• Darshini Babu Ganesh

Conservation in the Amazon with Mr. Felipe Spina

As a student in the Global Ecology program at my high school, one would think that I quickly became well-versed in environmental conservation. Actually, it wasn't until my junior year and my internship at Kashmir World Foundation that I realized how multi-faceted the issue is. Many groups can be brought into the picture: environmentalists, technology specialists, policymakers, and more. At KWF, we value the involvement of local communities as well; it's essential that those who rely on those environments and have plentiful knowledge about it are empowered to protect it. As a result, we have partners worldwide, like Dr. Melania López-Castro from Pronatura Península de Yucatán and Mr. Felipe Spina, a Senior Conservation Analyst from WWF Brazil.

Mr. Spina was born and grew up in a tropical rain forest area in the southwest of Brazil. "I was a Boy Scout from when I was ten to around 19. Pretty much every weekend from when I was a child into my adolescence, I was camping in the wild with my Scouts friends and learning about the environment, the importance of the animals in the forest, and how we should conserve them. I was seeing the biodiversity up close and experiencing it because I grew up in Brazil and also saw the animals in the forest...so from a young age, I started to naturally pay more attention and care more about nature."

"By the time I got to University, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, but I was sure I wanted to work in the field of Environmental Conservation. So initially, I started doing a degree in forestry at a well-renowned school in Brazil, the University of São Paulo, one of the oldest forestry courses here in Brazil. But after doing almost two years, I was really let down by the course in the University because at this time at the school, there was not as much of an emphasis on conservation, and the human aspect of the forest and on the millions of trees that we have in the tropical forest, it rather focused heavily in commercial forestry plantations. That was never my interest. I thought we would study the whole forest and not only two commercial tree species. After two years, I wasn't satisfied with the course anymore, and I dropped out and reapplied for biology at the same university. I then researched the ecology and natural history of animals like snakes, frogs, lizards, and biological studies of reproduction, feeding, conservation, so really more applied science."

"But after a while, I also got a little unhappy and desperate because there is a lot of basic science to study and I noticed that the animals I studied were disappearing because of deforestation. So I moved towards conservation and sustainability and did a Master's in sustainability and climate change. I started working more front lines with conservation and working with local communities to protect the forests. So to this day, I work with the same forest, but all of the forest, not just a few species, and to protect them and help the traditional communities close to this area to protect the area and generate their income in a sustainable way."

Like the Kashmir World Foundation, Mr. Spina is also very interested in the possibilities between technology and environmental conservation. "The way technology [in conservation] has evolved [since the early 2000s] is very impressive. One area that I really believe in is open source technology because that way, we can empower more conservationists and more people to use technology at a lower c