I'm a Ph.D. Candidate at Stony Brook University's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (Stony Brook, NY, USA) and with the Institute for Marine Conservation Science (IOCS). My thesis focuses on the sustainable finance and economics of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), especially MPAs in Latin America and the Caribbean where I am currently conducting a series of case studies. My broader research interests include conservation finance, environmental economics, and marine ecology. Read more about some of these topics below!
In addition to my work at Stony Brook University, I am also a Technical Specialist with the Conservation Finance Alliance, a WCS affiliated NGO with whom I collaborate on a variety of projects and initiatives. Prior to entering graduate school, I worked in finance within the renewable energy and commercial real estate space, performing acquisitions as well as asset management and research/advisory duties across multiple firms. I received my bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College (Brunswick, Maine) where I majored in Economics and Environmental Studies, as well as minored in Earth & Oceanographic Sciences. I am a fluent Spanish speaker and U.S. and Colombian citizen.
I live in Brooklyn, NY, where I love playing soccer and indoor climbing, and am also a member of The Explorers Club. When not in the city, I love being in the outdoors and am an avid skier and SCUBA diver!
Biodiversity conservation efforts around the world require billions of dollars each year in order to function. Examples of major expenses include salaries for enforcement rangers and other staff, purchase and upkeep of equipment and facilities, and long-term scientific monitoring. Furthermore, conservation efforts can be undermined by perverse financial incentives such as harmful fishing subsidies. The Conservation Finance Alliance recently described conservation finance as, “mechanisms and strategies that generate, manage, and deploy financial resources and align incentives to achieve nature conservation outcomes.” Recent estimates suggest that conservation efforts receive only a fraction of required investments needed in order to reach global biodiversity goals, and conservation finance is a critical field for the future of life on earth.
Protected areas can be defined as "a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values" (IUCN). This definition includes features from iconic National Parks down to local conservation easements. But just as we can envision Yellowstone National Park as a protected area, protected areas also exist in the ocean and coastal environments, where they are referred to as marine protected areas (MPAs).
MPAs are among the most popular and flexible tools for marine conservation, with the potential to help marine ecosystems recover, remain intact (if healthy), and build resilience to impacts from climate change. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 14.5) aim to protect 10% of the ocean by the year 2020, with some organizations advocating for expanding this to up to 30% or more by 2030. However, we remain a far cry from these targets. Optimistically, 7% of the ocean is currently protected by MPAs, and the majority of MPAs are believed to be ineffective due to insufficient staff and budgetary capacity. My research is dedicated to better understanding MPA finance in order to directly address these challenges.
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