Claudia María Monzón Alvarado

PhD student (5th year) in Geography; B.S. (Biology) at Universidad del Valle de Guatemala & M.S. (Natural Resource Management and Rural Development) at Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Mexico.

Claudia is interested in fire management in the context of conservation and development.  For her dissertation, she is investigating the social and biophysical factors that influence fires within the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. Her research is grounded in political ecology as it studies the ecological processes that lead to fire together with the understanding that most forest fires in Calakmul are a result of individual behavior in the context of institutions and policies. In other words, Claudia is investigating how the State designs, implements, and enforces fire management regulations while also examining how farmers adopt, adapt or resist fire management rules based on their local context.  She argues that a “better understanding of the beliefs and motivations of stakeholders at different levels, is key to addressing the gaps between regulations and practice.”  Her research has been funded by the TCD program, and external grants from the Inter-American Foundation and Rufford Foundation.   She brings considerable professional experience to the program including work with Pronatura Peninsula de Yucatán, The Nature Conservancy, Mexican Protected Areas Commission (CONANP), and Guatemala’s Ministry of Agriculture.

TCD will fund her final semester in the PhD program with a match from UF’s Geography Department.  Previous funding for her PhD program was through a 4-year UF Alumni Fellowship.


Ronit Amit

PhD student (3rd year) in WEC; B.S. (Biology) at Universidad de Costa Rica & M.S. (Wildlife Management and Conservation) at Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica.

Ronit is interested in human-wildlife conflict resolution, human dimensions of conservation and the development of incentives to change the way ranchers and farmers interact with wildlife. Her dissertation research is entitled “Enhancing co-existence with big cats in Costa Rica: design and analysis of community-based incentives”. In this

research she will involve local stakeholders in developing practices that link survival of threatened big cats, such as jaguars and pumas, with improvement of rural livelihoods. She brings considerable professional experience to TCD from her past work with NGOs and government on wildlife-human conflict issues. She has received numerous awards including Jennings and Lowe scholarships from UF, and awards from Rainforest Alliance and USFWS Wildlife without Borders program, among others.

Ronit was funded for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 from Fulbright-LASPAU and Grinter Award from WEC; she will receive a graduate assistantship from TCD in 2014-2015 with a matching assistantship from WEC in 2015-2016.


Cristina Nuñez Godoy

MS student (1st year) in SNRE; B.A. (Business Administration) from National University of Salta.

Cristina is interested in conducting research that intersects biodiversity conservation and economic development.  Her previous work has explored the sustainable commercialization of Brazil nut in the Brazilian Amazon, and, more generally, the development of markets for non-timber products.  For her Master’s research, she hopes to explore how economic tools can be used to reduce deforestation in the Chaco forests of Argentina, one of South America’s most threatened ecosystems.  Her work will explore how different types of economic incentives might persuade landowners to maintain forest on their lands, rather than convert lands to soy or other alternatives.

Cristina is co-funded by the TCD program (2015-2016) and the SNRE program (2014-2015).


Matthew Hallett

PhD (2nd year) in SNRE; B.A. (Biology) at College of Charleston & M.En. (Environmental Science) and M.A. (Zoology) at Miami University.

Matt is interested in the human dimensions of wildlife conservation, especially as it relates to jaguars. Matt has extensive research experience in Guyana working with local communities on a research project intending to document and monitor the abundance of large mammals in tropical rain forests using remotely triggered cameras. During this time, Matt also initiated the training of naturalists and local scientists in Amerindian communities. Prior to Guyana, Matt spent time in the old world tropics where he consulted with communities regarding wildlife conflict, conducted research on community-based conservation and development projects and assisted with capacity building and training of local counterparts in research and management in South Africa and Borneo. Matt intends to build on his work in Guyana for his dissertation research.

TCD is providing funding in 2014-2015 (from FY2014 funds) with a match by SNRE in 2013-2014.


Germain Mavah

PhD student (5th year) in SNRE; Engineer degree (Rural Development) at University of Brazzaville, Congo & M.S. (Interdisciplinary Ecology, SNRE, with a concentration in Tropical Conservation and Development at University of Florida.

Germain is interested in the inter-relationships between wildlife, protected areas, rural people livelihoods and natural resources governance in Congo. He works primarily with forest dwelling Bantu and Pygmy peoples. His goal is to inform governance reforms in the wildlife sector in Congo, and assist the work of conservation NGOs in the region.  The rural communities rely heavily on bushmeat as part of their livelihood strategies.  However, extraction of bushmeat is currently unsustainable and impacted by poor governance and policy. Some of his research questions are: What will happen to rural livelihoods with the scarcity or extinction of wildlife? What will happen to the quality of ecosystems with dwindling numbers of wildlife species?

