Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 1965
ecology and biodiversity of ecosystems
Why do caterpillars eat the plants they eat? Why do parasitoids (wasps and flies) eat the caterpillars they eat? And why do they do it that way in a complex dry forest, rain forest and cloud forest in northwestern Costa Rica? I have long pursued these questions because I am curious about them and their answers. But the answers, and the research processes themselves, also have very broad application to how one may use the biodiversity of a conserved tropical wildland without destroying it - biodiversity development.
How can we insure that tropical wildlands, and all of their biodiversity, are still with us centuries from now? Through non-destructive use of lands explicitly allocated to this land use. But to use biodiversity without damage requires detailed natural history knowledge, tracking of demography, and ecosystem-level understanding. And to use requires a user.
So it is that very basic research on the interactions of animals and plants in complex tropical forest quite serendipituously finds itself being key intellectual infrastructure and technological know-how for biodiversity prospecting, biological control of pests, biotechnology, ecotourism development, biocultural education, environmental monitoring, silviculture, agriculture and very much more - all the kinds of things that have to accompany conservation of large tropical wildlands.
My research over the past 55 years has evolved from a Victorian study of natural history of tropical animal-plant interactions to an exploration of the ecology of the interface between society and tropical wildland biodiversity. The administrative structure of institutions such as wildland administrations and Ministries of the Environment, the biodiversity development of conserved wildlands to where they can pay their own direct costs, and the integration of wildlands into society, are all major and essential tools in the engineering of the tropical countryside. Costa Rica as a whole is the ecosystem, and Area de Conservacion Guanacaste, in the northwestern corner, is the place.
My research is done where the organisms are, i.e., Costa Rica.