Tropical biodiversity hotspots
Species distributions and movements, conservation decisions
Habitat use and land-cover change impacts on bird communities
Biodiversity friendly practices
Tropical crops and the bridge between conservation and production
Patterns of collisions and mitigation strategies
I am an Assistant Professor in the Environmental Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The research group I lead focuses on several aspects of Conservation Ecology such as spatial modelling, urban conservation, biodiversity hotspots, birds, ecosystem services, animal tracking, among others.
My research focuses on the ecology and conservation of tropical biodiversity, particularly of endemic and threatened species, and with a strong focus on birds. Through the use of spatial tools, I study the impacts of antropogenic activities on biodiversity to design strategies to improve conservation in biodiversity hotspots, including protected areas, sustainable agriculture, and rural development.
I am also interested in urban conservation issues, especially those related to bird-window collisions and their mitigation.
Using species distribution ranges, and readily available geospatial data, I asess species' extinction risk and refine conservation priorities from global, to national, regional and local scales.
In Colombia, an important biodiversity hotspot for birds and other taxa, I worked on down-scaling national conservation priotities for birds to local actions in two cases: for the Western Andes by advising the purchase of a large area for conservation, and in the Central Andes by combining priorities for bird conservation with landslide prevention. Also in the Western Andes of Colombia, I did extensive fieldwork to evaluate the impact of deforestation on species' altitudinal ranges.
At the global scale, I led a collaboration asessing extinction risk and refining conservation priorities for endemic forest birds in six biodiversity hotspots: Atlantic Forest of Brazil, Western Andes of Colombia, Madagascar, Central America, Sumatra, and Southeast Asia. Using publically available geospatial data, we refined bird ranges by elevation and available forest and show that species are more threatened than previously thought.
Extinction risk and conservation priorities
Background map from www.biodiversitymapping.org
An estimated one billion birds die after hitting windows each year in North America, this is only second to cats when analyzing human-caused bird deaths. At university campuses in the United States and Colombia, and at residences, I have been studying bird-window collisions and strategies to prevent them. I plan to start a bird collision monitoring program at UCSC and other west coast campuses. While doing my PhD at Duke University, I led a group of students and faculty to document collisions on campus, and advocate for the retrofitting of the building that caused the most bird deaths. At my residence in Colombia, we showed that by applying off-the-shelf deterrent decals, collisions are reduced by 87%.
Oil palm and biodiversity
Oil palm is the world's most used vegetable oil, and one blamed for environmental degradation in the tropics. I study the impacts of current oil palm plantations on the distributions and connectivity of birds and mammals in forests in Borneo and Colombia.
Given that palm oil demand continues to increase, I contribute to finding better ways to produce oil palm by designing biodiversity-friendly oil palm landscapes (that enhance connectivity), and providing spatial planning for responsible expansion globally.
Migration is one of the most fascinating natural phenomena, yet we know very little about it. I am interested in all types of migration, but especially in the poorly known local and altitudinal movements of tropical birds.
Currently, I am colaborating with a team of researchers studying regional migration of the Orinoco Goose (Neochen jubata), Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger), and Large-billed Tern (Phaetusa simplex). As a researcher for the "Fundacion Horizonte Verde" and a co-PI on our National Geographic grant, I am in charge of attaching satellite transmitters to birds from the Colombian Llanos populations.
Colombia Resurvey Project
More than a century ago, Frank Chapman led a team of American Museum of Natural History ornithologists on 8 expeditions throughout Colombia to study its birds and distributions. In modern times, a team of Colombian researchers will resurvey the same sites to study changes on the birds.
I led the Expediciones BIO Alas, cantos y Colores from March 2020 until March 2021. I now belong the team as a research partner interested in the changes of landcover and climate that impacted our birds.
Read more about this interesting initiative on our website: Colombia Resurvey Project