Biologist to speak on Costa Rican ecology issues at Coe

Extra: Rod Pritchard, Director of Marketing and Public Relations
(319) 399-8605 or

2009-04-06 13:12:40 - General

Christopher Vaughan, a biologist, professor and director of Costa Rica programs for the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM), will present a program on "Conservation Challenges and Opportunities in Costa Rica" at Coe College. The event will be held in Cherry Auditorium of Peterson Hall along College Drive on Monday, April 13, at 7 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

Americans often think of Costa Rica for the country's dramatic, grumbling volcanoes; palm-shaded white sandy beaches; tropical forests with huge, buttressed trees and sweet-scented orchids; and a diversity of colorful parrots, quetzals and toucans. They typically don't think about pineapples, agricultural pollution, sprawling developments along the beaches, and deforestation. These two realities of Costa Rica will be the focus of Vaughan's presentation.

Located between Panama to the south and Nicaragua to the north on the isthmus of Central America, Costa Rica has a land area and population density similar to Iowa. With an internationally acclaimed wetlands system and great biodiversity, no army, and a literate and educated population, Costa Rica is sometimes called the "Switzerland of the Americas." It is often considered a world "superpower" in social and environmental sustainability.

However, Costa Rica also faces great challenges that include corporate takeover of fresh water resources, environmental and social impact from agricultural monocultures (pineapple, cacao, banana, and fern/flower plantations), excessive coastal development and the looming effects of global warming.

Currently serving as Adjunct Associate Professor of Forestry and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Dr. Vaughan's career has been spent trying to understand the conservation challenges in Costa Rica and convert them to opportunities. He taught ecology and wildlife ecology and conducted research at the National University in Heredia, Costa Rica before leaving for the University of Wisconsin. Vaughan continues to pursue his 20-year-long research into the conservation of endangered Scarlet Macaws in Costa Rica. He recently has been working to interconnect strains of cacao that grow well in shade, farmers, biodiversity and two- and three-toed sloth conservation ecology and conservation. His intent is to find ways for both farmers and wildlife to prosper through new approaches to crop growing. For his conservation efforts, Vaughan was awarded an honorary doctorate at Grinnell College in 2006.

The talk is jointly sponsored by Connections, a loose environmental association between the Linn County Conservation Department, Indian Creek Nature Center, and local colleges and high schools; and Coe College's Karl E. Goellner Memorial Lecture Fund.

For more information, call 399-8581.