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Research project "Protecting livelihoods and biodiversity in Costa Rica"

With funding from DAAD, members from Resource Management are involved in a four-year project, ‘Transformative research and capacity building in the education sector to protect livelihoods and biodiversity in Costa Rica.’  Costa Rica is known as a biodiversity hotspot and, in contrast to other countries in the region, has invested heavily in environmental protection over the past two decades. Nevertheless, Costa Rica is struggling with a series of persistent social-ecological conflicts that are difficult to resolve (Estado de la Nación 2019). These social-ecological conflicts are characterized mainly by competition between various sectors that together guarantee the country's economic prosperity as well as by trade-offs between biodiversity protection and economic development, increasingly to the detriment of the former. The Convention on Biological Diversity highlights the complexity that needs to be addressed in strategies for biodiversity protection (UN, 1992; CBC, 2000).

In collaboration with Universidad Técnica Nacional de Costa Rica (UTN), the goal of the project is to develop inter- and transdisciplinary approaches in research and education to solve these complex social-ecological conflicts. This will be achieved through, on the one hand, joint inter- and transdisciplinary research on sustainability innovation and transformation, on the other, the implementation of capacity building activities in the academic sector including the development of new inter- and transdisciplinary courses and leadership skills. The project is focusing on the Gulf of Nicoya on Costa Rica’s west coast for its case study. The gulf is one of the most productive tropical estuaries in the world and is a paradigmatic example of social-ecological conflict and associated trade-offs.

A long-term impact of this cooperation would be achieved by supporting UTN in their efforts to develop a facility for inter- and transdisciplinary research and education with international recognition. Through the exchange on sustainability innovation and leadership skills, this partnership will contribute to fostering transformational change in Costa Rica as well as in Germany in terms of the protection of biodiversity and ecosystem services. At UOS, this cooperation will allow students and researchers to gain experience in and a good understanding of the linkages between biodiversity and development issues through first-hand experience in research and teaching.

In IUSF, the project is led by Prof. Susanne Schlünder (Institut für Romanistik) and involves Dr. Johannes Halbe (Institut für Geographie - IfG), Prof. Claudia Pahl-Wostl (IfG), Jana Rülke (IfG), Dr. Philipp Gorris (IfG), and Caroline van Bers (IfG). More information: cvanbers[at]uos.de