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5 posts from April 2017

04/28/2017

Sustainability and the Environment Internship: Creating an Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Livestock in Monteverde, Costa Rica, by Erin Carroll, Washington University in St. Louis

Over the past month, I have been working with representatives of the Monteverde Commission for Resilience to Climate Change (CORCLIMA, by its Spanish acronym) to create an inventory of the net greenhouse gas emissions of nine livestock farms in the Monteverde district, and to use this farm-level data to encourage local farmers to adopt locally appropriate emissions mitigation strategies. Through the completion of these projects, the primary goal of the internship was to inform, involve and engage members of the agricultural sector in CORCLIMA’s grassroots effort to create a carbon-neutral Monteverde.

What initially drew me to the internship was my interdisciplinary interest in food systems studies. The opportunity to observe, research and recommend agroecological practices at the farm-level for climate-smart agriculture while simultaneously navigating overlapping local, national and international political frameworks for climate change mitigation in the sector was invaluable to my goal of pursuing a career the intersection of agricultural and environmental policy. Additionally, having grown up on a farm myself, I was personally very interested in the opportunity to spend time on nine different farms and to experience the range of management strategies, conceptual approaches to farming, and relationships with their land.

To accomplish this internship, I first familiarized myself with the IPCC methodology for conducting a GHG inventory, and the ways in which we could adapt it to a district’s agricultural sector. I also familiarized myself with the sector itself through meetings with farmers and the local office of the Ministry of Agriculture. After creating a survey to gather all of the necessary data, I visited nine farms and completed an interview at each. I then created an Excel spreadsheet to manage the raw data and perform the calculations, which gave the total emissions of GHGs in Mg CO2eq per year for each farm, and in total. Finally, my partner May and I presented our results and mitigation research in an oral presentation and personalized reports for CORCLIMA and for each individual farmer.

In just four short weeks I gained experience designing a survey and conducting interviews in Spanish, managing data and performing calculations in Excel, and communicating with many different stakeholders in a local food system – national bureaucrats, local community members and conservationists, and the farmers themselves. I also significantly expanded my knowledge of the contribution of the agricultural sector to net anthropological greenhouse gas emissions and of existing grassroots, national and international frameworks and programs for mitigation, and gained the ability to calculate the net emissions from livestock of individual farms and communities.

In addition to the successful application of IPCC methodology, which is intended for use at the national level, at the district level, I am extremely satisfied by the connections that were formed through this project between CORCLIMA and the agricultural sector in Monteverde, which will enable and empower a sector-wide and community-supported movement toward climate-smart agricultural practices in the future.

 

Erin 1Arco Íris, the farm of Rafael Leiton.

Erin 2

A piglet at Erik Rockwell’s farm.

04/24/2017

The Pacific II

IMG_2465

This is Puma concolor...one of the biggest cats that you can find in Costa Rica, known as "Leon de montaña"(Mountain lion) as costaricans call them this young puma was a nice surprise during our hike to the old growth forest of the Corcovado National Park.

With the largest terrestrial range that an animal has in the continent, pumas are unfortunately threatened  by poaching since they kill  livestock, so usually farmers hunt them in a way to get revenge. Also habitat loss is a big cause of their rapid population decrease since they need a wide fragment of forest. IMG_2461

Because of that costarican puma's population have decrease their size, there's less genetic diversity in consequence. This could lead to a poor resistance of diseases and of course higher risk of extintion.

Although the sadly situation of the costarican puma, we definitely enjoy our time with our friend.

Sustainability and the Environment Internship: Developing a Scientific and Educational Database for Monteverde, Costa Rica, by Jordan Pares-Kane, Cornell University

This past month, I worked with Carol Yang, a past CIEE intern, environmental educator and member of the Monteverde Arenal-Bioregion Database (MABD) Committee to develop a database that will serve as a central electronic hub for scientific, educational, and community resources in the Monteverde region. Our goals were to make available resources, research, and community projects related to conservation in Monteverde more accessible to the public, educators, and local organizations.

This internship in particular was interesting to me because it gave me the opportunity to contribute to the consolidation of so many local initiatives to make them more accessible and to encourage collaboration amongst researchers and educators. This database not only organizes all of the conservation resources in Monteverde, but also allows educators at the local schools such as the CEC or Monteverde Friends to utilize real local data and apply them in lesson plans for students. This allows students to learn more about the local environment such as Monteverde’s rich biodiversity or issues related to climate change. In addition, I was able to visit various sites around Monteverde throughout the course of this internship such as The Monteverde Institute, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, as well as local schools. I was able to meet various researchers, conservation activists, and local educators during these sites and learned all about what each of them hope to contribute to the database.

During the course of this internship, I uploaded 15 different educational resources/projects onto MABD. Most of the resources were collected from my various site visits and then adapted into lesson plans for students in different grade levels. For some of the projects, I generated handouts or lesson overviews to supplement the materials uploaded. I then uploaded the projects on the database with included project descriptions and objectives for students and attached various files (such as the handouts, lesson overviews, or a supplementary PowerPoint) and links (such as related videos or articles) for educators. Then, with the help of Carol, I created user manuals for educators. I made two different manuals; one with instructions on how to navigate the database, and one with instructions on how to upload a project. Both manuals are available in English and Spanish and were distributed to various sites.

Jordan 1

The last part of my internship involved holding training sessions for educators at the CEC and Monteverde Friends School to show them how to utilize the database. I had two different sessions at each school with 2-3 attendees each. These sessions will hopefully help this project gain further momentum and continue developing in the future to encourage long-term success.

