Q: Any examples of successful projects that used this community-based approach?
A: I have a number from our long-term community-based conservation work in Chile, but one recent project focused on conservation fencing comes to mind. The underground breeding burrows of an endangered seabird in a national park were being damaged and collapsed by cattle, so we proposed a project to build fences to exclude cattle from this critical habitat. My team and I had already been working with this community for more than a decade on conservation actions for this species, which is important to note because this kind of conservation takes time. Without time and a genuine commitment to the community, you can’t have the trust and meaningful relationships that are key to this type of project working. Since we were already embedded in the community, we could go to stakeholders and talk about how to make the project a reality. The biggest hurdle was the cattlemen’s association. It took us a few years of meetings, site visits, proposals, and counter proposals, but we eventually got complete buy-in and strong support for the fence. Within a couple of years, the cattlemen saw this degraded landscape come back. Seeing that restored habitat in real life for them was one of those revelatory moments.
Q: How do you approach teaching?
A: I really want to foster intellectual openness and curiosity. I don’t try to be the expert, but instead try to explore ideas alongside my students in a jointly created learning community. This also requires of me that I admit when I do not know things, which is refreshingly frequent. It takes the pressure off the idea that I need to be the arbiter of information and instead creates a learning space where I am an active participant. I find that approach both liberating and intellectually honest, and I think students really appreciate that, too.
Q: What do you do when you’re not working? Any hobbies?
A: I love being out exploring the natural world. At heart, I am a naturalist and outdoorsy person. I love being in my sea kayak, hiking, backpacking, and climbing with my family. They bring me the most joy and are the most grounding, as well.