Andrea B. Chavez

Research Interests: Forest management, landscape ecology, political ecology, land use/land cover change, remote sensing and GIS applications, social and biophysical driving forces of landscape change.

Geographic Expertise: Peru, Bolivia, Brazil

Curriculum Vitae

Chavez holds a Courtesy Faculty in the Center of Latin American Studies and the Tropical Conservation and Development Program. From 2009 to 2011 she has been a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Climate Change and Environmental Public Policies with the University of Florida at the Universidad Nacional Amazónica de Madre de Dios, in Puerto Maldonado, Peru. She recently served as a Co-Director for the Project “Building Conservation Capacity in a Changing Amazonia,” with the Universidad Nacional de Ucayali (UNU), Pucallpa, Peru and the University of Richmond. The project was funded by USAID through the Higher Education for Development (HED). Since 2009, Chavez has been working on capacity building initiatives via applied research, training and extension activities in the conservation of natural resource management. She has mentored more than 30 students from Amazonian Universities to conduct interdisciplinary applied environmental research, reflect critically on natural resource management, and respond to the emerging challenges of changing Amazonia. Chavez received her doctorate in Geography from the University of Florida and received a master’s degree in Political Science from Karl-Ruprechts-Universität in Heidelberg, Germany and master’s degree in Geography from the University of Miami, Fl. For more than 18 years, Chavez has been conducting research in community management of natural resources in the forests of Cusco, Madre de Dios, Ucayali in Peru, Acre, Brazil, and Pando, Bolivia. Chavez is particularly interested in the study of environmental impacts as a result of natural processes and humans in tropical regions from a social science and natural science perspective. She has focused on the importance of government policies for land use decision-making in tropical frontier areas, where highest total forest clearing takes place and environmental and socio-economic implications for forest cover change can be devastating.

Chavez believes scientists need to incorporate a more “eye-opening” understanding of how social and economic development pathways are linked and consider the way individuals and communities perceive themselves in relation to one another and the world around them. She is further deeply concerned about the relationship between science and society and fostering a deep understanding between practice and theory.


Wendy R. Townsend

Research Interests: Research Interests: Tropical ecology and natural resource use; human ecology, traditional knowledge, ethnoecology; sustainable use and community adaptive management of biodiversity, especially wildlife; local-based organization for commercialization, development and adaptation to climate change.  Recent research has included evaluation of ecosystem services, Bolivian native bee ecology, and applied research in cacao production systems.

Geographic Expertise: Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela

Curriculum Vitae (coming soon)

As well as being a courtesy professor of the Tropical Conservation and Development program at UF, Townsend is a Scientific Advisor and Associate Researcher at the Noel Kempff Mercado Museum of Natural History in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. She has been with the museum for more than20 years and she was recently recognized for her extensive contributions to the museum’s collections.  Townsend is a council member of COM Fauna and a member of the Bolivian Academy of Science.  She is also a lead author and sustainable use expert in the global initiative of the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Townsend mentors students through AISES and SACNAS with an emphasis on building students’ scientific research skills.  She is an invited lecturer in Community Natural Resource Management course in the “Management of Biodiversity” Master´s program at the Gabriel Rene Moreno Autonomous University (UAGRM) in Santa Cruz.  Recently, Dr. Townsend received the first “Premio” for Scientific Research awarded by the UPSA and the ANCB-SC (Private University of Santa Cruz and Bolivian National Academy of Sciences – Santa Cruz) for her advancements in the knowledge of local native bees.

After completing a Bachelor’s of Science in Conservation of Natural Resources at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master´s degree in Biology from the California State University of California, Fresno, Townsend began her Latin American experiences in Colombia where she was honored to have been taught by a Murui knowledge holder, Vicente Macuritofi.  Vicente demonstrated the scientific knowledge contained within his cultural teachings.  Since then, respect and inclusion of traditional knowledge has been a core principle in her work and Ethnobiology became an important direction.  Townsend’s evaluation of wildlife use by Sirionó Indian subsistence hunters and the land extension requirements for sustainability (PhD dissertation research at UF) became a contentious and important theme in the territorial demands presented by Indigenous People of lowland Bolivia.  For over 35 years, Townsend has worked with indigenous people and university students on sustainable resource use issues.

Throughout her career, Townsend has promoted participatory research with various Indigenous communities in Latin América including the Sirionó, Tsimane’, Mosetene, Ayoreo, Yurakaré, Chiquiano, Guarayo, Guarani, Baures, in Bolivia, the Cofan in Ecuador, and Yekwana in Venezuela. Townsend believes that participation in research builds critical thinking and leadership skills, revitalizes community organizations, and contributes to self-esteem. Participatory research also promotes diversity in science by involving local people and traditional knowledge sources.  Participatory monitoring by local people can uncover new ecological relationships and methods as well as inform local decision makers.  Further, Townsend believes that local participation in research projects promotes creative thinking to help solve social and environmental issues, a result which may be more important than the research results themselves.