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Janeth Lessmann Escalona

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Fellow 2013-2014: Integrating economic costs to determine priority areas for species conservation in the Western Amazon

Janeth has been selected for technical support proposed by Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF) and within the framework of the Scholars Program of the Initiative for Conservation in the Andean Amazon (ICAA), a program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Her research project will identify priority areas for conservation in the Amazon region of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, with the objective to increase the diversity of protected species in the area at the least possible opportunity cost. Sets of birds, amphibians, mammals and plant species will be selected as conservation targets and their estimated distributions will be established using niche models. Both management and opportunity costs associated with the establishment of reserves will be evaluated.

For almost three years, Janeth has been working in Venezuela and Ecuador on GIS projects to determine potential threats, levels of biodiversity, and to identify priority areas for conservation. Her master's thesis, which examined the protection of different areas in Ecuador based on species diversity, used software distribution models to design the protected areas. This sparked her interest in the field, and in 2012 she began working as a researcher in GIS at the Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica in Ecuador. She has worked on projects understanding patterns of species diversity in the Ecuadorian Amazon, documenting oil expansion in this region, and identifying conservation alternatives within the context of the expanding mining industry. She currently works as a GIS research associate in a conservation project in the Napo Basin in the Ecuadorian Amazon, led by Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica and Universidad San Francisco de Quito.

This project will attempt to characterize environmental and biodiversity patterns and offer a portfolio of conservation alternatives for this important watershed. She completed her undergraduate studies at Universidad Simón Bolívar in Venezuela, and earned her Master's degree in Biodiversity in Tropical Areas and International Conservation at Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo in Spain. She hopes to continue her professional growth in the study of biodiversity and increasingly integrate economic and social elements into her studies to generate both feasible and effective conservation proposals.