Germain’s research is designed to help alleviate these problems via enacting several strategies including establishment of long term monitoring datasets, establishing importance of bushmeat in the livelihoods of rural peoples, developing potential and environment for local collective action, and investigating the impact of proposed new policies for natural resource management.  Germain’s long term goals are to “contribute to the conservation of African tropical ecosystems by bridging research, rural development and natural resources management … from the perspective of a biologist, rural development engineer, educator and practitioner.” Germain has received several awards and scholarships from the University of Florida, Wildlife Conservation Society, United Nations Associations, among others.

Germain received funds in 2009-2011 from Wildlife Conservation Society – Beinecke African Conservation Scholarship and the Dexter Fellowship in Conservation (UF); and in 2012-2015 he received matching funds from the TCD Program and SNRE Department at UF.


Denyse Mello

PhD (6th year) in SNRE; B.A. (Agronomy) at Universidade Federal do Acre & M.A. (Family Agriculture and Sustainable Development) at Universidade Federal do Para, Brazil

Denyse’s research interests center around rural women’s enterprise in the Brazilian Amazon.  This research fills a needed gap regarding women’s economic activities, including their role in the market place, and the importance in household economy. Through Denyse’s training efforts focused on rural women, she has helped to improve the participation of women in public policy debates.  This work resulted in the creation of a special program in Brazil’s Agrarian Development Ministry and an opportunity for the women’s network to participate in the National Food Security Council.  Denyse brings extensive practitioner experience to the TCD program.

TCD will fund the final semester (summer 2014) of Denyse’s PhD program.  Her PhD work at UF has been supported by graduate assistantships from TCD, ACLI, SNRE; The Florida Brazil Linkage Institute and the Madelyn Lockhart Dissertation Fellowship and Emerging Scholar Award from UF.


Gabriela Polo

MDP student (1st year; B.A. (International Studies and Economics) at DePaul University, Chicago, IL.

Gabriela is interested in environmental policy, extractive industries, and indigenous rights.  She conducted undergraduate research in her native country of Ecuador on – the policy and practice of the Ecuadorian Yasuni-ITT initiative, which explores alternatives to oil development within the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve.  Her undergraduate thesis examined the historical processes, international economic and legal frameworks, and indigenous engagement in the initiative that sought to provide an alternative to oil extraction in indigenous lands.  At UF, Gabriela hopes to continue her studies of the social and environmental effects of extraction of natural resources as a student in the MSDP.   She already has numerous scholarships and awards, including Fulbright Opportunity Scholarship, Presidential Scholarships, among others.

TCD is providing funding in 2014-2015 with a match from the Center for Latin American Studies in 2015-2016.


Maria Constanza Rios Marin

PhD student (4th year) in SNRE; B.S. (Biology) at Universidad de Valle, Venezuela & M.S. (Ecology) at Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Cientificas.

Constanza is bridging the gap between social and biophysical scientists with her research on voluntary forest conservation in Colombia. Her dissertation research focuses on the “Networks of Reserves of the Civil Society”. For more than two decades farmers on those networks have been addressing the challenges of reconciling resource conservation and economic development trade-offs by allocating a portion of their land to forest protection.  Her research is designed to understand the interplay between ethics, personal values, self-determination and social networks as key factors that affect farmers’ decisions to participate in those networks. It also analyzes the outcomes in terms of livelihoods, resource management, and the factors that foster or hinder the incorporation of those core human values on natural resource governance. Hrer esearch has been supported by prestigious grants from the IAF Grassroots Development Fellowship and the NSF Dissertation Improvement Grants program.

In her first three years in the program, Constanza was funded by the TCD program (2011-2012) and the SNRE program (2012-2014); she will receive a graduate assistantship from TCD in 2014-2015.


Farah Carrasco Rueda

PhD student (2nd year) in SNRE; B.S. (Biology) & M.S. (Forest Resource Conservation) at La Molina Agrarian University.

Farah is interested in examining wildlife response to anthropogenic impacts and the efficacy of mitigation projects.  She recently served as a research assistant on a project that examined whether natural canopy bridges can mitigate gas pipeline developments for arboreal mammals, especially primates, in a tropical rain forest of Peru.  This project was a partnership between Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability of the Smithsonian Institution Conservation Biology Institute and REPSOL Exploración, Peru. Farah’s MS research examined bat diversity in a fragmented Peruvian landscape undergoing rapid deforestation. Farah’s dissertation research will likely investigate the efficacy of mitigation efforts for wildlife in her native country of Peru.

Farah is funded for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 by LASPAU-Fulbright and SNRE; she will receive a graduate assistantship from TCD in 2015-2016 (from FY2014 funds)