This week, in addition to starting work on tagging photos from the trap cameras located in Chile, we have continued researching biosphere reserves around the world. My research focuses on North America and specifically on the US. We are partnered with the Huilo Huilo Foundation in Chile, and they are interested in biosphere reserves which have cooperation between private groups and government entities. Therefore, I have also focused primarily on biosphere reserves which are partially privately-owned and partially owned by the government. Often, the private entities who own biosphere property possess inholdings within US National Parks, and they therefore collaborate with the National Parks Foundation and the National Parks Service. These private groups generally focus on conservation of wildlife (or marine life in the cases of coastal lands). However, they also sometimes include research interests, which can include universities conducting research on plant life, animals, or even biological or climate processes in the area. In some places, private interest groups have specific conservation goals that are intertwined with the resources of the area, particularly when related to species unique to the region or when pertaining to regions which are home to endangered species.
In researching these groups, I have found that numerous biosphere reserves in the US were recently disbanded by the Trump administration. In fact, in 2017, in the same meeting in which the UN decided to add 23 biospheres to the world network, the US requested the removal of 17 US biosphere reserves from the list. This bold request followed 2017’s periodic review of US biospheres and serves as evidence of President Trump’s and his cabinet’s lack of regard for the maintenance and protection of the natural lands and life of our country.
Conversely, President Biden agreed to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement on the first day of his presidency. While there is still much work to accomplish, it is exciting to see a US leader taking steps in the right direction. It is a stinging reminder of how divided our leadership has become to consider the politicization of climate change and other environmental issues — issues which should not have sides.
Though our government may not be great at collaborating, it is encouraging to be part of a group which works effectively together toward a common goal. I have really enjoyed the first couple of weeks of this project and I’m grateful to be learning a lot. Our Chilean partners have told us much about the plentiful data that has already been collected in the area as well as the analytical methods used to compile and study it. I am excited to keep learning and collaborating, especially once we move to the stage of the project concerning an environmental science curriculum for students in Chile.