Supporting Conservation in Latin America

Overbrook Fellows Will Study Forests, Watersheds and Seas


Dec. 7, 2007--Six leading young conservationists from Latin America will pursue projects aimed at protecting diverse ecosystems, using $20,000 awards from New York’s Overbrook Foundation. The annual awards, announced today, are administered by the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC) at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

The Overbrook Conservation Fellows Program, initiated in 2003, is aimed at supporting long-lasting contributions to sustaining the environment. The foundation has made Latin American biodiversity a central focus of its work. “There is often a shortage of great conservationists in the places where they are most needed, and there is rarely if ever outside support for these key leaders," said Stephen A. Foster, president and CEO of The Overbrook Foundation. CERC implements the program on behalf of the foundation because of its experience in supporting local conservation champions, and its ongoing projects and relationships with the Latin American conservation community.

Potential fellows are identified by a nominating panel of conservationists and scientists with a deep knowledge of the ecological issues facing the region; a selection committee makes the final decisions. According to Herb Raffaele, chief of The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and selection committee member, “This initiative gets at the heart of what conservation is all about--investing in dynamic individuals who care about the environment and dedicate their lives towards making a difference." Enrique Ortiz, a senior program officer at the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, also on the committee said, “We can see now the results of the fellowships, with several awardees making a change in their countries. They have become more empowered individuals and activists for environmental causes.”

Since its inception, the program has supported 36 fellows working in 13 nations of central and south America. This year’s Overbrook conservation fellows are:

Erio Curto (Argentina): Regional education, outreach and management with mayors and municipal officials of the watershed reserve around Mar Chiquita Ramsar.

Laura Navarro Noriega (México): Research and writing on the perception of bats in pre-Hispanic culture.

Julio Reyes (Perú): Establishing conservation and science resources including books, websites and teaching pamphlets about small Peruvian cetaceans.

Luis Rivera (Argentina): The ecology and conservation of the Alder Amazon parrot in neotropical cloud forests, and its implications for forest management.

Regina Castaňda Sanchez (Guatemala): Collection and analysis of information on the interactions between fisheries and marine turtles.

Armando Valdes-Velasquez (Perú): Strengthening conservation initiatives in the Madre de Dios watershed. 

Other members of the selection committee include: John Robinson, senior vice president of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Shahid Naeem, co-chair of Columbia’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology; Herbert Bedolfe, executive director of the Marisla Foundation; Margaret Cushing, senior program officer at the Tinker Foundation; Carlos Saavedra, director of the Summit Foundation; and Daniel Katz of the Overbrook Foundation’s environment program. 

The Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC), the principal ecology and biodiversity unit of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, is a consortium of five scientific institutions: Columbia University, the American Museum of Natural History, New York Botanical Garden, Wildlife Conservation Society and Wildlife Trust. The Center seeks to build environmental leadership and find long-term solutions to combat biological diversity loss and natural resource depletion, while meeting the needs of a growing human population. For more information, visit , or contact Nancy Degnan, CERC’s executive director, at

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 $185 million and awarded $9.4 million in grants during 2006. Its key funding areas are environment and human rights. The foundation's environment program, headed by Daniel Katz, supports organizations working to develop better consumption and production habits in the United States and in Latin America. In Latin America the primary objective is to conserve dwindling biodiversity.  

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