Miguel Chaves Sánchez is a former field hockey player from Spain, who won the silver medal with the Men's National Team at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.
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My short bio: Miguel Chaves
I grew up in a small high altitude valley named Santa María de Dota, where i spent MY childhood between coffee plantations and forest. A deep admiration for nature since a young led me to study Tropical Biology at Universidad Nacional (UNA). After that, I worked for the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) for almost three years where I was part of several research projects and now I pursue a Ph.D. in Biology-Ecology, Evolution and Systematics at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. In terms of research, I have worked on taxonomy of tropical plants (including ferns!), restoration ecology and now plant-insect interactions. Outside of the academic world, I am passionate about conservation and development of local communities. I actively participated for about ten years in the defense of Savegre River in order to make it free of dams and preserve its unique biodiversity and pure water. I am an easygoing Tico biologist who loves natural history, field work, conservation and of course…soccer!
My Proof: My work website (https://fieldprojects.org/faculty/miguel-chaves/), a video of the Savegre River issue (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jl_iTJlnth4) and a IamA picture (https://i.imgur.com/E9mh2uv.jpg)
If you could establish one conservation "goal" for the whole of humanity for the next 10 years, what would it be? Where's your goalpost?
Hi everyone. Frankly, I see conservation as an activity that would benefit all the species that inhibit Earth, not only the humans. I definitely believe that changing the selfish way that interact with other species is a goal that we need to accomplish in the next 10 years or better as soon as possible!
Have you any knowledge of the drop in bee populations? Is it generally pesticides, or is there also other factors?
Bee populations is not my expertise field. But I've read papers about it and definitely excess of pesticides is one of the main factors causing the populations decline. Another important factor is the deforestation for agricultural and urbanization expansion. It is really interesting that many crops rely on bees for pollination services, but many people don't understand that and they cut the forest and at the same time damaging bee populations that help their crops!
There is a recent and interesting scientific paper that talk about bees, coffee and climate change in PNAS if you want to take a look of it!
[Link here] (http://www.pnas.org/content/114/39/10438.abstract)
What's up man, How's it going?
Hi man! It is going pretty well! Thanks for asking!
Can you describe how you got the area around Savegre protected status? It seems like this usually can only happen when large numbers of people unite - is this what happened? How did you achieve all of this so young? Do you have any advice for budding conservationsists or just people that care deeply about an area near their home that they see is being exploited? (Feel free to answer each question as a separate comment - I'm sure I'll have more questions, if you don't mind. Your work is so interesting!)
Great questions! And I don't have a simple answer for them. Protecting nature in a local community is a very complex and hard task, which I didn't know when I started with this. It involves many areas such as politics, biology, economy, religion and all the social aspects that you can imagine! And of course, I didn't achieve myself, I just help as many many other people did!
So what are the ways in which you think we should change? Any specific thing you have done to kind of serve as a "goal post"?
We need to understand we are part of a big web where all organisms are connected, and that every harm that we do to the environment it is directly done to ourselves. Personally, I try to not buy thing that I don't need, talk to everyone to about conservation and ride my bike every time that I can!
Hello - this is a win for the environment - unless Costa Rica chooses to replace the electricity the dam(n) would have generated with fossil fuels. How will Costa Rica replace the potential power: coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, solar or wind?
Hi, good question! Here is where the debate comes...Hydroelectrical power seems to be a clean alternative of producing energy and it is when compared to fossil fuel combustion but probably not when compared to wind produced electricity. I support dams construction when they are constructed in areas that are already environmentally damaged and that do not provide a threat for biodiversity. About 95% of Costa Rican energy is clean or not come from fossil combustion...
In the case of Savegre River, we didn't want the damn because the river basin is extremely biodiverse...
Hi, is Costa Rica succeeding in maintaining and keeping its tropical forests? Last I heard they were shrinking, is this still the case?
And know of any botanical gardens maintained by UNA?
Yes, Costa Rica is still succeeding by protecting its tropical forest. 25% of our country is under conservation which is a big achievement, though we are a small country. And you are right, they are not shrinking but they are in the eyes of many companies that want to explote them just to make money.
There are about 4 botanical gardens in Costa Rica, none of them managed by UNA. The most famous is the Wilson Botanical Garden in southern Costa Rica.
You are welcome! Anytime!
Would you happen to have some reading material on what species are in the gardens and where? Thanks for the reply!
Sure! Fortunately, the Wilson Botanical Garden has a database with all the collections. Here is the link:
What's your favorite color?
Green :) like all the leaves....
What species made your river special enough to stop a big money project? How is your watershed being protected, otherwise?
All the species made their contribution, but we emphasized a lot in the endemic species that are only found in the Savegre River basin such as Passiflora gilbertiana (Passion fruit family), Palicourea providenciana (Coffee family) and the ancient oaks that are dominant in the forest.
The watershed is protected by the people that live close to it...We drink the from there so it is our job to protect it!
How is climate change affecting the environment in Costa Rica? Does the decision not to build dams affect the availability of potable water in some parts of the country? There has been an alarming lack of water in Guanacaste province, despite Costa Rica having some of the highest rainfall averages in the world.
Climate change is definitely affecting Costa Rica. We are seeing drastic and sudden changes in temperatures and rains. Btw, a couple of weeks ago we were hardly hit by a rainstorm! Lack of water is a huge problem in Guanacaste...and one of many factors causing that are the big luxury hotels that are using the water for their golf fields. There is a cool video about the situation called "Quebrando la Gallina de los Huevos de Oro" or "Craking the goose of the golden eggs" if you want to check it out!
Are there open spaces that would be suitable for solar use there instead of the hydroelectric dam? Or is there an even better energy source?
Yes, open spaces are suitable for solar energy...and an investment in solar energy would be a great success for Costa Rica. But, people say that it is very expensive.
Many thanks for all your great questions. If you want to check our field courses and support conservation and education initiatives visit our website:
Field Projects International (FPI)