´ve been asked and will try to answer on my next blogs:  what do people who love Otonga think and feel about this forest? why is such an interesting place for so many people? Keep checking my blog… news, histories, interviews and guest blog posts coming soon!