A Graduate Education Framework for Tropical Conservation and Development

Authors

  • KAREN A. KAINER,

    Corresponding author
    1. Tropical Conservation and Development Program, Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida, 319 Grinter Hall, Gainesville, FL 32611-5530, U.S.A.
    2. School of Forest Resources and Conservation, University of Florida, 210 Newins-Ziegler Hall, Gainesville, FL 32611-0410, U.S.A.
      email kkainer@latam.ufl.edu
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  • MARIANNE SCHMINK,

    1. Tropical Conservation and Development Program, Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida, 319 Grinter Hall, Gainesville, FL 32611-5530, U.S.A.
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  • HANNAH COVERT,

    1. Tropical Conservation and Development Program, Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida, 319 Grinter Hall, Gainesville, FL 32611-5530, U.S.A.
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  • JOHN RICHARD STEPP,

    1. Tropical Conservation and Development Program, Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida, 319 Grinter Hall, Gainesville, FL 32611-5530, U.S.A.
    2. Department of Anthropology, University of Florida,1112 Turlington Hall, Gainesville, FL 32611-7305, U.S.A.
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  • EMILIO M. BRUNA,

    1. Tropical Conservation and Development Program, Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida, 319 Grinter Hall, Gainesville, FL 32611-5530, U.S.A.
    2. Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida, 110 Newins-Ziegler Hall, Gainesville, FL 32611-0430, U.S.A.
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  • JONATHAN L. DAIN,

    1. Tropical Conservation and Development Program, Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida, 319 Grinter Hall, Gainesville, FL 32611-5530, U.S.A.
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  • SANTIAGO ESPINOSA,

    1. Tropical Conservation and Development Program, Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida, 319 Grinter Hall, Gainesville, FL 32611-5530, U.S.A.
    2. Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida, 110 Newins-Ziegler Hall, Gainesville, FL 32611-0430, U.S.A.
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  • SHOANA HUMPHRIES

    1. Tropical Conservation and Development Program, Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida, 319 Grinter Hall, Gainesville, FL 32611-5530, U.S.A.
    2. School of Forest Resources and Conservation, University of Florida, 210 Newins-Ziegler Hall, Gainesville, FL 32611-0410, U.S.A.
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email kkainer@latam.ufl.edu

Abstract

Abstract: Conventional graduate training related to tropical conservation and development has typically separated the two fields, with students focusing on either conservation from the perspective of the biophysical sciences or development as an extension of the social sciences. On entering the workforce, however, graduates find they are required to work beyond disciplinary boundaries to address the complex interconnectivity between biological conservation and human well-being. We devised a framework for graduate education that broadens students' skill sets to learn outside their immediate disciplines and think in terms of linked socioecological systems, work in teams, communicate in nonacademic formats, and reflect critically on their own perspectives and actions. The University of Florida's Tropical Conservation and Development program has adopted a learning and action platform that blends theory, skills, and praxis to create an intellectual, social, and professionally safe space where students, faculty, and other participants can creatively address the complex challenges of tropical conservation and development. This platform operates within a nondegree-granting program and includes core courses that are taught by a team of biophysical and social scientists. It incorporates a range of alternative learning spaces such as student-led workshops, retreats, visiting professionals, practitioner experiences, and a weekly student-led seminar that collectively encourage students and faculty to enhance their skills and systematically and thoroughly reflect on program activities. Challenges to the described approach include increased service demands on faculty, a redefinition of research excellence to include effective and equitable collaboration with host-country partners, and the trade-offs and uncertainties inherent in more collaborative, interdisciplinary research. Despite these challenges, growing interdisciplinary programs, coupled with adaptive educational approaches that emphasize learning and action networks of students, faculty, and field partners, provide the best hope for responding to the emerging challenges of tropical conservation and development.

Abstract

Resumen: El entrenamiento convencional de posgrado relacionado con la conservación y el desarrollo tropical se ha caracterizado por separar a los dos campos, y los estudiantes se concentran ya sea en la conservación desde la perspectiva de las ciencias biofísicas o en el desarrollo como una extensión de las ciencias sociales. Sin embargo, al ingresar al mercado de trabajo, los recién graduados se encuentran con que requieren trabajar más allá de los límites disciplinares para abordar la compleja interconexión que existe entre la conservación biológica y el bienestar humano. Desarrollamos un marco para educación de posgrado que amplía el conjunto de destrezas de los estudiantes para aprender afuera de sus disciplinas inmediatas y pensar en términos de sistemas socioecológicos interconectados, trabajar en equipo, comunicar en formatos no académicos y reflexionar sus propias perspectivas y acciones críticamente. El programa de Conservación y Desarrollo Tropical de la Universidad de Florida ha adoptado una plataforma de aprendizaje y acción que combina la teoría, destrezas y praxis para crear un espacio intelectual, social y profesionalmente seguro en el que estudiantes, profesores y otros participantes puedan tratar los complejos retos de la conservación y desarrollo tropical con creatividad. Esta plataforma opera en un programa que no otorga grado e incluye cursos troncales a cargo de un equipo de científicos biofísicos y sociales. Incorpora una variedad de espacios alternativos de aprendizaje como talleres conducidos por estudiantes, retiros, profesionales invitados, experiencias profesionales y un seminario semanal conducido por estudiantes que estimula colectivamente a estudiantes y profesores para que incrementen sus destrezas y que reflexionen sobre las actividades del programa sistemática y profundamente. Los desafíos de este programa descrito incluyen el incremento en la demanda de trabajo de los profesores, una redefinición de la excelencia en la investigación para incluir colaboración efectiva y equitativa con socios en países anfitriones y las incertidumbres inherentes a la investigación en equipo e interdisciplinaria. A pesar de estos retos, los programas interdisciplinarios, conjuntamente con métodos educativos adaptables que enfatizan las redes de aprendizaje y acción de estudiantes, profesores y personal de campo, proporcionan la mejor esperanza para responder a los desafíos emergentes en el campo de la conservación y desarrollo tropical.

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