I was born and grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but since I can remember I was interested in Patagonia’s landscapes, flora and fauna. After deciding not to study to be a national park ranger, I started to studying biology. As an undergraduate I did not work in conservation projects but I worked at a high school as a biology teacher. After obtaining the degrees of Teacher and Biologist at the Buenos Aires University, I moved to San Martín de los Andes, a little town in northwest of Patagonia. Here I continued teaching biology and I worked for one year as the person responsible for education and tourism of the Fish Capture and Breeding Station in San Martín de los Andes, which allowed me to practice informal education. From these educational experiences I have understood that educating is as important as generating new knowledge on conservation.
Since I arrived in Patagonia, I have worked as a volunteer on private, government and ONG’s conservation projects. I have participated on the project: “Conservation and ecology of the huiña cat (Leopardus guigna) in northwestern Patagonia – Argentina” with the Licenciado Martín Monteverde, on the projects: “Management and conservation of guanaco”, on the development of native fauna diffusion material and leading conferences on guanaco conservation in the Center of Applied Ecology of Neuquén (CEAN), and as a collaborator in the “Patagonian and Andean Steppe Program” of the local Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) team.
After this experiences I became strongly interested in the biological conservation of guanaco (Lama guanicoe), considered as plague in livestock ranches, and in the development of strategies of sustainable use of them as a tool for their conservation. Guanaco was the most abundant and broadly distributed ungulate in South America, reaching 20-30 million before the European colonization, and native people used the entire animal (fur, meat, bones) to cover their needs without endangering their populations. Two hundred years ago competition with livestock, indiscriminate hunt, persecution and habitat modification started guanaco declination, nowadays reducing their abundance to 500.000 individuals, 90% of them inhabiting Patagonia. Guanaco, like their small camelid relative vicuña (Vicugna vicugna), has one of the most valuable wool of the world so live-shearing guanacos, resembling Inca’s prehispanic vicuña management, was promoted by Patagonian wildlife agencies as an economic alternative to livestock production. For three years I worked ad-honorem in the design and execution of the first events of live-shearing of wild guanacos in Neuquén, contributing to the development of corral traps, management techniques, animal welfare protocols and monitoring designs.
After becoming a Doctor in Biology, I obtained a postdoctoral scholarship from CONICET and funds to start a new project linked to guanaco conservation studying the incidence of red deer (Cervus elaphus) invasion on the guanaco declination in northwestern of Patagonia. In the beginning of XX century red deer was introduced in the northwest of Patagonia reaching 100.000 individuals nowadays. I am studying competitive interaction among these ungulate species and the effect of the abundance of puma’s (Puma concolor) exotic alternative prey (red deer) on their guanaco population regulation. Results of this study could be important not only for guanaco conservation but also to contribute to manage exotic red deer and native puma. In this sense I am now starting conversations with the purpose of collaborating with the red deer management plan of Lanín National Park, the nearest (and in a case adjacent) National Park to the ranches where I am working.
For two years now, I have been in the board of Conservación Patagónica a small ONG created as a tool to develop actions in favor of local environment conservation, and I am a member of the South American Camelids Specialist Group (GECS) one of the volunteers expert groups in the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
All these activities allowed to me to know and interact with different scientist and social actors in favor of conservation. Educational activities allowed me to interact not only with students but also with teachers and their subject-matter, incorporating conservation issues in the curricula. Academic activities allowed me to interact with other researchers, politicians, officials and governmental, ONG’s and private wild managers. This interaction has enabled to participate in several workshops (i.e. Technical issues, research priorities and applied actions to guanaco management in the south of Argentina and Chile), to be contacted to advise and teach about my expertise (i.e. Design, analysis, and abundances estimation of vicuña in Salta and Jujuy provinces), and collaborate with other projects (i.e. Patagonian and Andean steppe program of WCS). It is also important to mention that I have developed good relationships with the owners and workers of private lands where I carried out studies. This issue allowed to me to understand their productive concerns and share my conservation ones with them. I consider that this dialog very important, because people that administrate, work or inhabit the field are the most important wildlife managers.
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