Keynote Speaker, Robin Chazdon, University of Connecticut. Photo by Austin Lord.

Friday Keynote speaker, Professor Robin Chazdon

“When we look at forests, we see them as systems in progress, they are under construction”.

This is what Dr. Robin Chazdon concluded near the end of her presentation, while showing the audience a photo of a lush, green forest, with a yellow “Under Construction” sign in the middle. Entertaining, engaging, and educational, Dr. Chazdon spoke of the checklist for successful natural regeneration, using examples from all over the world, largely from Central and Latin America where much of her research focuses. Some of these tools included beneficial topsoil, weed suppressing plants, fire protection, and animal diversity. “You need the whole tropic system, to get a forest back”, she said. Everyone nodded. We know the importance of bugs; even if we don’t want them in our kitchens, we need them in our forests. Additionally, she communicated the importance of indigenous knowledge. Later panel presenters such as Zoraida Calle, Laura Snook and Aerin Jacob also reiterated the need to retain local knowledge. Governments are not always the ones who benefit from reforestation, and they are definitely not the ones putting in the hard labor. It seems important to incorporate local knowledge with scientific research, but how do we do this? One example of how Dr. Chazdon has worked to integrate these approaches is through the newly formed neoSelvas network (http://www.neoselvas.org/). They are seeking to bring together people from many fields and disciplines to integrate ecology and forestry with social and political knowledge of the tropics. I hope interested parties join and participate in this network.