Honorary Fellow, ATBC 2013, Dr. Rodrigo Gámez Lobo

“In 1954 he joined the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Costa Rica (UCR) where he found his “niche” in the field of plant virology. He earned his Master of Science (M.Sc.) at the University of Florida, USA. Then he pursued post-graduate studies at the University of London, England, and completed his doctorate (PhD) in virology at the University of Illinois, USA, in 1967.”

Rodrigo_-Gamez-Lobo-HF-2013-2“On his return, he continued his work at UCR. At this institution, he was the first director of the School of Plant Science, the first Vice Chancellor for Research, and a member of the first Council of Post-Graduate Studies System and the Electronic Microscopy Unit. At that time, he also actively participated in the creation of the National Council of Scientific and Technological Research (CONICIT) and State Distance Education University (UNED). But his main contribution was the creation of a virology laboratory, which later became the current Molecular and Cellular Biology Research Center (CIBCM) at UCR, of which he was first director in 1976.”

“In 1983, he was awarded the Dr. Bernard Houssay Inter-American Science Prize, by the Organization of American States (OAS), for his contribution to the scientific development of Costa Rica. In 1986, Rodrigo Gámez was named presidential adviser on natural resources and biodiversity.”

Deborah A. Clark, Rodrigo Gámez Lobo, Daniel H. Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs. (© Tropicalbio.org)

Deborah A. Clark, Rodrigo Gámez Lobo, Daniel H. Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs. (© Tropicalbio.org)

“Two years later, he coordinated the Planning Commission of the National Biodiversity Institute, which recommended the government to create a state biodiversity institute that would have a high degree of autonomy. However, the government was unable to implement the idea, reason for which Dr. Gámez and other members of the committee chose to make it happen themselves and created a private non-profit association. This way, the National Biodiversity Institute (INBio) was born, an institution to which Rodrigo Gámez has dedicated 15 years of his life as Director General and President. His tireless work towards learning, conserving and sustainably using the biodiversity of Costa Rica has earned INBio numerous awards, including the Sir Peter Scott Award for Conservation Merit by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN, 1992), the Song to All Creatures Award by the Franciscan Center for Environmental Studies in Italy, the Prince of Asturias Prize in Science and Technology (1995), and the Tech Museum Award in 2003.”

ATBC is extremely honoured with Dr. Rodrigo Gámez Lobo being an honorary fellow.(© Celia Coto Elizondo)

Nomination Letter by Dr. Erick Mata Montero, Executive Director of Encyclopedia of Life

Bacardi Award – 2013

The Luis F. Bacardi Award is given to a young post-doctoral researcher (no more than five years after completing Ph.D.) for outstanding conservation-related presentation at each ATBC annual meeting.

Tremie Gregory Bacardi Award 2013The 2013 winner is Dr Tremaine (Tremie) Gregory. Her Ph D Dissertation was on the ecology of bearded saki monkey, Chiropotes sagulatus, at Brownsberg Natural Park, Suriname (see Marilyn Norconk’s Lab.) Today, she’s a research scientist at the Smithsonian Institute, USA, and developed a research program  to maintaining natural movement of animals that live in the tropical rain canopy in South America. As development and resource extraction encroach on remote areas of the Amazon, the forest is becoming increasingly fragmented, limiting where animals that cannot fly and only live in trees can go. To find a solution, researchers at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute convinced a development company to do an experiment. Researchers worked with company engineers to leave behind “natural canopy bridges,”standing trees with large branches that maintain connections between both sides of the forest. (Source: Smithsonian Science)

Natural canopy bridges over a gas pipeline: a mitigation strategy for arboreal animals in Peru

Tremaine Gregory, Farah Carrasco Rueda, Jessica Deichmann, Joseph Kolowski, and Alfonso Alonso
Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, National Zoological Park

Contact: Gregoryt@si.edu

Camera trap

Placement of camera traps in a canopy bridge by Tremaine Gregory. Note the right-of-way for the natural gas pipeline below. © Farah Carrasco.

Abstract. Travel routes for arboreal animals are disrupted when the development of linear infrastructure (e.g. roads and pipelines) involves the fragmentation of the canopy. In the Neotropics, primates are highly arboreal, and a pipeline has the potential to divide populations, altering territories and interrupting important processes such as gene flow. Through a collaboration with a natural gas company, we are investigating the impact of the construction of a natural gas pipeline on primates in the Lower Urubamba Region of Perú, and testing a novel strategy to reduce the effects of canopy fragmentation. We are monitoring the distribution of primate groups within one kilometer of the pipeline right-of-way (RoW) with transect walks before, during, and after pipeline construction, and assessing whether RoW crossing frequency is influenced by the presence of natural canopy bridges, connections left between canopy branches above the pipeline where animals may cross.

