News Archive

posted 03/26/03

Six Latin American Conservationists Selected In Launch of $500,000 Overbrook Fellowship


Overbrook Fellows will receive $20,000 over two years to work on problems of biodiversity conservation in Latin America.

The Center for Environmental Conservation and Research (CERC), headquartered at the Earth Institute of Columbia University, and The Overbrook Foundation, New York, have announced the selection of the first six Overbrook Fellows, part of a new five year program to build local capacity for addressing problems of biodiversity conservation within Latin American countries with high or unique biodiversity.

"These six fellows, all dedicated conservationists, will use their Overbrook fellowships to develop the additional skills and knowledge required to pursue long-term conservation within their own countries. We expect them to become nationally and internationally recognized conservation leaders, providing the in-country expertise that will assure victories won in biodiversity conservation are made permanent" said Stephen Foster, Executive Director of The Overbrook Foundation.

Overbrook initiated the fellowship program because, as Foster explains, "There is often a great shortage of great conservationists in the places where they are most needed, and there is rarely if ever outside support for these key leaders." The Overbrook Foundation has made Latin American biodiversity conservation a central focus of its environmental work. 

A palm-studded island illustrates one type of site needing conservation and sustainable land management in Latin America.

CERC was chosen to implement the fellowship because of CERC's experience in supporting local conservation champions through its Environmental Leaders program, and because of CERC's ongoing projects and relationships with the Latin American conservation community, which will help the nominating committee to identify and support the work of conservation professionals there.

"CERC is involved in many conservation projects in Latin America, but for these efforts to succeed it is essential to have strong local partners," adds Don Melnick, Executive Director of CERC and the chair of the award's Selection Committee. "This program helps to build that local strength."

A panel of nominators for the Overbrook Fellowship looked for "conservationists of great promise, whose career will leave a lasting influence on the conservation of nature in their home countries," according to the fellowship guidelines.

Each Overbrook Fellow will receive US$20,000 over two years to pursue a project proposed as part of the nomination and selection process. This could include additional education, training, research or writing.

The first six Overbrook Conservation Fellows and their projects are:

  • Mr. Tasso Azevedo, Brazil: "Improvement of Management Skills and Writing a Book about Certification and Sustainable Forest Management in Brazil."
  • Mr. Pablo Bordino, Argentina: "Conservation Efforts for Coastal Marine Biodiversity in the Buenos Aires Province, Argentina."
  • Mr. Carlos Chacon, Costa Rica: "A Comprehensive Book Addressing Private Lands Conservation in Latin America."
  • Ms. Elisa I. Corcuera Vliegenthart, Chile: "Develop and Share Knowledge and Abilities for Tourism-based Private Lands Conservation Projects."
  • Ms. Narel Paniagua Zambrana, Bolivia: "Study of the Ecology, Distribution, and Ethnobotany of Palms (Arecaceae) in the Humid Mountain Forests of Madidi, Bolivia."
  • Ms. Silvia Purata, Mexico: "A Resource Center for Sustainable Forest Management."

A second group of Overbrook Fellows will be announced in June, 2003, after which the award will be granted each year in June. Nominations will continue to be by invitation of the Nominating Panel, comprised of experts in various aspects of conservation.

The Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC) is a consortium of five leading science and education institutions -- Columbia University, the American Museum of Natural History, The New York Botanical Garden, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Wildlife Trust.  The Center, a unit of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, employs a wide array of resources to train the next generation of environmental leaders charged with conserving Earth's biological diversity.  For more information please visit

The Overbrook Foundation, located in New York City, is a family foundation established in 1948 by Helen and Frank Altschul.  Currently the Foundation has an endowment of approximately $130 million and will award $7 million in grants in 2003.  It's key funding areas are: Environment; Human & Civil Rights; and Health, Social Service and Education. The Foundation's Environment program supports organizations working to develop better consumption and production habits in the United States and in Latin America (currently Brazil, Mexico and Ecuador only). In Latin America the primary objective is to conserve the planet's dwindling biodiversity.