Current research by Monica Paulson Priebe (School of Public and Environmental Affairs) focuses on how institutional norms in El Salvador and Honduras help or hinder forest conservation.  Findings will inform conservationists and policy makers on how to better protect natural systems where local villages are contained within or along protected area borders.

Historically there have been many approaches to conservation.  These approaches range from parks that exclude human populations, to communal land protected through centuries of human use.  There are successes and failures under every model. To date there is little understanding why these models sometimes work and sometimes fail.

This research seeks to illuminate which institutional arrangements are present when forest conservation is successful and which arrangements are present when it is unsuccessful.  To do this she is studying the Trifino Cloud Forest, a contiguous forest spanning the boarders of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and the human populations in and around the protected area.  Research methodology includes social surveys, semi-formal interviews, forest mensuration and analysis of three decades of land cover change with the use of satellite imagery. Conservation success is measured through biodiversity, soil analysis, forest structure, standing biomass and land use history.

To date in her research she has come across seven tree species new to science and found a threatened genus in El Salvador, previously thought to be endemic to Honduras.

This work is supported by the National Science Foundation, Indiana University Sustainability Grants and previously by The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies Tinker Grant.

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