Student ResearcherMadeline Bertagnolli '22, Major: Business Analytics, Major: Environmental Policy
Faculty MentorGraham Henshaw
Effective and sustainable biodiversity conservation must balance environmental protection with the improvement of local livelihoods and sustainable development. Mainstream in the conservation field, sustainable livelihood strategies aim to protect biodiversity through the development of sustainable businesses designed to improve local livelihoods or to enhance the economic value of the environment to incentivize sustainable use. Although widely proposed as an effective conservation approach, developing viable businesses in remote communities that have a measurable impact on conservation targets and local livelihoods is challenging and requires a careful, multidisciplinary assessment of the socioeconomic and environmental impacts and risks before implementation.
Leveraging nearly two decades of research and community relationships, the Ecuadorian non-governmental organization Fundacion para la Conservacion de los Andes Tropicales (FCAT) is working with local communities to assess the feasibility of mission-based ecotourism as a strategy to promote rainforest conservation and economic development in and around Mache-Chindul Reserve in the Choco rainforest of northwestern Ecuador. In collaboration with FCAT, an interdisciplinary team of students and faculty from Tulane University, and The Allan B. Miller Entrepreneurship Center at William & Mary, Madeline assessed the feasibility of ecotourism in the Mache-Chindul Reserve area as a community-supported strategy to promote environmental conservation and sustainable economic development. The Ecotourism business model created by Madeline is informing FCAT’s conservation approach and serves as a model for the process conservation organizations should use to assess the feasibility of sustainable livelihood strategies.rganizations should use to assess the feasibility of sustainable livelihood strategies.