Putting integrative research into action!

It’s been awhile since I posted, but I have been in the thick of conducting my interviews and site surveys. I just finished this past week, having conducted 70 interviews and 46 site visits since mid-April! It’s been a whirlwind of long days journeying all over the countryside by car, foot and horseback and sharing cafes and agua dulces (a traditional warm sugar tea, for lack of a better description) with some extremely generous campesinos.

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Growing baby, growing challenges!

Ah, thinking back to our first days in Costa Rica….Reed sleeping peacefully by my side as I attended meetings, networked, spent time in the GIS lab, and enjoyed the precious moments of having a sweet little baby cuddled up in my lap. Both Casey and I continued to enjoy fairly regular work schedules, and we started feeling like we really had this parenting thing down.

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People’s climate march in Costa Rica

Yesterday we participated in a People’s climate “sister march” in Santa Elena. It was small compared with the march in Washington D.C., with about 100 people in attendance, but it was impressive that we mobilized a group all the way up here in the cloud forest to march in solidarity with others all over the world.

I played a small part in helping to organize the march, coordinating the donation of native trees from local reforestation nurseries, which were given away to people living, walking and driving along the route of our march. All 120 trees were carried on an electric golf-cart to keep the march free of fossil fuel vehicles. People were really excited to take trees home and plant them on their own land! It felt good to get engaged with local climate change advocacy efforts and play a role in getting trees to people that may not have otherwise had the opportunity to plant trees on their land.

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Focus groups galore

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been organizing and holding focus groups in different communities in the upper part of the Bellbird Corridor. These were actually the first focus groups I had ever led. While I’m sure I made a few mistakes along the way, they definitely helped me move my research forward and were a good learning experience!

The process of organizing the focus groups in rural Costa Rica gave me a whole new appreciation for the ease by which we are able to organize meetings by email back home. Many people in this area don’t use email, so after getting lists of recommended participants from local collaborators, I had to either call them or go find them at their places of business. I was a little intimated about this at first, but it ended up being a good opportunity to make connections with lots of different people in the community (and practice my Spanish 🙂 )

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Excursion to Montezuma

Last weekend, six of our friends from different points in life all converged in Costa Rica at the same time! So we took a quick excursion to Montezuma, which is at the very tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. Somehow this was the first time we made it to the beach since we’ve been in Costa Rica– it’s like I’m down here to work on my dissertation or something 🙂

Baby Reed was happy we finally brought him to the beach so he could get his first taste of sand

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Discovering the Sendero PacĂ­fico

Yesterday we were invited to attend the opening of a new cafe in San Luis adjacent to the Community Center. To celebrate the opening of the cafe, everyone was given a free lunch, so perhaps unsurprisingly, the place was packed! For such a relatively small and rural community, I have been really impressed by how many people turn out for community events like these.

After enjoying a tasty lunch, a group well-equipped for hiking began to congregate at the front of the Community Center and we learned that they were going to walk a portion of the Sendero PacĂ­fico.

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Interamerican Foundation conference in Mexico

Last week we traveled to QuerĂ©taro, Mexico so I could participate in the Mid-Year Conference for the Interamerican Foundation’s (IAF) PhD fellowship program. There are 15 other students in the fellowship program at various stages in their grassroots development related research projects throughout Latin America. It was really inspiring to hear about everyone’s work. Many of the students are working in challenging environments and topical areas than- from Central American migration in Mexico to the Colombian peace process to the implementation of reparations for political violence in Peru, it was great to exchange ideas with this group of people from diverse disciplinary and cultural backgrounds.

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Welcome to my blog!

I have been in Costa Rica for just over a month now getting started with fieldwork for my PhD. For those of you that are interested in my research (and not just cute pictures of my baby in Costa Rica!), let me provide a brief introduction. My work is focused on comparing the impacts of grassroots reforestation efforts with the national Payment for Ecosystem Services (Pago por Servicios Ambientales, or PSA in Spanish) program. As the name would suggest, Payment for Ecosystem Services programs provide payments to incentivize land use practices that will improve ecosystem services like water filtration, flood control and carbon sequestration. While grassroots reforestation programs don’t offer financial incentives, they provide free trees and/or fencing to facilitate reforestation and are very popular here as a way to protect water supplies and create windbreaks.

Windbreaks between agricultural fields in the San Luis valley
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