(Meetings are usually held once a month.)

Student Coordinators

Joshua Strauss, The Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University

Monica Varona, The Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University,

Faculty Facilitators

Jennifer Swenson Professor of the Practice of Geospatial Analysis, Duke University

Elizabeth Shapiro Professor of the Practice of Environmental Policy, Duke University


Established over a decade ago, the Working Group on the Environment in Latin America is evidence of the continued enthusiasm for understanding environmental problems in Latin America. Over the years The Working Group has hosted numerous conferences, prominent speakers, and discussion group meetings. Some recent past activities included:

Title: Brazil’s Atlantic Forest Notes from the Front Line: Use it  Lose it
Speaker: Binka Le Breton of Iracambi Research Center
Description: Students, researchers and community members at the Iracambi Research Centre work together to find and implement solutions to some of the most pressing problems in biodiversity conservation today – how to ensure the survival of fragile forest ecosystems while figuring out ways in which forest people can make a sustainable living.

Title: One Forest, Three Countries: Predicting the Deforestation and Economic Impact of Roads in the Mayan Forests
Speaker: Dalia Amor, PhD. Candidate, Duke University
Description: The Mayan forest is the largest remnant tropical forest in the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot. In spite of national and international conservation strategies to reduce rates of deforestation, such as the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, the rate of forest loss has been steadily increasing since 1970. Moreover, a major development project proposed to connect a series of roads is planned for the region. The objective of this project is to predict the impact of the roads on the Mayan forest in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico, and to understand their role on deforestation dynamics.

Title: Indigenous Peoples and Biodiversity Conservation: the Huaorani of Amazonian Ecuador
Speaker: Dr. Flora Lu, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology and Curriculum in Ecology, UNC-CH
Description: Much has been written about the role of indigenous peoples, particularly Native Amazonians, in biodiversity conservation. Characterizations range from “ecologically noble savages” to rapacious and rational consumers of forest resources and market goods. Drawing from human evolutionary ecology, population biology, common property theory and ecological anthropology, I will examine the case of the Huaorani  Indians of northeastern Ecuador, a group which has been both romanticized and vilified for their defense of territory, hunting prowess, interactions with oil companies, and spearing raids. I ask whether the Huaorani of Ecuador are conservationists and draw upon research stemming from 1992 to answer this question.

WGELA has made it a priority for researchers in the Triangle, both at the PhD and Masters level an opportunity for to showcase their results and receive valuable feedback. Three to four times a year, WGELA will bring in experts in the environmental field from across the Americas to present their research to our community.

Working group meetings are typically held once every month.  This year we will be alternating group meetings between the campuses of Duke, UNC and NC State.  Please check the Consortium website calendar for current events: http://ilas.unc.edu/events/display_events.asp