Certificate Program in Biodiversity Conservation and Masters Program in Biodiversity Conservation, University of Buenos Aires
Part of WCS's commitment to maintaining and strengthening conservation leaders in the regions where we work is represented by our investment in education to build capacity among stakeholders and to nurture the current and next generations of impactful conservationists.
In Latin America, existing university programs are unable to serve the large and growing audience of students, managers, and decision-makers. Additionally, many existing programs have not kept pace with the very active global discussions about effective science education methods and practices for wildlife conservation.
To address this critical gap in capacity building in the region, in 2016 WCS partnered with the School of Exact and Natural Sciences (FCEyN) at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) to create and launch two applied and interdisciplinary academic programs in Biodiversity Conservation: a Professional Certificate Program and a Masters Program in Biodiversity Conservation.
The programs feature a suite of key introductory, intermediate and advanced classes in the biological, social and economic sciences relevant to conservation, applied field courses and practices, bi-weekly seminar series by local and international professionals, expert discussions, and the design and execution of an original conservation project. Our programs target student audiences with different academic levels and needs, and seek to serve both national and international applicants, thus building local and regional capacity in conservation.
Additionally, from the onset the programs established partnerships with local environmental authorities and non-governmental stakeholders in Argentina, as well as international academic and management institutions, to promote strategic partnerships and interaction between academics, conservation practitioners, policy makers, students, and professionals.
As a result, whereas the programs will provide innovative tools and approaches for conservation and management, and will train personnel to fill leadership and technical positions, both GOs and NGOs will provide clear professional opportunities to the highly qualified graduates of these programs, thus ensuring their relevance in the real world.
Both the Professional Certificate Program and Masters Program are run by a director, who leads their vision, mission and strategic direction, and works directly with specially created committees for their execution. A Program Administrator assists with the suite of administrative and programmatic tasks to keep the programs running on an every-day basis.
An academic committee is responsible for overseeing the academic programs housed at UBA and tasked with curriculum development, faculty recruiting and coordination and student support. An advisory committee that includes international scientists, academics, and practitioners from multiple renowned institutions provides feedback on the most innovative approaches for conservation from multiple disciplines. The faculty body draws mainly from UBA and international practitioners at WCS, as well as from international researchers and academics linked with this initiative.
The curricula have been designed taking into account the expertise and experience of a number of local and international colleagues, curricula from successful U.S. universities, and our Academic Committee. Field courses make up an important portion of both programs and will be carried out in WCS research sites and those of collaborating institutions. Theory-lab courses include the disciplines of biodiversity, ecology, statistics, sociology, policy, economy, legislation, education and communication. Competencies include conflict resolution, communication, project management, leadership. Cross-cutting seminars will be taught by local and international visiting scholars on a suite of key and emerging topics and approaches. A research project is exclusive to the Masters Program and involves baseline data gathering, analysis, and writing of an original piece of work, individually or in collaboration. WCS will serve as the main link, throughout the region, between students, professionals, and concrete conservation problems to be addressed in collaboration by these stakeholders.
In parallel with the curriculum development, we have worked with collaborators from the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History in New York on a suite of innovative pedagogical approaches including "student centered learning" and "active teaching," which seek to ensure highly participatory courses modeled around the students' abilities, capacities, and needs.
Dr. Martin Mendez (Director, Southern Cone & Patagonia, WCS) is co-founder and Director of both academic programs. He conceived the idea of developing a graduate program in Biodiversity Conservation at the UBA along his mentor Dr. Ricardo Gürtler and with Dr. Juan Carlos Reboreda while he was an undergraduate student at this university. Since the late 1990s, alongside Gürtler, Reboreda, and with a group of academics and researchers at UBA and international colleagues, they have fully developed these programs and accepted the first cohort of students in March 2016.