By Jacob L. Slusser, Panama Coordinator, ELTI Neotropics Training Program

Photo credit: ELTI

To address the gap between restoration experts and practitioners, the Environmental Leadership and Training Initiative (ELTI)1 has been providing environmental training courses since 2006 for people who manage or influence human dominated landscapes in Asia and the Neotropics. In Panama, ELTI offers field-based tropical forest restoration courses to a diversity of land-use decision makers, ranging from farmers to practitioners and policy makers.

During the first week of February 2015, ELTI offered a field-based training course entitled “Ecosystem Services and Tropical Forest Restoration”.  Twelve environmental professionals from Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia and Peru attended the course, which took place at ELTI’s focal training site located within the Agua Salud Project of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in the Panama Canal Watershed (PCW).

ELTI’s focal training site in the PCW actively engages its course participants with field visits and exercises and conveys ecological principles and scientific research through a network of interpretative trails and demonstration areas. Its setting within the Agua Salud Project and the PCW provides a dynamic context of diverse landscape mosaics and socio-economic values, which are critical for the participants to comprehend the complexity of restoration endeavors.

The six-day field course provided participants with the technical foundation needed to design and implement restoration strategies that aim to increase forest cover and recuperate ecosystem services in human modified landscapes. Participants learned about forest restoration theory, methods of quantifying ecosystem services and evaluating passive and active restoration strategies via lectures and field visits facilitated by restoration experts from STRI and ELTI. Jefferson Hall – STRI staff scientist, the Director of the Agua Salud Project, ELTI steering committee member and a core participant of PARTNERS – provided the keynote presentation for the course.

During the final exercise of the course, participants visited a degraded landscape in the PCW and were given different objectives for restoration based on varying public and private socio-economic values of the organizations they represented. This kind of exercise is key for participants to develop strategies that utilize both the biophysical and social themes discussed during the course. Finally, participants are eligible to apply for further support via ELTI’s Leadership Program to implement the concepts that they learned during the course in practice.

1ELTI is an initiative of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (F&ES) that works in collaboration with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama.

For more information about the course, please see:

For more information about ELTI, please see:

For more information about the Agua Salud Project, please see:

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