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Teaming Up for Conservation in Costa Rica
MRIC 2013/14

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Teaming Up for Conservation in Costa Rica

“Teaming up for Conservation in Costa Rica: An interdisciplinary approach to understanding trade-offs between conservation and development”

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 | 12:30-1:30 p.m. 
Whitewater Room, Idaho Commons

Kate Cleary - Ph.D. candidate, CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) and the University of Idaho

Lisette Waits - Professor, Department of Fish and Wildlife, University of Idaho

Tropical forests cover less than 23 percent of the earth’s surface, but contain over 50 percent of its biodiversity, providing essential ecosystem services to the entire globe. Unfortunately, these amazing forests are becoming increasingly scarce as human population growth drives the conversion of tropical forests to agriculture and urban development. An interdisciplinary team of students and faculty is addressing this challenge with our joint research project in the San Juan-La Selva Biological Corridor (SJLS) in Costa Rica. The team is composed of forest ecologists, wildlife biologists, conservation geneticists and sociologists, all working to answer a small piece of the complex question of whether the SJLS is “working” for both human communities and populations of native plants and animals. This presentation will describe the organization of our team through the UI’s IGERT program, explain linked research designs, and report some of our most interesting results to date. The presenters will also share exciting photos of tropical wildlife and stories about conducting field research in the tropics.


Kate Cleary
is a Ph.D. candidate in the joint doctoral program between CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) and the University of Idaho. Her current research uses a landscape genetics approach to assess the effects of land use change on functional connectivity for frugivorous bats. In 2013, Kate received a Fulbright Scholarship to complete a portion of her Ph.D. in Costa Rica. Before beginning her Ph.D., Kate earned a MSc. in Fish and Wildlife Biology through the Peace Corps Masters International program at Colorado State University. Through this program, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala, where she worked as a biologist and environmental educator in a national park and collected data on the bird community. Kate's hope for all her research projects is that they will contribute to finding a balance between conservation and development in rural landscapes.

Lisette Waits grew up in rural Georgia with dreams of one day becoming a scientist and studying wild animals. After obtaining a doctorate at the University of Utah studying the genetic diversity and evolution of grizzly bears, she traveled to the Universite Joseph Fourier in France to study the conservation genetics of brown bears in France and Scandinavia. Since joining the faculty at the University of Idaho in 1997, Lisette has focused on the conservation genetics, molecular ecology and landscape genetics of wild populations with particular focus on endangered carnivores. Lisette is a co-founder of the Laboratory for Ecological, Evolutionary and Conservation Genetics and the Center for Research on Invasive Species and Small Populations. She has been a member of a number of interdisciplinary research teams including two NSF-IGERT projects. Lisette’s current research projects use molecular genetic techniques to study a variety of threatened or vulnerable species in Europe, Asia, North and South America.

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