Jordan 2

This internship contributed to the development of a library of conservation information of the area that promotes interdisciplinary and thematic approaches to environmental education in the region. By working on its development, I learned how to create educational resources related to conservation and gained better computer skills in the process of uploading materials. I was also able to improve my interviewing and presentation skills through the training sessions and site visits.

All of the products of this project support conservation efforts in various areas such as biodiversity and climate change in the Monteverde region by consolidating educational resources in an online database for public use and encouraging collaboration of conservation efforts amongst educators, researchers, and other community members. These kinds of efforts are often dismissed in importance, but are incredibly crucial components of conservation on both a global and local scale.

04/21/2017

Sustainability and the Environment Internship: The First Steps to Greening the Livestock in Monteverde, Costa Rica, by Sue Kyung Hwang, The George Washington University

Although I have no experience with livestock farming, my dining table was always deeply related to it. I have had meat for every single meal and have felt weird not to have any piece of meat on my plate. In college, I heard that livestock farming is related to climate change, but I never learned how. Even hearing people talk about it did not make me feel like my responsibility is huge. I was very interested in the issues of climate change, but I had to see with my own eyes why and how the livestock are related to climate change before I could believe it.

My internship was to create an inventory of the carbon emission by livestock in the Monteverde region for the Monteverde Commission for Resilience to Climate Change (CORCLIMA). Erin and I studied the concepts for the internship, made a set of questions to ask to the farmers, visited nine farms in total, created a database of all the farms, calculated their total emission, gave a presentation with all the results, and wrote reports for the farmers and COCLIMA.

La foto 3

Besides from the numerous goals that we achieved, being both inside and outside to get our works done was a great balance of experience for me. We went out in the field to visit the farms, talked to and learned from the farmers about their own sustainable practices and we came back inside to organize the data and prepare for the next interaction with the world. I have always lived in some of the world’s biggest cities and I was used to working with the data that I had passively accepted from somewhere else. I never got to see how things came to produce the information I got. The data I had was important, but I could not feel it. Through this internship, however, I could see exactly what kind of data I was working with and it would have been a lot different if I only had to sit inside to enter and calculate the data.

La foto

For this internship, I had to make the datasheet easily recognizable for other people and the continuous discussion and reformatting of the datasheet were great practices for me in handling the data. I also learned that even if I have the whole set of data, it is useless without effectively organizing what I have. In addition, I am very proud that some of my first few Spanish words are related to manure, livestock, and agriculture, because it means that I can now talk to and learn from more people on these topics. Finally, this internship proved me that my prejudice against group work was totally wrong. While group projects always presented me with huge challenges, this internship with Erin, Marcela and many other advisors helped me think, interact, and produce better outcomes.

La foto 2

04/17/2017

Sustainability and the Environment Internship: Arts-Based Environmental Education, by Roseangela Hartford, Ursinus College

Throughout the past month, I have been working with art educator and community leader Carla Willoughby to increase youth environmental education through the history of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest and artistic expression. The time spent achieving these goals was split between the Monteverde Conservation League (ACM) and the Cloud Forest School (CEC). First, the efforts with the ACM involved improving and renovating the Children’s House at the local station site of the Bajo del Tigre Reserve. These improvements directly involved the participation of the seventh grade art class at the Cloud Forest School. The purpose of working with both organizations was to engage CEC students in arts-based environmental education activities on site at the Bajo del Tigre Reserve with the aim of expanding student awareness of the community resource and the surrounding ecology.

 My interest in the internship stemmed from my commitment to pursuing a career in the field of education. Currently, I am completing my Peace Corps Preparatory Certification within the Education sector with the intention of working with diverse international communities. While the internship was based in an art classroom, my skills in artistic expression and creativity were quite limited. With time and intentional practice, I was able to overcome these challenges and develop an artistic eye within the scope of conservation. The knowledge acquired through researching instructional techniques of educational philosophy incited the development of lesson planning techniques. Moreover, articulating and simplifying complicated terminology within the realm of environmental studies advanced my analytical and public speaking skills. Throughout the internship, I thoughtfully adapted my presentations to meet the expectations of a bilingual school by instructing and answering questions in both Spanish and English. During this process, I progressed my active listening abilities and adapted my rhetoric to meet the comprehension level of a seventh grade classroom.

Throughout my time working with the Monteverde Conservation League and the Cloud Forest School, I acquired an incredible amount of knowledge about the transformative history of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest and applied this knowledge to my instruction. By covering the simplified nuances of topics such as biodiversity, conservation, life zones, sustainability, and topography within the scope of Monteverde, I created analogies, hands on activities, and informal evaluations to challenge students to apply and identify these topics in their daily lives.

My tangible contributions to the Children’s House at Bajo del Tigre included assisting students in painting the updated Children’s Eternal Rainforest logo, creating an interactive topographical puzzle map of the surrounding nature reserves, and renovated parts of the mural inside the Children’s House. While these physical contributions will improve the aesthetic of the Children’s House, I believe my greatest accomplishment was encouraging creative exploration and examination of conservationist issues for the rising generation of students in the Monteverde community. Also, I introduced practical terminology into my lessons including the purpose of nonprofits, market economies, and the land form uses so that the students could understand the holistic picture of conservationist efforts. Above all, this internship evoked adaptability, intentional goal setting, bilingual comprehension, creativity, lesson planning, and presentation skills for a general audience. 

Rose 1Here is a photo of me instructing a bilingual lesson about the history of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest.

Rose 2Here is a photo of the entire CEC seventh grade art class starting our first project painting the Children’s Eternal Rainforest logo.

Rose 3Field Trip #2: The Cloud Forest School ladies standing under our painted Children’s Eternal Rainforest Logo and mural renovations.

Rose 4Field Trip #2: The finished product and installation of the topographic puzzle map.