Being an intern is rewarding, hectic, challenging, and most certainly a learning experience. One of the most remarkable things I have learned during my time as an intern for WildFF is that we are not alone, and that we play our important role in big-picture conservation. There are many small organizations that have goals similar to WildFF – place-based conservation, community, science, integrity, and passion – and it’s a wonderful realization to find in a world dominated by economics and politics, many honest organizations who are working to make a better future.
During my 5 months at WildFF, I became interested in the Future Leaders and ARCAmazon projects that focus on youth empowerment, immersive scientific research and environmental problem-solving. While searching for other like-minded organizations, I discovered Round River Conservation Studies based in the Western US. Round River focuses on achieving large-scale wildlife conservation through research, education, and community. Their Conservation Programs involve deploying Round River students to different countries to work with local partners in solving long-term conservation issues through research. I find it inspiring that Round River immerses students like myself in field work in search of resolutions conservation and sustainability issues.
This immediately reminded me of WildFF’s ARCAmazon project – an innovative approach to place-based forest protection. WildFF worked with partners in 2015 to purchase land rights to more than 11,000 acres of forest in the Amazon region of Madre de Dios, Peru. Partners in the region, LPAC, work with University and research groups, as well as individual eco-tourists to visit this hotspot of biodiversity and serve as on-the-ground monitors that protect this magical place. Like Round River, ARCAmazon offers opportunities for students like me to become immersed in the majestic flora and fauna of the Peruvian Amazon as researchers in pursuit of environmental solutions. This region is often threatened by Brazil nut plantations, farming, road-building and timber harvest. LPAC exists as a sort of refuge for wild animals and plants that include jaguars, ocelots, and other special species.
LPAC Executive Director, David Johnston has been working with a number of Universities in the United States to grow the research projects on-site, including a number of researchers from Virginia Tech. David reports “I just returned from LPAC and an absolutely mind-blowing visit with Virginia Tech professors. We saw a Tapir on this trip and the professors were inspired to build work here after seeing some of the deforestation that is increasing around us right now and new slash and burn and pressure on the south of the reserve.”
The pressures on Madre de Dios are increasing with new roads and developments — emphasizing that the WildFF mission is crucial and protection of this invaluable place is of utmost importance. It refreshing and a breath of optimistic excitement to know young students and researchers are learning in the outside classroom, stepping outside of comfort zones and emerging themselves in nature – for the protection of wild places on Earth. Both ARCAmazon and Round River Conservation Studies stress this kind of immersive education and active protection of our world – and this gives us hope and an inspiring message for our future generations. Keep it up! Fight for us all! Get involved!