Ruchi Patel 2018 Field Report
2018 CLAG Field Study Award Report:
Ruchi Patel, Masters Student, Geography Department, Pennsylvania State University.
Project: (De-)Constructing conservation corridors in human landscapes of the Mesoamerican dry tropics.
My master’s research examines historic and present discourses and design of biological conservation corridors in El Salvador in an attempt to deconstruct the motivations, priorities, and challenges behind this particular model of integrated conservation and development. My field research, supported by the CLAG Field Study Award, centered on two research questions: (1) Where have corridors been proposed in the past, and why?(2) In the future, would they be designed in the same way? Why or why not?In addressing these questions, my research seeks to inform future corridor policy and programs in El Salvador as well as the wider Mesoamerican region.
Fieldwork for this project was based in El Salvador’s capital city of San Salvador and was carried out over three weeks from July to August 2018. During this period, I conducted in-depth interviews with twenty-six conservation and/or development professionals to discuss past and ongoing corridor projects. The professionals I interviewed represented a range of sectors and institutions from public and NGO to private, including the Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (MARN), Ministerio de Turismo (MITUR), Fundación PRISMA, ASAPROSAR, and SalvaNATURA.
My fieldwork also included several trips to key protected areas of the country, where corridor projects have been recently proposed. At these sites, I interviewed park and program managers in order to better understand local conditions and the challenges to designing and implementing corridors in practice. In addition to interviews and field trips, I dedicated a portion of my time in El Salvador to compiling policy and planning documentation for subsequent document analysis.
During my time in the field, I worked with a Salvadoran university student in biology, who accompanied me on interviews and field trips as a research assistant. Working with her was one of the most rewarding parts of the field experience. I continue to mentor her as she completes her own senior thesis project at the Universidad de El Salvador.
Interviews, documentation, and data collected during my field research will be processed, coded, and analyzed during the fall of 2018. An in-depth discussion of results will be included in my final master’s thesis as well as presented at the American Association of Geographers conference in Washington, DC, in the spring of 2019. I will also present and provide my findings to key collaborators in El Salvador and my partner organization, Paso Pacífico.
For this research, I am collaborating with a conservation NGO called Paso Pacífico, which focuses on conservation of Mesoamerica’s Pacific slope ecosystems. In light of recent political events and social unrest in Nicaragua, my originally proposed work with Paso Pacífico in Nicaragua. However, through continued collaboration, my current research seeks to extend the organization’s purview into El Salvador.
The support provided by the CLAG Field Study Award was crucial to making my project possible, affording me the opportunity to travel to El Salvador. CLAG funds covered three weeks of living and meal expenses as well as ground transportation costs. CLAG funds also allowed me to support a local field assistant. Thank you, CLAG!
See the full report for more details.