Fundación Cordillera Tropical (FCT) has operated in Ecuador since 2000 under the auspices of the Ministry of the Environment, performing its field work in the Nudo de Azuay, a mountainous region of the upper Amazon basin. The foundation headquarters are in Cuenca, designated in 1999 as a UNESCO World Heritage site. FCT relies on two geographically and functionally distinct teams to conduct its business.
FCT Ecuador is the heart and soul of FCT. The Ecuador team is responsible for field projects and carrying out conservation efforts on the ground.
FCT USA is the international arm of FCT, fulfilling the organization’s fiduciary requirements and responsibilities. The team’s focus is on organization-wide financial, legal, and general matters while also aiming to secure and direct support for FCT Ecuador initiatives.
Edificio El Consorcio
Calle Jaime Roldós 4-80 y Huaynacpac
Telephone: +593 7 280 9382
Laura graduated from the University of Azuay (Cuenca) with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. She was the Superintendent of the southern sector of Sangay National Park for four years. Before her position with the Ministry of the Environment, Laura worked in a variety of capacities in Fundación Cordillera Tropical, particularly 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.
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. 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 textiles. 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 for conserving 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 the 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; she and Jim 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 and have a long-standing interest and involvement in conservation and a particular love of the Tropical Andes.
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 MSc 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 páramo 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.
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.
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 daughter.
Stuart White, PhD, Board President
Stuart came to the discipline of geography (University of Wisconsin-Madison, PhD, 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 wild fauna intact. On pastures at lower elevations, he raises alpacas with his wife of 20 years, Patricia Espadero, and he is 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.
Maria Elena Fajardo, Executive Secretary and Accountant
María Elena has worked with NGOs for over 16 years in administration, financial planning, project preparation, and human resource organization. She is FCT’s administrative secretary, responsible for financial management and reporting, including compliance with tax obligations. She manages the relationship of FCT to its sponsor institution, the Ministry of the
Environment. María Elena has led workshops in accounting, entrepreneurship, and tax compliance and administration for citizen groups.
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.
Pauline McKean, Projects Director
Pauline has traveled to and/or worked in over twenty countries around the world while developing and leading student travel programs examining community development, sustainability, and conservation issues. However, it was Ecuador’s Sierra region that captured her heart. With degrees in economics and international relations, Pauline recently decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Sustainable Development through the School for International Training (SIT, Vermont), with field studies in Ecuador, Uganda, and Malawi. In this current period of independent study, Pauline supports the efforts of FCT while learning more about the tensions surrounding conservation efforts and the building of sustainable communities. A lifelong and passionate explorer of wilderness, she is excited to be part of the team working on critical conservation issues in the Nudo del Azuay.
Regina Déleg, Reforestation Coordinator
Regina is a biologist graduated from the University of Azuay with a specialization in restoration ecology. She has worked with FCT since 2013 and been the Reforestation Coordinator of FCT projects since 2018. Regina led private landowners in the buffer zone of Sangay National Park in planting more than 13,000 trees in the last two years. A large percentage of this total was established along rivers, using native species to create forested corridors. Edible tree species were planted across fence lines, on forest edges, and as pasture divisions to serve as forage for cattle, within an ongoing silvopastoral initiative that generates economic benefits for local farmers while restoring biodiversity in agricultural landscapes.