Round River Newsletter, Issue 30

December 2020

A Merry Winter Solstice to All!

Indigenous-led Conservation Initiatives in Northern Canada

This work spans multiple landscapes and communities, from the Canadian Arctic to the boreal and coastal forests of British Columbia. Each individual project is specific to the priorities of our local partners, but all our work relies on a strong foundation of technical analyses that integrate indigenous knowledge and western science to support conservation planning and on-the-ground programming.

On the Yukon North Slope, we are supporting the Wildlife Management Advisory Council in the development of a Wildlife Conservation and Management Plan. This work relies on Inuvialuit knowledge and ecological data to create a robust representation of the importance of this landscape to inform management and conservation decisions, including potentially establishing an Indigenous Protected Area.

In northwestern British Columbia and the southern Yukon, we continue to work on multiple Indigenous-led conservation and land-planning initiatives. We are providing technical support for three First Nations developing their Land Relationship Plan called Nän ye chu ye ts’àdnäl/Aat á x yaa has na.át. aáni ka heen (means ‘How we walk with land and water’) for their combined territories in Yukon and BC. We are also continuing to work with our long-time partner, Taku River Tlingit First Nation, to improve their community’s food security through the development of local programs that support continued and revitalized traditional land-use and community climate change adaptation efforts. Most recently, we have been supporting the Taku River Tlingit in advancing their Tlatsini (meaning ‘places that make us strong’) Vision for land protections through identifying and pursuing the establishment of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas.

Botswana Community and Conservation Initiative

Stresses on natural resources are negatively impacting Botswana’s Okavango Delta, an iconic landscape of Sub-Saharan African wildlife. For over eight years our efforts have focused on declining wildlife numbers, increasing poverty, and deteriorating food security among the people most dependent on this region’s natural resources. During the limiting times of 2020, we chose to concentrate this work within the heart of the Okavango in the three villages of Khwai Zou, Mababe Zokotsama, and Sankoyo Tshwaragano. Basic food supplies were delivered to the communities during the travel shutdowns and assistance was provided to plant and protect crops from the resident elephants. The work conducted by the staff of Round River Botswana was made possible by Stephen Denkers, Willard L. Eccles Charitable Foundation, and individual donations.

In 2021 we hope to continue our efforts to develop the Botswana Community and Conservation Initiative in recognition that Northern Botswana’s ecological viability and its communities’ well-being are inextricably linked. Your support is always needed and welcomed.

Support our Conservation Efforts

Community-based Conseration in Campo de Hielo Sur

We have made significant progress in the last year toward highlighting conservation in the imaginations of our allies and in the communities of the Southern Patagonia Ice Field. Currently, the public lands agency of the Ministry of National Goods is procesing a technical proposal emerging from 5 years of scientific research and community engagement work.

Our proposal to establish a new protected area in the Pascua River and its areas of influence emerges with the intention of devising, developing, and implementing a planning model for the conservation and sustainable development of this territory with its neighboring communities in Chilean Patagonia. This work in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field relies on close collaboration with the Chilean government, local municipalities, and other locally-based and international non-profits to make our conservation goals a reality.

Sky Island Borderlands Pilot Program

Round River Instructors Ben Szydlowski and Eli Brunner spent the last few weeks on the ground in Arizona getting ready for the pilot semester of our Sky Island Borderlands student program which will begin in February 2021. With Sky Island Alliance staff, they surveyed perennial springs in the Santa Catalina Mountains and visited the U.S. – Mexico border wildlife study locations in the Patagonia and Huachuca Mountains.

This region is incredibly unique, consisting of several distinct ecosystems as one moves up in elevation. It provides habitat for hundreds of bird and plant species and mammals such as Coues deer, bighorn sheep, mountain lion, and jaguar. The spring term will also take Round River students and instructors into the Gailuro, Santa Teresa, and Chiricauhua “Sky Islands”, each with rich ecological and historical narratives. Our base camp will be in the ghost town of Ruby, Arizona – once one of the most lucrative mining towns in the Southwest – and is now a piece of land dedicated to wildlife and historical education. Located just a few miles from the Mexico border, several summits within the area provide 100 mile views into the neighboring southern country.

Donate to our Student Scholarship Fund

Alumni Spotlights

Jonathan Piazza, Botswana ‘13

Jonathan grew up watching nature documentaries and dreaming of spending time in southern Africa. He joined Round River’s Fall 2013 Botswana program and the entire experience was “life changing”. Jonathan learned to be more environmentally conscious, to live more minimally, and to cherish the little things such as shared meals with friends and family, late-night storytelling, and long drives just to see something “wild”. For example, “While working on an exam in Maun, I felt what I thought was water hitting my head. I was outside and it was ~100F. I was confused and looked up. Above me was a vervet monkey sitting on a tree limb peeing on me and my exam.”

Jonathan now works as a food scientist for Lamb Weston and lives in eastern Washington with his college sweetheart, two boys, Oliver and Theodore, and a 5 1/2-foot boa constrictor. For Jonathan, the future of conservation is living by example. That’s why he teaches his children about the natural world and exposes them to lifestyles and places outside of their norm. He believes “the future of conservation is educating those around you about the importance of the natural world, making changes to better the future of the natural world, and raising the next generation to be [its] stewards”.

Molly Shane, Botswana ‘12

Molly was part of Round River’s brand new Botswana student program in 2012. One evening in Chobe National Park, the Round River group came across a lion stalking a kudu, the lion inching closer and the kudu blissfully unaware. Then, in a whirl of activity, the kudu bolted and the lion lunged, pinning the kudu against the hood of the car. The pair slid to the ground, fur and hooves flying, and tumbled into the bushes where the lion finished its kill. This was life in Botswana – raw, wild and mesmerizing. Molly describes her experience with Round River as “profound”. It cemented in her a wholehearted love of learning through experience and reinforced in her a belief that conservation to have any hope for long-term success must be just, equitable, and inclusive.

Molly now works as a consultant with the WildAid Marine Program which strives to improve the effectiveness of marine protected areas. She also runs a small business, The Local Box Shop, which supports local artists and makers, and writes a travel blog, Molly Gone Wild. While her focus has shifted from mopane forests to coral reefs, her commitment to protecting our natural world for the benefit of both wildlife and humans remains constant.

Copyright © 2020 Round River Conservation Studies, All rights reserved.

Round River Conservation Studies is an ecological research and education organization whose goal is the formulation and implementation of conservation strategies that conserve and restore wildness.