Aotus nigriceps

Canopy camera trap photo of Aotus nigriceps group in a canopy bridge 28m up. © Tremaine Gregory

Data collected during construction suggest a reduction in primate encounter rates within one kilometer of the RoW, as compared to before construction began. However, in the four months since the RoW was exposed, 8,000 camera trap photos show that all 13 natural bridges have been used by over 125 individuals of 19 arboreal mammal species. In contrast, where there are no natural bridges, only one of these arboreal species has been recorded crossing the RoW on the ground. This study highlights the value of collaborations between conservation organizations and development industries in proposing and documenting protocols for industry “best practices.” As we assess research priorities for the next 50 years and consider the increasing threat of human impacts on biodiversity, scientists must engage in developing, testing, and documenting strategies for impact mitigation.


Tremaine with co-author, Farah Carrasco, during tree climbing training for canopy camera placement. © Joe Maher.

More about Tremie Gregory’s research in the Amazon

Saguinus imperator

Canopy camera trap photo of Saguinus imperator utilizing a canopy bridge at 33m in height. (© Tremaine Gregory)

There is much potential for hydrocarbon exploration in the Western Amazon. In 2012, 53% of the Peruvian Amazon was covered with concessions; yet, the Peruvian Amazon is also among the world’s most biodiverse areas. Nonetheless, little scientifically rigorous research has been performed to understand the impact of such activities on wildlife. Furthermore, while companies may strive to engage in best practices to reduce impact, many of the methods have not been scientifically tested. Tremie is leading a study measuring the impact of the construction of a natural gas pipeline on arboreal animals, which are expected to be heavily impacted by canopy fragmentation induced by the right-of-way (RoW, the swath cut for the pipeline, see photo). And, in turn, with camera traps she is testing the effectiveness of the best practice of leaving natural canopy bridges (branch crossing points over the RoW) in impact mitigation. Through a partnership with the pipeline construction company, Tremie and her team have been able to monitor the area before, during, and after construction activities.

Initial results of monitoring before and during pipeline construction suggest a decrease in primate group encounter rates, a possible sign that the construction process may impact primate distribution patterns. Upcoming monitoring of primate abundance after construction will provide information about whether this pattern continues over the long term or if animals return to the area. On the other hand, camera trap monitoring of natural canopy bridges provides initial evidence of their effectiveness in fragmentation mitigation, with photos of over 1,000 crossing events by 19 mammal species in the first six months of the study.

Recent Articles

  • Norconk, M.A., Raghanti, M.A. Martin, S.K.,  Grafton, B.W.,  Gregory, L.T., and De Dijn, B.P.E.2003.  Primates of Brownsberg Natuurpark, Suriname, with Particular Attention to the Pitheciins.  Neotropical Primates 11(2):94-100. [PDF 174KB]
  • Tremaine Gregory (2011) Socioecology of the Guianan bearded saki, Chiropotes sagulatus. (PhD dissertation PDF 3.12MB) Website Marylin Norconk – ATBC2008.org
  • Gregory, T. and Norconk M.A. (2013). Comparative socioecology of sympatric, free-ranging white-faced and bearded saki monkeys in Suriname: A preliminary study. In: Evolutionary Biology and Conservation of Titis, Sakis, and Uacaris (L.M. Veiga, A.A. Barnett, S.F. Ferrari & M.A. Norconk, eds). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
  • Gregory, T., Carrasco Rueda, F., Deichmann, J.L., Kolowski, J., and Alonso, A. (2013). Primates of the Lower Urubamba Region, Peru, with comments on other mammals. Neotropical Primates19(1):16-23.
  • Gregory, T., Carrasco Rueda, F., Deichmann, J., Kolowski, J., Costa Faura, M., Dallmeier, F., and Alonso, A. (2013). Methods to establish canopy bridges to increase natural connectivity in linear infrastructure development. Society of Petroleum Engineers SPE12LAHS-P-157.
  • Gregory, T., Mullett, A., and Norconk, M.A. (accepted). Strategies for navigating large areas: A GIS spatial ecology analysis of the bearded saki monkey, Chiropotes sagulatus, in Suriname.American Journal of Primatology.
  • Gregory, T., Carrasco Rueda, F., Deichmann, J.L., Kolowski, J., and Alonso, A. (in review). Cameras in the high canopy: Broadening horizons of arboreal wildlife monitoring. International Journal of Primatology.
  • Gregory, T. and Norconk, M.A. (in review). Bearded saki socioecology: Affiliative male-male interactions in large, free-ranging groups in Suriname. Behaviour.



