Since I was a teenager, I volunteered for different environmental organisations in my home country Mexico; I supported actions towards the conservation of biodiversity such as to raise awareness campaigns to stop illegal trade of Howler and Spider monkeys from the rainforest in South Mexico but also to protect nests of Olive Ridley and Leatherback sea turtles along the Pacific Coast. After graduating as a Biologist with emphasis in Ecology, my first approaches to conservation research where focused on understanding soil microfauna interactions with the purpose of developing projects to stop soil erosion in arid ecosystems in North Mexico.
Through those experiences in academia and collaborating with NGOs, it became more evident for me how social factors are not only the main drivers of biodiversity degradation, but also fundamental to achieving conservation objectives and improving people’s welfare. In light of the above, I studied a Master of Environmental Management where I investigated the influence that ecological degradation factors have on vulnerable social groups; specifically indigenous people. For this project, I centred my attention in the evolution of the Cucapá Indigenous people’s livelihoods after the colonisation of the Colorado River Delta. As a result of my work, I proposed pathways for the successful inclusion of Cucapá people into restoration and poverty alleviation programmes.
For my PhD, I am exploring how spatial information on the different values that people have considering ecosystems can be used to make better decisions for conservation planning. Using the Ecosystem Services concept and the Social-Ecological Systems framework, my research aims to account for the different components and interactions that link the capacity of ecosystems to provide services to the requirements and desires demanded by people. The overarching goal here is to integrate this information into a Spatial Conservation Planning design that identifies the synergies and trade-offs between biodiversity conservation, ecosystem services provision and distribution of these ecosystem services to beneficiaries.