ASU student leaves the classroom with Conservation International

Student Celeste sitting on branch on Peru coffee plantationWhen ASU Barrett Honors College student Celeste Delaune walked into the ASU-Conservation International joint course Conservation in Practice (BIO 412) last spring, she did not know it would take her to Peru – literally. Under the supervision of ASU-CI Professor of Practice Percy Summers, Delaune worked in Moyobamba during the summer. Upon her return to ASU, she spoke about her experience with Amy Scoville-Weaver, ASU-CI Program Manager, ASU Corporate Engagement and Strategic Partnerships. How did you end up working with CI Peru? I found out about the opportunity to work with Dr. Summers from a friend, who’d heard about the partnership ASU has with CI from Dr. Paul Prosser. I knew Dr. Summers from the BIO 412 course and I asked him if it was possible for me to work in Peru with their field office. Why was this opportunity interesting? How could it not be? CI is incredibly […] respected in the environmental field, which is what drew me to enroll in the BIO 412 course. I had never been to South America, although I spoke Spanish, and I knew working with CI would jumpstart my career in conservation by allowing me to get my feet wet in a field I'm passionate about. What kind of work did you do in Peru?  My goal was to understand how coffee is farmed, produced and manufactured. I wanted to understand why CI was working in Peru and the greater impact of their coffee and livelihoods work. My specific role was to help CI and a local NGO contractor, Proyecto Mono Tocón, measure the environmental impact of an ongoing program that offered coffee farmers technical expertise in exchange for adopting more sustainable farming techniques. Was it working? Was the program helping conserve nature while also sustaining livelihoods? Those were the questions we needed to answer.  By setting up camera traps around the 60 farms, we could identify what species are still living and traveling in the area even as coffee production happens around them. What was the hardest part? The culture shock at first. I was in a very rural area and it was isolating – but, it was a good culture shock and I think it’s important for everyone to experience… and the mosquitos. What was the coolest part? So many cool parts! The best part was just experiencing the area. I did a lot of local traveling and hiking and seeing animals. It’s a unique environment unlike anywhere else. The people were also beyond wonderful. The staff I worked with were so welcoming. As someone who felt out of place in a big foreign world, that kindness was very grounding. Do you feel working with CI will help your career? I do feel it will. I’ve worked in a lab for a long time and when you’re out in the field, you get a better sense of what it means to have hands on experience and to see the direct impact of what you plan out in a lab. I’m applying to graduate schools now and I know that working with CI will help me advance in those programs and be a better scientist. What would you say to students who might be interested in working with CI? Take advantage of it. If you are interested in conservation or enjoy traveling or whatever you reason might be, it’s a great opportunity to learn a lot. What do you think is important about the ASU-CI partnership for students? I always wanted to work for an NGO like Greenpeace or similar organizations. I just never thought it was possible and then… it became possible. A lot of other students have the same feelings, they want to get involved but they don’t know how or they feel I won’t make an impact if I just go and volunteer and spend a summer sitting in an office. With this opportunity, you can physically see and participate in conservation, which is great – especially for an undergraduate student.
The ASU-Conservation International partnership was established in September 2016. This collaboration seeks to make measurable advances in conservation while training the next generation of conservation leaders. Click here to learn more or contact Amy Scoville-Weaver at [email protected].