The San Jose Declaration

Urgent Need to Maintain the Integrity of Costa Rica’s Designated Protected Areas

rinconviejalayers2Over the last 30 years Costa Rica has become a global symbol of sustainable development. It is one of the few countries wholeheartedly endorsing the integration of advancing human welfare and environmental protection. Costa Rica’s visionary decisions have led to 25% of its lands being under some form of protection alongside an exemplary payment for environmental services program. As a direct consequence, tourist income—the majority of which comes from nature-oriented travel—is one of the largest largest revenue generators for the country. Protected areas and national parks have helped transform Costa Rica into a modern service-based economy, thus playing a large role in improving the living standards of Costa Ricans.

Whilst the environmental and economic achievements of Costa Rica’s efforts are applauded, they are currently threatened by potentially damaging projects that could reverse these gains. If these projects go ahead they may dethrone Costa Rica from its global leadership role in combining social, economic and environmental progress.

The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC), the world’s largest organization dedicated to the study and conservation of tropical ecosystems, is particularly concerned about threats to Costa Rica’s world class network of protected areas. An example is the current proposal to de-gazette 1000 ha of the Rincon de la Vieja National Park, an area that is a nationally unique natural forest type. The proposal, Bill number 17680, put forward by the Ministry of Environment and the Costa Rica Electricity Institute, is presently under consideration in Costa Rica’s National Congress.

The realization of this proposal would remove 10% of the total area of this National Park from protection and forever threaten the existence of the only example of this unique forest type in Costa Rica. Moreover, such a de-gazetting of a National Park implies that none of Costa Rica’s National Parks, which offer the greatest levels of protection, are safe from conversion to other land-uses.

At this 2013 annual meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, in San Jose, Costa Rica, we, the meeting delegates, consisting of 127 Costa Ricans and 841 international scientists representing a total of 53 nations RESOLVE to:

CALL UPON THE COSTA RICAN CONGRESS AND MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT to reconsider the current proposal presented to Congress to de-gazette 1000 ha of natural forest of Rincon de la Vieja National Park.

We urge the Costa Rica Congress and the Ministry of Environment to remove the current proposal presented to Congress.
CALL FOR THE COST RICA CONGRESS AND MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT to continue to uphold current laws and exclude protected areas from being subjected to potentially damaging projects.

We urge careful consideration of the ultimate impacts on human wellbeing, biodiversity conservation and the provision of environmental services of any proposed legislative changes relating to protected areas.

Given the pressures on Costa Rica’s natural resources in the face of new threats such as climate change, an increase in the support for the existing system of protected areas is critical. Additionally, extensions of some protected areas may be required to connect different National Parks to allow plants and animals to move as the climate shifts. A key example of this is the plan to link the lowland forest of the Piedras Blancas and Corcovado National Parks to Fila Cal in the Talamanca mountains. Such biodiversity corridors are critical to maintaining Costa Rica’s biological heritage through the 21st century.

CALL FOR THE COSTA RICAN GOVERNMENT TO assist in strengthening connections between existing protected landscapes and to endorse responsible and sustainable development of Costa Rica outside protected areas, to assist the existence and movement of biodiversity beyond the borders of protected areas.

We urge that the expertise and knowledge existing in the country be better utilized, particularly the input and participation of natural and social scientists when making nationally important decisions that may potentially threaten ecosystems in Costa Rica.

The government of Costa Rica should honor the commitments contained within national laws and international treaties that it has signed, including the Law 3763, signed and ratified on 19 October 1966, if it is to ensure that Costa Rica maintains its position as a world leader in environmental and sustainable development. Honoring these commitments will ensure Costa Rica’s National Parks will continue to provide a strong foundation for the national economy, maintain critical ecosystem services, and serve as source of enjoyment for future generations.

27 June 2013, San José, Costa Rica.

The San Jose Declaration [pdf-En]

Urge Mantener La Integridad De Las Áreas Protegidas De Costa Rica

Durante los últimos 30 años, Costa Rica se ha convertido en un símbolo mundial del desarrollo sostenible. Costa Rica ha sido líder mundial en la integración de fomentar el bienestar humano y la protección del medio ambiente. Decisiones visionarias de Costa Rica han llevado a este país a preservar el 25% de su territorio y a desarrollar un programa ejemplar de pago de servicios ambientales. Como consecuencia directa, el turismo ha sido uno de los mayores generadores de ingresos para el país. Las áreas protegidas y parques nacionales han ayudado a transformar a Costa Rica en una economía moderna de servicios, desempeñando así un papel importante en la mejora de las condiciones de vida de los costarricenses.

