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15 Seconds of Fame: Edenise Garcia

Darci Palmquist 10/1/2012

Edenise Garcia is science coordinator for the Conservancy’s work in the Amazon—a job that puts her at the nexus of global deforestation, sustainable land use and indigenous rights. A multicultural, dog-loving polymath, she says this job is “the perfect world” for her. Meet Edenise.

GROWING UP: I’m Brazilian-Canadian and I speak French, Spanish, Portuguese and English. As a child we lived in Sao Paulo but my father had a small farm in the Atlantic Forest that we would go to on weekends and vacations. It’s a really, really nice place — lots of snakes, colorful insects and other animals, and the exuberant bromeliads on every tree around you.

DOGS: I have 5 dogs. The mother came from the high Arctic, where I was doing my post-doc research — my Inuit field guide gave her to me. She’s an Alaskan malamute so she was OK in Canada, but here in Brazil it’s much hotter. That’s why I used to go jogging with the dogs only very early in the morning or at night.

I used to collect abandoned dogs in the city and bring them to my father’s farm in the country — the most my parents allowed were 15 at a time. I literally couldn’t see an abandoned dog on the street and not take care of it. I’d cry and my mother would let me bring it home, we’d bathe it and give it medicine and then bring it to the farm.

FUTURE OF THE AMAZON: The Amazon is not only about trees, it’s about people too. With our work here we are trying to conserve the forest, respecting peoples’ right to have a good life.

For many years the Amazon had high deforestation rates, then these rates began do decrease steadily. TNC is helping to achieve this, working with landscape planning and responsible production, among other initiatives. But we need to keep an eye on overall trends. I was looking at last August’s deforestation data and there’s been a 220% increase compared to the same period the year before. It’s not a trend yet, but there are other signs that it could become so. We need to make sure farmers comply with the environmental legislation, and have access to incentives and sustainable alternatives of production, or else deforestation will increase again.

ARCTIC EXPLORER: I did my post-doc research on the effects of climate change on methylmercury bioaccumulation in the Arctic, mostly on Ellesmere and Cornwallis islands. I spent 2 years there, although I didn’t stay through winters because my research required sunlight. I was looking at how light and temperature influence mercury biochemistry.

PAST CAREERS: I’ve had lots of change in my life, but I kept the best for last! I started with medical school for 3 years but decided I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life. So I switched to journalism and literature and worked as a book translator and journalist.

Then I decided that I wanted to do something that would last longer than an article, so I went back for an undergraduate degree in biology and ecology, and a master’s and Ph.D on contaminants in the environment. I then worked for one year as a consultant on mercury issues for the World Health Organisation in Geneva. Before my current job, I was the Conservancy’s REDD coordinator in Mato Grosso State.

LOVE MY JOB: I have a background in research and teaching, but here I get to see the application of science. So this for me is the perfect world. I have an opportunity to work with policy and government and it’s a chance to apply science to the real world. We have a great team at the Amazon Conservation Program.

Interview by Darci Palmquist. Know someone we should feature in this column? Please email her with comments or suggestions.

Image: Edenise on post-doc research in the Arctic.