Jessica Castro Prieto

Curriculum Vitae (pdf)

Main Advisor: Dr. William Gould

Co-Advisor: undecided

Dissertation Research Topic/questions:

I am particularly interested in addressing the importance of marine protected areas to contribute not only to the biodiversity conservation of a country, but also to the country’s socio-economic development. My goal will be to assess the management effectiveness of marine protected areas in Puerto Rico to cope with their conservation goals and to evaluate how these goals benefit marine protected area’s most direct users. Most sub-urban sprawling in Puerto Rico has been established in coastal areas with a consequent greater level of water, air and light pollution. All these negative impacts suggest that many coastal ecosystems in Puerto Rico may be seriously degraded and therefore more marine protected areas are necessary to guarantee the ecological functions of these natural ecosystems and their biodiversity. But, are marine protected areas in Puerto Rico being effectively managed to guarantee biodiversity conservation and therefore to benefit the socioeconomic development in the island? If so, who are the main benefitted of effective marine protected areas in Puerto Rico? These are some of the questions that I would like to answer during my PhD research.

Education Background

Since my undergraduate studies in Uruguay, I’ve been addressing the importance of protected areas for biodiversity conservation. I am particularly interested in conducting research within protected areas in order to support the importance of establishing new protected areas and monitoring the role of existing ones. For my undergraduate research I developed a proposal to implement the first marine protected area in Uruguay. This proposal was later presented to the National Environmental Agency (Dirección Nacional de Medio Ambiente-División Areas Naturales Protegidas) in my country, and two years later, the proposed area (Cerro Verde) was included within the National Protected Areas System (SNAP). In addition, I conducted my master’s research in approximately 20.000 hectares of private lands (Valle del Lunarejo) that were in the process of being included within the SNAP, in northeast Uruguay. My goal was to document the community of medium and large size mammals, as well as their habitat use in order to demonstrate the importance of this area for the persistence of wild mammals in my country. Through this research I had the opportunity to work in private lands, but also to work in close collaboration with the local community by sharing experiences and knowledge. Since 2009, I’ve been working in the Puerto Rico and United States Virgin Islands Gap Analyses Project, at the Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF-US Forest Service), where I am currently writing a manuscript on the effectiveness of terrestrial protected areas in Puerto Rico for biodiversity conservation.

Research Interest

Links of Interest