I was awarded a Fulbright Student Fellowship to conduct environmental flows research in the Napo River Basin in Ecuador during the 2014-2015 academic year. I was also awarded a Rufford Small Grant for Conservation to help pay for field expenses. My wife and I are moving to Quito on September 1, 2014. Check back to the homepage of this blog for more updates.
Water managers around the world are increasingly challenged to provide reliable and affordable drinking water supplies to rapidly growing populations while ensuring that water usage does not degrade freshwater ecosystems or disrupt ecosystem services. In streams and rivers, a major challenge is the maintenance of environmental flows, defined as the quantity, timing, and quality of water flows required to sustain freshwater ecosystems and the human livelihood and well-being that depend on these ecosystems. “Water Fund” projects, an international initiative of the Nature Conservancy, have been implemented throughout Latin America and the world to provide water security for people, while protecting biodiversity by utilizing a payment for ecosystem services approach to promote forest conservation within watersheds. The Quito Water Fund protects watersheds supplying the 2 million residents of Ecuador’s capital with 80 percent of their drinking water, yet little is known about the effects of these water withdrawals on stream biota. Research funded through this Fulbright application will augment an established effort by an international collaboration of ecologists, hydrologists, NGO’s, and government agencies working to develop regional recommendations for environmental flows in the tropical Andes of Ecuador. My specific role in the group will be to examine the ecological impacts of water withdrawals on the aquatic fauna of the Napo River Basin, one of the worlds mega-biodiversity hotspots, and to help incorporate this information in workshops that will establish environmental flow recommendations and guidelines.