A new collaboration between the University of Georgia Odum School of Ecology and the international nonprofit Rainforest Alliance aims to help ensure that the Rainforest Alliance’s work in sustainable tourism, forestry and agriculture meets its sustainability goals.
The Rainforest Alliance works with people whose livelihoods depend on the land, helping them transform the way they grow food, harvest wood and host travelers. From large multinational corporations to small, community-based cooperatives, businesses and consumers worldwide are involved in the Rainforest Alliance’s efforts to bring responsibly produced goods and services to a global marketplace where the demand for sustainability is growing steadily. The Rainforest Alliance works with specific standards for sustainability that conserve wildlife and wildlands and promote the well-being of workers and their communities. Farms and forestry enterprises that meet the criteria receive the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal. The Rainforest Alliance also works with tourism businesses, to help them succeed while leaving a small footprint on the environment and providing a boost to local economies.
To ensure that the program accomplishes its sustainability goals, the Rainforest Alliance supports research projects that monitor the success of different management strategies designed to protect against overuse and pollution of water resources. The Rainforest Alliance contacted Distinguished Research Professor Catherine Pringle of the Odum School of Ecology to help develop this research program.
Recently admitted UGA Ph.D. student Rebeca de Jesús will be the first of many students to participate in the project.
“Rebeca is the ideal person to make this project work,” explained Pringle. “She speaks Spanish fluently, has extensive experience in stream monitoring and environmental outreach—and she received her M.S. degree from the University of Puerto Rico with Alonso Ramirez, a Ph.D. alumnus of UGA.”
De Jesús will focus her research for the next three years on determining the effectiveness of Rainforest Alliance certification in conserving streams that run through coffee farms in Costa Rica. Using as reference a similar project conducted in the regions of Cundinamarca and Santander, Colombia , de Jesús will first assess the state of these streams by studying their physical habitat using rapid assessment protocols and will assess their biological community using macroinvertebrates as indicators. This study will begin during late spring and early summer, when she will visit coffee farms in Costa Rica for the first time. While there, she will also conduct outreach efforts related to her project, including a stream ecology workshop for high school teachers from the United States who wish to include topics on sustainable development and tropical ecosystem conservation in their curricula.
Pringle and de Jesús are enthusiastic about the project. “This is a very exciting first step in what we hope will be an ongoing collaborative research project between the Rainforest
Alliance and UGA’s Odum School of Ecology,” said Pringle. “It is also a model for the type of collaboration between UGA and nongovernmental organizations that we are developing for the new UGA Ph.D. program in Integrative Conservation, to be offered through four units: ecology, anthropology, geography, and forest resources, that will begin in Fall 2011 (pending appropriate approvals).”