Si bien los logros ambientales y económicos de los esfuerzos de Costa Rica han sido reconocidos, estos se encuentran amenazados actualmente por proyectos potencialmente perjudiciales que podrían revertir estas ganancias. Si estos proyectos continúan, Costa Rica podría perder su liderazgo mundial como una sociedad capaz de haber integrado el progreso social, económico y ambiental.

La Asociación para la Biología Tropical y Conservación (ATBC, por sus siglas en inglés), la organización más grande del mundo dedicada al estudio y la conservación de los ecosistemas tropicales, está particularmente preocupada por las amenazas en contra del mundialmente reconocido sistema de áreas protegidas de Costa Rica. Un ejemplo es el actual proyecto de ley 17680 para segregar 1000 hectáreas del Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja, una zona que contiene un tipo de bosque natural único en el país. Este proyecto de ley fue presentado por el Ministerio del Medio Ambiente y el Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad y está en discusión en la Asamblea Legislativa. La aprobación de este proyecto de ley eliminaría el 10% de la superficie total de este parque nacional y amenazaría la existencia del único ejemplo de este tipo de bosque en Costa Rica. Además, la segregación de un Parque Nacional, que tiene el mayor nivel de protección, implicaría que ninguno de los parques nacionales de Costa Rica estarían a salvo de cambiar su forma de uso de suelo.

En esta reunión anual de la Asociación de Biología Tropical y Conservación 2013, en San José, Costa Rica, nosotros, los delegados de la reunión, 127 costarricenses y 841 científicos internacionales que representan a un total de 53 naciones acordamos:

Solicitamos a la Asamblea Legislativa de Costa Rica y al Ministerio del Ambiente, Energía y Minas a retirar el proyecto de ley que pretende segregar 1000 ha de bosque natural del Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja.

Instamos a la Asamblea Legislativa de Costa Rica y al Ministerio del Ambiente, Energía y Minas a eliminar este proyecto de ley.

Solicitamos a la Asamblea Legislativa de Costa Rica y al Ministerio del Ambiente, Energía y Minas a continuar defendiendo las leyes vigentes que prevengan proyectos nocivos que atente en contra de las áreas protegidas.

Exigimos que se considere cuidadosamente cualquier proyecto legislativo que atente en contra de las áreas protegidas ya que podría tener impactos finales sobre el bienestar humano, la conservación de la biodiversidad y la provisión de servicios ambientales.

Es crítico incrementar el apoyo al sistema de áreas protegidas de Costa Rica debido a las presiones actuales que enfrentan recursos naturales del país tales como el cambio climático. Además, extensiones de algunas áreas protegidas pueden ser necesarias para conectar los diferentes parques nacionales que permitirían la reubicación de plantas y animales ante escenarios de cambio climático. Un ejemplo clave de esto es el plan para conectar los bosques de los parques nacionales Piedras Blancas y Corcovado a la Fila Cal cerca de las montañas de Talamanca. Estos corredores de biodiversidad son fundamentales para mantener la herencia biológica de Costa Rica durante el siglo 21.

Instamos al gobierno de Costa Rica a contribuir al fortalecimiento de las conexiones entre los espacios protegidos existentes y apoyar al desarrollo responsable y sostenible del país fuera de las áreas protegidas, así como mantener la diversidad biológica más allá de las fronteras de las áreas protegidas.

Instamos a que la experiencia y los conocimientos existentes en el país sean mejor utilizados, en particular el aporte y la participación de los científicos naturales y sociales en la toma de decisiones importantes a nivel nacional que pueden potencialmente amenazar los ecosistemas de Costa Rica.

El gobierno de Costa Rica debe honrar los compromisos que figuran en las leyes nacionales y los tratados internacionales que ha firmado y ratificado, entre ellos la Ley de 3763, del 19 de octubre de 1966, si Costa Rica pretende mantener su liderazgo mundial en la protección del medio ambiente y el desarrollo sostenible. Honrar estos compromisos asegurará que los Parques Nacionales de Costa Rica continúen aportando una base sólida para la economía nacional, para mantener los servicios esenciales de los ecosistemas, y servir como fuente de disfrute para las generaciones futuras.

27 de junio 2013, San José, Costa Rica