More than 20 years ago, I experienced my own boot camp in
post-humanitarian crises as a Peace Corps volunteer in a Cold War hotspot, Nicaragua. While the Cold War had ostensibly ended, its echoes seemed to follow me wherever I went.
I saw crumbled drinking water infrastructure with the alternative of hauling water from the cyanide-and-mercury infused Rio Mico, which was downstream from the Santo Domingo gold mines.
Well-preserved rainforest rose like an island amid agricultural desertification; the island was preserved because the hilltop was littered with landmines. Like the country’s president at that time, my collaborators in the ministry of education and comedor infantile, who helped found an environmental education and research facility for school children, were highly educated and empowered women. At the same time, gunfire and kidnappings by the self-proclaimed re-contras interrupted my environmental education talks, or charlas, in remote regions.
These site-specific contrasts sit at the nexus of human well-being, sustainable economic development, and nature conservation. And science is poised to help find broad-scale solutions.
I’ve worked to bridge nature conservation with other sectors for more than 20 years – including the past 10 years as a senior scientist with The Nature Conservancy – and if there is one thing I have learned, it’s that we are not all that great at talking to each other across both sectors and scientific disciplines. Different ways of knowing often make working across disciplines hard to do, but a little emotional intelligence can go a long way.
That’s why I’m so honored to be named the Interim Director of the Science for Nature and People Partnership.
I can think of no partnership so attuned to different ways of knowing – and to translating those ways into action. SNAPP brings leaders from multiple institutions and multiple sectors, and while each still honors their individual missions, they work for something larger. SNAPP groups don’t just publish, they also focus on solutions. Different sectors aren’t brought in after a paper is published, they’re a part of the group from the beginning.
It’s big, ambitious work, and I’ll share highlights in these quarterly updates. I invite you to be part of the conversation. Let me know what most excites you about SNAPP and how these updates can best serve your needs.
I look forward to working with you on science that benefits both people and nature.
Yours in Conservation and Development,