Forest to College

Sonoma State Helps Ecuador Integrate Open Space into University
August 18, 2015
group in ecuador

Claudia Luke, director of the Center for Environmental Inquiry at Sonoma State University returned last month from Ecuador, where she spent a few days working with the Ecuadorian government giving recommendations on how to integrate national park land into a public university.

The land in question is a wide swath stretching from the Andes to the Amazon Basin. Luke was part of a group of international experts who spent a day in the rain forest and spoke with native people on the edge of the forest as part of their research.

The goal was to articulate and define the relationship between the Colonso-Chalupas National Park and IKIAM University at Tena, Ecuador. The team provided input and recommendations on how this partnership would improve the quality of the protected areas and the science and the education of the university.

Luke manages Sonoma State's three open space preserves, with a total of 4,200 acres in Mendocino and Sonoma counties. She says her experience in utilizing open space preserves with a public university was key in the project. She was also secretary treasurer for the Organization of Biological Field Stations for six years and has worked on similar projects, though this is her first international project. "It went great," she says. "It was so fascinating."

The workshop focused on articulating how a university with its special assets, skills and resources can improve science, education, environmental management, and conservation through partnership. This included interviews with locals, yielding more than just conversation.

Luke was interviewing people in the town of Tena, 115 miles southeast of the capital city of Quito, about their use of native plants for cooking when there came an opportunity to try some for herself. A chef who had studied in Spain prepared a manioc pizza with two-inch grubs that has been roasted, wrapped in bacon, and drizzled with chocolate. Luke described the dish as having a nutty taste, likely due to the fact that the grubs had been feeding on a local palm tree. "It was actually pretty good," she said.