University of Texas at Austin professor and team awarded $2 million grant for conservation effort in Ecuador

AUSTIN, Texas—Dr. Rodrigo Sierra, director of The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Environmental Studies in Latin America, and his collaborators at Fundación Ecuatoriana de Estudios Ecologicos (EcoCiencia) in Ecuador have been awarded a combined total of nearly $2 million by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

The grant is part of the Foundation’s Andes-Amazon Initiative and supports a three-year biodiversity conservation and resource management program of indigenous lands in Ecuador.

“One of the key things we hope to learn is how indigenous peoples manage their resources,” said Sierra. “We expect to use this knowledge to help us develop sustainable productive alternatives for the owners of these lands. This is increasingly important as indigenous communities now control a significant portion of remaining natural habitats in the Amazon.”

Sierra’s work will be focused in roughly a 1.5 million hectares (3 million acres) section of the Pastaza region of eastern Ecuador, an area strategically located in the midst of ongoing conservation efforts by local and international organizations. Previous work by Sierra shows this region is almost completely covered by pristine tropical rain forests, but that deforestation is increasing.

“This region is one of the last links between the Ecuadorian Andes and the western Amazon lowlands,” said Sierra. “It will offer critical connectivity between protected areas in these two natural regions.”

Sierra and his collaborators from EcoCiencia will work with the three indigenous groups in the region—the Shiwiar, Zapara and Achuar—to develop and implement a conservation and natural resource management program for their territories. The funding, which includes a grant of $693,000 to the university and $1.3 million to EcoCiencia for the comprehensive program, also will support the training of indigenous peoples for ongoing conservation, management and monitoring activities.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation started the Andes Amazon initiative in February 2003, with the goal of insuring the long-term ecological viability of the Basin and the conservation of its aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity. Funding strategies include investing in science, protected areas creation, protected areas management, capacity building and policy. The Foundation was established in September 2000 by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore and his wife Betty to create positive outcomes for future generations. The Foundation funds outcome-based initiatives to achieve significant and measurable results in the Foundation’s principal areas of interest: global environmental conservation, science and the San Francisco Bay Area.

For more information contact: Marisa Rainsberger, College of Liberal Arts, 512-471-4945.