TSG News

Day of reckoning for Ecuador’s biodiversity

Click here for a link to the article in Nature

The Fight for Yasuni

Click here for a link to the article in ScienceShot

Yasuni Reveals Its Hidden Creatures

Click here for a link to the article in ScienceShot

Ecuador’s Amazon drilling pledge still to take shape

Click here for a link to the article in BBC News

Historic Ecuador-UN agreement may save Yasuni-Tiputini from further oil exploration threats

By Douglas Zook, Professor of Science Education and Global Ecology, Boston University School of Education (dzook@bu.edu)

A precedent-setting agreement to preserve the vast Yasuni-Tiputini tropical rainforest region (about the size of Vermont) has been reached (August 2010). This has major positive implications for the Tiputini Biodiversity Station, in that protection for the region will be solidified.

Worked out over several months by Ecuadorian government officials, scientists, and the United Nations Development Program, the agreement establishes an international fund wherein countries of the world will contribute a yearly total equivalent to at least half the revenue that Ecuador would have received if they had allowed continued non-renewable petroleum energy extraction in the rainforest region. Germany has already led the way by pledging $50 million each year for the next thirteen years.  Other countries that see tropical rainforest preservation as a serious part of the answer to countering excess anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and for preserving the global water cycle and the benefits of biodiversity, are expected to come forth with additional pledges. Moreover, the international fund will allow businesses, institutions, and individuals to contribute as well.

Working periodically with Nathan Phillips and sedGreen, I have followed up my visits to Tiputini in recent years (see http://www.bu.edu/today/world/2009/02/18/1-500-acres-life) with a wide range of multi-media presentations at local Boston schools, in my Global Ecology classes, and most recently in a variety of venues in Europe about the priority importance of tropical rainforests such as this highly biodiverse, wilderness area on the east side of the Andes.  With all the continuous negative news of humans’ continuing war on nature, it is refreshing to report such a potentially significant new positive pathway led by citizen-scientist coalitions and their enlightened nations such as Ecuador and Germany.

“Tropical rainforests as dynamic symbiospheres of life”

Professor Doug Zook publishes paper in Symbiosis highlighting the rich biodiversity in the Tiputini-Yasuni region of the northwest Amazon. Click here for the full paper: pdf

Prof. Doug Zook is now giving multi-media presentations on Tiputini and Amazon ecology

More than 150 advanced placement (AP) high school students from the Boston Public Schools “journeyed” to Tiputini and the northwest Amazon via a multi-media presentation given by Douglas Zook, Associate Professor of Science Education and Global Ecology at Boston University.

The interactive presentations featured dozens of slides, video clips, and sounds of the Amazon compiled by Doug during his recent travel there. The presentations were part of the “Bridge” program, which helps prepare high school seniors for their entry into the rigors of university science learning. The sessions were held at the auditoriums of UMass/Boston and the Harvard Medical School. In June, Doug also presented to nearly one hundred students at Somerville High School near Boston. All three events were well-received by students with numerous questions and expressions of interest afterwards. The sessions not only served the crucial purpose of getting students to realize how our own local areas like Boston depend upon distant, healthy rainforests, but served as fundraising for the Tiputini Support Group. Doug donated all honoraria for the presentations to TSG.

If anyone in the New England area is interested in arranging a multimedia experience for students on tropical rainforest ecology and conservation, and simultaneously support TSG, please contact Doug at dzook@bu.edu.

Check out the CBS 60 Minutes piece ‘Amazon Crude’ about oil companies in Ecuador’s eastern Amazonia

UPDATE from Diego Mosquera, Tiputini site manager, March 2009

We are glad to announce that the new house for the Tiputini Staff will be ready by the end of this month. The old workers’ house was in pretty poor condition and needed to be rebuilt after more than a decade! We are using stronger materials (no wood) that guarantee this new house will last a lot longer than the old one. The structure is made of metal and the walls are now humidity-resistant.

It has about 1,900 square ft of area, room for 16 workers with all the facilities to make their life easier. There are 4 rooms, each of them with a bathroom. (Before, all of them had to share 1 bathroom). We really want to improve their living situation because they work extremely hard, and without them Tiputini would not be possible.

We are also rebuilding the laundry room, which will allow us to provide a better service to our visitors. The next step will be to build a new house for permanent researchers and a new house for the managers. The time that this will take basically depends on funding. All construction at Tiputini is very expensive due to cost of transportation and workers.

Although we are not particularly happy having oil companies close to us, it is probably worth mentioning that the Ecuadorian government finally reached an agreement with the oil company from Spain, Repsol. This company wasn’t sure if it was going to keep their operation in Ecuador due to the country’s instability in many aspects. As you know, we depend on them for much of our operation. The alternative would be a national company, which could have caused a lot of problems for us.

As for ongoing research, Jose Hidalgo is working on “Male selection on the blue-backed manakins” as his dissertation for a Masters degree on Evolutionary Biology at University of Missouri. Also, Andres Link, a Colombian primatologist is working on the Ecology of Spider Monkeys (Ateles belzebuth) toward his PhD at New York University.

We are having more and more groups visiting. Apart from the regular programs, this month we had the pleasure of having a group of students from a high school in Boston and a group of undergraduate students from the University of California.

Check out BU Today’s multimedia presentation on Tiputini and Doug Zook’s excursion to TBS.

Read more about the trip:

group“This was truly an amazing experience,” remarked Zach Smith, a science educator from Tufts University, when heading back to Coca from Tiputini. Zach was part of a recent excursion of science education specialists – those who directly prepare students to become professional science teachers – to the Tiputini Biodiversity Station. Doug Zook, Professor of Science Education and Global Ecology at BU, led the group, which also included educators from Bard College, Tufts University, Brooklyn College at the City University of New York, Muskingum College, Bethel University, Alma College, Olivet Nazarene College, and the San Diego Natural History Museum (see group picture, above left). The trip will allow these leaders to further impact their students through the integration of conservation biology into the pre-service teaching training curriculums at each university. The excursion was a special awards program in support of conservation biology and sustainability education, offered by the BU School of Education’s Curriculum and Teaching Department as led by Chairman Stephen Ellenwood.

At Tiputini, the sounds of the petroleum company’s exploration and extraction were more prominent than in recent years. The oil companies are now only 12 km away from the Station and want to develop in the nearby Yasuní Biosphere Reserve. While the oil companies cannot be completely halted, strengthening the Station through education, research, and contributions to the Tiputini Support Group will give greater leverage and support to limit the potential negative impact on the region. The science educator group has already begun follow-up electronic curriculum development collaborations, and plans are underway to establish a BU School of Education-based, Tiputini-focused conservation biology educator network.

Also see BU’s Daily Free Press article about Doug Zook’s trip to Tiputini

Tiputini Researchcamera-trap

Ongoing research projects at Tiputini include a camera-trap project that involves capturing images of a wide range of wildlife on trails around the station, a study on seed dispersal and genetic variation of Myconia plant species, behavioral research on several primate species (conducted by the Di Fiore lab of NYU), and the TADPOLE organization’s work with canopy fauna and tank bromeliads.

To learn more about research at Tiputini, check out these interviews with Tiputini researchers on the International Symbiosis Society website.