Understanding Community Complexities

Published July 15, 2022

We have been very busy!

Ecoforensic CIC is now up and running – but we have done a huge amount of background work. A quick update – thanks to funding support from the University of Sussex (Sussex Sustainability Research Programme & Higher Education Impact Fund). We spent 5 weeks in Ecuador to explore the potential of our idea – the thought that future legal cases under the rights of Nature will require new knowledge, a new interdisciplinary field we have called ‘Ecological Forensics’.

Over 5 weeks we travelled to meet partners in their ‘ecosystems’ – from the cloudforest of the Western Andes to the lowland rainforests of Esmeraldas Province and back to the Eastern Andes. We ran a workshop bringing people together to understand what ecological information is actually important in protecting ecosystems under this new emerging of the ‘rights of Nature’ paradigm and developed a training curriculum for our new network of paraecologists. It is the paraecologist network that is at the forefront of the data collection to understand the undiscovered and incredible biological diversity of Ecuadorian ecosystems, and vital in any legislative processes to protect them. The workshop venue at Oho y Media in Quito was a last minute, and urgent change from Los Cedros Reserve, much to disappointment of all. The reason was the ‘Paro’ or strike, that saw indigenous groups, students and social organisation bring the national road network to a halt – shutting down Quito – and highlighting the active role of society in Ecuadorian politics in their demands for Justice! This was to the annoyance of Jose Decoux who had already catered for our group ……

Luckily the pantry of food for the 25 + attendees (cause of the annoyance, as it needed to be transported up to the reserve, only to be transported back down – not so easy when the mode of transport is mules up a 2 hour mountain track), didn’t go to waste.

Reflecting back it is still incredible to think how, in February, we started with an idea and now we are in an incredibly fortunate position, where we can discuss opportunities to scale. We have literally hit the ground running. We started with a short research study to explore the importance of ecological information in ‘Rights of Nature’, to identify and surface ecological information important for legal practitioners in a language and format that is most helpful, to individually visiting potential partners in Ecuador that eventually culminated in a workshop bringing together a group of incredible people. It is never easy to describe (and bring to life) each memorable experience spent with incredibly passionate individuals, committed to their cause and in the forefront of innovative ways of protecting nature – our respects to them all as they remain positive in face of, sometimes extreme challenges, to their efforts in conservation, ecosystem protection and restoration.

So here are a few highlights….

  • Coffee with Alberto Costa in Quito to understand the importance of Rights of Nature, he did motivate the team… and we knew we were onto something…

  • Amazing dark rum shared with friend, Carlos Zorrilla in his incredible home/ecosystem, on the importance of over 28 years of resistance by the Junin Community (now facing the Llurimagua mine) to protect the Junin Community Reserve and their way of life from impacts of mining – as we started to understand – the first impact is ‘social contamination’. Their fight goes on for the ‘Rights of Nature’.

  • Home away from home, with the Santa Lucia Cloud Forest Reserve community. Here, over the past 15 years, we have worked together and collaborated to develop a sustainable livelihood model through research and created a mature scientific data collection site with one of few long term monitoring datasets for the Western Andes (over 45,000 bird records recorded annually since 2008, camera trapping datasets, carbon assessment, and altitudinal hectare plots) – Santa Lucia is now one of the best sites for visiting researchers and students to learn and investigate the complex cloudforest environments of the Western Andes.

  • We visited a potential new partner, FCAT, where we had the opportunity to see a mature model of a scientific research station dedicated to restoration of degraded rainforest systems built from community level up. Their incredibly talented team will gladly offer advanced field experience and guidance, training, specializing in Restoration Ecology.

  • On to Reserva Tesoro Escondido, a site that is close to my heart as it is the culmination of years of my research and active conservation work to bring the critically endangered brown-headed spider monkey back from the brink of extinction. In 2005 we went to search for the last remaining populations of these primates and found some 170 individuals of a global population estimated at 250 in a site deep in the Esmeraldas rainforests. With the support of the local community, some incredible funders we set up a protected area of over 20 square kilometers with my ex-PhD student, Dr Citlali Morales, leading the charge – her passion for gender equality shines through her incredible team of female paraecologists. The site is now a shining example of conservation and is a training centre for our ‘paraecologists for the Rights of Nature’ network.

  • Is it possible to visit 3 different reserves in a day from the Amazon to the Andean highlands – with lunch at a local communities’ members house? Only with Javier Robayo from EcoMinga, who’s enthusiastic energy is infectious. Not only does he manage a huge portfolio of reserves throughout Ecuador, he is fighting threats from mining to their Dracula Reserve (Awa).

This is only the beginning…

Get Involved Today

Ecoforensic is a non-profit Community Interest Company (CIC). Every penny we raise goes directly into our efforts towards improving access to forensic ecological data and defending the rights of Nature around the world.

If you’re a community organisation, protected area, an academic, legal institution or a specialist in ecology and interested in supporting the efforts of paraecologists for the ‘Rights of Nature’, or want to know how you can become one and start contributing data, click below to find out more.