My biggest passion in life are birds, and I spend my research and leisure time studying and enjoying them. I was born in Colombia and have focused many of my research on this amazing biodiversity hotsptot. My research interests span many issues of the ecology and conservation of tropical birds, especially: their spatial distribution, impacts of anthropogenic activities on their populations, conservation priorities and strategies for tropical landscapes, and the use of birds as tools for education and conservation.
Pontificia Universidad Javeriana - Colombia
Duke University - USA
PhD Environmental Science and Policy
Support and funding
I started studying and watching birds during my first semester of college (2004) and have spent the most of the last 15 years studying bird ecology and conservation in Colombia, and in other tropical biodiversity hotspots.
During my PhD, I focused on practical conservation issues of Colombian birds, mainly those that are endemic or threatened. This took me to the Andes, where I spent 4 years looking at ways to improve conservation, reconnect forest fragments, and protect large numbers of species of concern. For the last year of my PhD, I expanded my horizons and worked on a global project, assessing the impact of using geospatial data in Red List assessments and conservation priorities.
My postdoctoral research at ETH Zurich took me to exploring issues from oil palm cultivation on the island of Borneo, in Colombia, and in many other oil palm producing countries. I visited Borneo and experienced the devastating impacts of plantations on biodiversity, and then went on to building maps of this impact on bird and mammals' distributions.
Fieldwork and mapping of oil palm landscapes in Colombia, and bird surveys, led me to investigate best landscape management practices to establish oil palm plantations in biodiversity-friendly ways. corridors, stepping stones, and plantations management can all help to preserve birds in oil palm landscapes.
Using global spatial models, I show where oil palm can expand at low conservation cost.
My extensive field experience with birds has taken me to many great places. In Colombia, I have done several bird inventories for private reserves all over the country, especially in the Orinoco region. I also spent a few months working on a Nazca Booby project for researchers Dr. Anderson and Felipe Estela on the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, and Malpelo in Colombia. The North American Banding Council has certified me as a passerine bird bander, and since I have banded over 7000 passerine birds in Colombia, California, and North Carolina. While helping band Sooty Terns, I also got to spend a few days in the Dry Tortugas in Florida; in this and the Nazca Booby projects I have banded several thousand seabirds. I also worked deploying Time-Depth recorders and GPSs on birds. Since 2014, I have been collaborating on a project to tag Orinoco Geese with satellite transmitters to determine their currently unknown migratory routes.
One of my biggest passions is education from graduate students to kindergartners. At ETH Zurich I was an instructor for field courses in ecology, and at Duke I frequently contributed lectures on conservation biology. I enjoy working with children and teenagers, teaching them about birds and their conservation importance. Through different strategies, such as school activities and bird banding demonstrations, I have contributed to environmental education in the different places where I have lived or done research.
Currently I lead the Project BIO Expeditions Chapman at the Instituto de Investigacion de Recursos Biologicos Alexander von Humboldt in Bogota, Colombia.
The project, funded by Colombia's Ministry of Science aims to resurvey sites where Frank Chapman and his AMNH crew sampled birds over 100 years ago. Through ornithological expeditions, we will document changes to bird communities over the past century, share our results with local communities, and design a bird-watching tourism strategy.
My research is currently funded by a Colciencias Postdoctoral Fellowship.