Olivia Sylvester

Nationality: Canada


Olivia Sylvester is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environment and Development at University for Peace (Costa Rica). She is an ethnobiologist who researches food harvesting in Costa Rica. For the past decade, her research program has focused on access to food in Costa Rican national parks. Specifically, her emphasis has been on Indigenous rights to access and harvest cultural food. Olivia is a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the International Society of Ethnobiology, the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage Project, and the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance. Being active within these networks allows her to work at the interface of policy and practice regarding food harvesting and access.


Recent Publications:

  • Sylvester, O. and A. García Segura. 2016. Landscape ethnoecology of forest food harvesting in the Talamanca Bribri Indigenous Territory, Costa Rica. Journal of Ethnobiology 36(1): 215-233. 
  • Sylvester, O., García Segura, A. G., and I. Davidson-Hunt. 2016. Complex Relationships among gender and forest food harvesting: Insights from the Bribri Indigenous Territory, Costa Rica. International Forestry Review 18 (2): 247-260.
  • Sylvester, O., García Segura, A. G., and I. Davidson-Hunt. 2016. Wild food harvesting and access by household and generation in the Bribri Indigenous Territory, Costa Rica. Human Ecology (in press).
  • Sylvester, O., García Segura, A. G., and I. Davidson-Hunt 2016. The protection of rainforest biodiversity can conflict with food access for Indigenous people. Conservation and Society (in press).


Ph.D. in Natural Resources and Environmental Management, Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, January 2016

Certificate in Higher Education Teaching Program, University of Manitoba, 2014

M.S. Honours in Biological Sciences, Universidad de Costa Rica, 2009

B.Sc. (Biological Sciences) University of Calgary, 2004

Research Interests

Ethnobiology, food security, food sovereignty, traditional medicine, research methods, biodiversity conservation, and gender.

Research Opportunities 

I am looking for PhD and Masters students to work on topics related to ethnobiology, gender, food security, and Indigenous food systems in Costa Rica. These positions are open to students prepared to find their own research funding and who speak Spanish and English. Contact me at: osylvester@upeace.org for more information; in your email, please include: a brief background of your self (including degrees), previous research experience, languages spoken, and briefly include why you are interested in this work.