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Managing conservation and biodiversity in the Neotropics   

Managing conservation and biodiversity in the Neotropics

For the last twenty years, Professor Felipe Montoya has been working in the field of community development and environmental conservation in the Neo-tropics, primarily in Costa Rica. His passion for environmental anthropology, conservation, and critical studies has grown over the course of completing a BSc in Biology at the University of New Mexico, an MSc in Tropical Plant Ecology at the University of Costa Rica, and a PhD in Cultural Anthropology at the University of New Mexico. As the Faculty Chair of Neotropical Conservation and Director of the Las Nubes Project in Costa Rica, Professor Montoya shares his vision for environmental integrity, social justice, and human livelihood improvement with students, colleagues, and the local community in San Jose, Costa Rica.

The Las Nubes EcoCampus where the Lillian Meighen Wright Centre is located, the project operates with the goal of protecting the biological, ecological, and social values of the Las Nubes Biological Reserve and adjacent areas in Southern Costa Rica. Originally created by Professor Howard Daugherty following a donation made by Toronto physician and medical researcher, Dr. Woody Fisher in 1998, the project has since then contributed to significant achievements in research and conservation programs in biodiversity protection, rural sustainability, environmental education in local schools, and the use of Geographic Information Systems and remote sensing as decision-support tools for environmental management.

 Professor Montoya has worked as the Las Nubes Director since 2012, during which time he has secured several new pieces of land for Las Nubes Project as part of an ongoing effort to protect land in the Alexander Skutch Biological Corridor. He created the ExpoCOBAS festival as a means of encouraging closer bonds between the communities within the corridor and the Canadian students participating in summer/semester abroad field courses. ExpoCOBAS has since grown exponentially, with local community members handling the organization, coordination and management of the now regionally known festival. The Las Nubes Project now hosts two programs yearly, one during reading week and one during the summer term. Students can conduct multiple research projects on ecological conservation and human livelihood in Costa Rica. With a growing number of students engaged in the project, a Las Nubes Student Association (LNSA) has been initiated and organized to raise funds to promote sustainable ecological conservation and social sustainability practices in the Corridor.

Current projects and research focus on promoting sustainable land management practices, exploring options for rural community tourism, conducting arts-based research on social-environmental relations, and studying links between different land uses and biodiversity. Other projects include building a digital catalog of endangered species database, mammal monitoring, and creating baseline information on land use in the Corridor. In the pipeline are projects on Ecological Connectivity and Human Well-Being as well as Education and Research Station for Socio-Environmental Revitalization.