“Wherever there are wild animals in the world, there is always an opportunity for caring, compassion and kindness.”
― Paul Oxton
Fundación Cordillera Tropical has operated in Ecuador under the auspices of the Ministry of the Environment for over 20 years performing extensive field work in the Nudo de Azuay in the Andean Cordillera and Amazon watershed. The foundation offices are in Cuenca, a well-known cultural center in the country’s southern sierras, designated a UNESCO world-heritage site in 1999.
Edificio El Consorcio
Calle Jaime Roldós 4-80
Telephone: +593 7 280 9382
Stuart White, Ph.D, President
Stuart came to the discipline of Geography (University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ph.D., 1981) for the opportunities it provided to work in natural settings, and to integrate the perspectives of both natural and social sciences. He had been in Peace Corps in the western Cordillera of Colombia, and did his graduate field work in the southern Peruvian Andes and upper Amazon. A period teaching at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, ended in 1983 when he found a remote and largely non-intervened property in the mountains of southern Ecuador, where he has been living ever since. The property is called the Mazar Wildlife Reserve, of which 95% is native habitat with its intact wild fauna. On pastures at lower elevations, with his wife of 20 years, Patricia Espadero, he raises alpacas and was a founding member of Fundación Cordillera Tropical. In recent years Stuart has taught two field courses for the University of Vermont, in alpaca husbandry and grass páramo ecology.
Patricia is an Ecuadorian veterinarian (University of Cuenca, DVM, 1992) who practices her profession mostly with the alpaca herd that she and her husband, Stuart, raise on their wildlife reserve in Cañar Province, Ecuador. (She might add that some of those vet skills come in handy raising their three children!) Although she is a pillar of the herd’s health, Patricia also owns and manages a shop in Cuenca, All Things Alpaca Ecuador, dedicated to producing and marketing unique alpaca products. She integrates traditional artisans--who use ancestral Andean techniques for spinning, weaving and knitting--with a modern design esthetic. Patricia conceives of the alpaca operation, from farm to shop, as a tool to conserve the habitats and water resources of the region where the alpacas graze.
Teresa Clare took a degree in Zoology at the University of Leeds (UK), then a PhD on behavior and ecology of cichlid fishes at Aberystwyth University, with field work at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. She met her husband, Jim Clare, while working as a scientific consultant for a series of wildlife films in Belize, and they went on to work together on several wildlife films in Botswana, Brazil, China and Tanzania before coming to Ecuador in 1991 to film the BBC/National Geographic program, Avenue of the Volcanoes. They decided to stay and worked on many more film projects, within and beyond Ecuador. They also built, and for 18 years managed, a rescue center for spectacled bears and other animals who were victims of the illegal wildlife trade. They brought up their two children in Cuenca. Since 2000 Teresa has taught courses in Tropical Ecology, Conservation Biology and Environmental Studies of the Andes to international university students on study abroad programs, currently at CEDEI in Cuenca. Both Teresa and Jim are founding members of the Fundación Cordillera Tropical with a long-standing interest and involvement in conservation and a particular love of the Tropical Andes.
Steve first became involved in conservation work in Ecuador in 1986, when he contributed to an initiative in the Rio Mazán valley, to the west of Cuenca. He collected insects for the project and managed the logistics of moving 30 researchers to Ecuador. Despite roots in his home country, England, he returned every year for vacations in the decade thereafter and finally settled in Ecuador in 1995. Steve was a founding member of the Fundación Cordillera Tropical in 2000. For 11 years Steve assisted Jim and Teresa Clare with their film projects for Discovery Channel, National Geographic, BBC and other sponsors. He then began a career teaching English in Cuenca. Steve is now retired but continues to teach and assist his partner Luzmila with her Montessori school. He volunteers his talents to the varied logistical needs of Cordillera Tropical, and is a seasoned voice well appreciated by fellow members of the Board.
Marjorie Franco, CPA
Marjorie holds a degree (2009) in Accounting and Auditing from the University of Azuay (Cuenca). She has worked at the firm Ascontadores since 2010 and is now its General Manager. During her tenure she has been carried out internal audits of various large corporations, and routinely assists clients in tax, labor and accounting matters in the Ecuadorian provinces of Azuay, Guayas and El Oro. Marjorie has been a Fundación Cordillera Tropical Board Member and the foundation’s Treasurer since 2016. She and her husband, also a CPA, have three children.
Laura graduated from the University of Azuay (Cuenca) with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. Currently she is employed by Ecuador’s Ministry of the Environment as the Superintendent of the southern portion of Sangay National Park, an area of over 100,000 hectares. Previously, Laura had worked in a variety of capacities in Fundación Cordillera Tropical, and in particular in environmental education. She has a striking ability to connect with farmers located on the agricultural frontier in Sangay’s buffer zone, finding common ground and generating enthusiasm with them about wild species and wild habitat conservation. She was instrumental in a new management plan for the Park, in which land use by legal in-holders and conservation objectives have complementary rather than antagonistic roles.
Lucas is a biologist (BS, University of Azuay, 2005) with a passion for his subjects—especially the Andean bear—and an innate love of teaching. The thesis for his M.Sc. degree (2009) from the National University of Costa Rica in Heredia focused on bear habitat use in the upper Mazar watershed, Cañar Province, Ecuador. In his professional career he has continued to support national initiatives to protect bears, and has worked to educate the public about their critical role in mountain ecosystems. Lucas has collaborated on many FCT projects over the years and assists in a field course on paramo ecology offered annually to students from the University of Vermont. Currently Lucas is a professor of physical and natural sciences at the national teaching university, UNAE, in Azogues, Ecuador.
Karina graduated from the University of Azuay in biology. She has worked since 2009 as the administrative coordinator of the Micro-enterprise of Environmental Promotors, CUTIN. In consultation with CELEC-Hidropaute (the government’s hydroelectric consortium), CUTIN carries out a variety of conservation initiatives in the Paute watershed. These activities include patrolling, hydrological monitoring, community environmental education, camera trap projects, faunal inventories, reforestation, and coordination with community environmental promotors. Karina has also acted as environmental educator in high schools in the project area, located within and contiguous to Sangay National Park. She resides in Cuenca with her adolescent daughter.