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The Department of Environment and Development (DED) at the Unversity for Peace focuses on efforts to reconcile poverty alleviation with environmental protection in a manner that contributes to peaceful conflict resolution. We emphasize sustained critical analysis in order to formulate solutions that do not just deal with surface issues but address the root causes of environmental problems and underdevelopment. Our approach is grounded in political ecology, an interdisciplinary perspective that highlights the importance of political economic structures and inequality in access to resources as key drivers in environmental conflict and global environmental change. Our teaching, based in principles of peace education, promotes student-centered learning and active participation through collaborative discussion. We take full advantage of our unique location in Costa Rica by including within all of our courses case studies and field visits to explore the many innovative sustainable development projects occurring throughout the country.
Andrea San Gil is an Environmental Engineer, with a Masters in Sustainability, Planning and Environmental Policy. She is passionate about reducing social vulnerability and increasing quality of life through city design and sustainable solutions. She founded the Center for Urban Sustainability in Costa Rica (CPSU) in 2014 and directed it until 2018. She has worked as a policy advisor to different ministries, local governments and the First Lady of Costa Rica in projects related to sustainable development, transport, and planning.
Bipasha Baruah is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Global Women’s Issues at Western University. Professor Baruah earned a PhD in environmental studies from York University, Toronto. She specializes in interdisciplinary research at the intersections of gender, economy, environment, and development. Most of her current research aims to understand how to ensure that a global low-carbon economy will be more gender equitable and socially just than its fossil-fuel based predecessor. Author of a book and more than 100 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and other works, Professor Baruah serves frequently as an expert reviewer and advisor to Canadian and intergovernmental environmental protection and international development organizations.
Bryan González Hernández has a PhD in Latin American Studies with emphasis in Latin American Thought. He also has a Masters degree in Latin American Studies in Culture and Development as well as a B.A. in International Relations with emphasis in Foreign Policy and Diplomacy. His research has focused on topics such as Critical Studies of Development and Climate Change; Security and Geopolitics; International and Latin American Politics. Has worked as coordinator of a Master's Program in Latin American Studies at the National University of Costa Rica; professor in public and private universities in Costa Rica; and as associate researcher in national and international research centers, such as Latinia – Observatory of Latin America in Spain and the Centre for Studies on Geopolitics and Foreign Affairs in Brazil. He also worked on an educational and research project on socio-environmental issues called Escuela de la Tierra, while collaborating in the promotion of environmental education for a Wildlife Refuge in southern Costa Rica
Clara Ramin holds a Master’s degree in Environment, Development, and Peace with specialization in Sustainable Natural Resource Management. She is a Researcher and Academic Support Officer at the Department of Environment and Development, at the University for Peace. Her research is focused on the nexus between agriculture, water access, and climate change and is based mainly in rural communities in industrial agricultural landscapes.
Currently, Clara Ramin is leading research on water management in agricultural landscapes in collaboration with the Global Institute for Water Security (University of Saskatchewan) and is designing a research programme on river rights as an innovative tool to support community health and environmental peace building in agricultural landscapes. Lastly, for the past 4 years, Clara has been coordinating a summer research school around water security, sustainable farming, and indigenous worldviews on environmental conservation together with Upeace, American University and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences
Dr. Corinne Schuster-Wallace has broad experience at the water-health nexus including linkages with gender, climate change, and sustainable development. She is a water-health researcher within Global Water Futures program, member of the Global Institute for Water Security and Centre for Hydrology, and faculty member in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Saskatchewan. She currently holds adjunct faculty status at McMaster University, Queen’s University, and the University of Waterloo in Canada. Previous positions include Senior Research Fellow (water-health) in the Water and Human Development Programme at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), Research Associate in the School of Engineering at the University of Guelph (Canada), and a water-environment specialist for the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Dr. Bednar is committed to fighting climate change by interweaving academic research on residential energy injustices in a way that engenders community engagement and co-development of innovative and impactful solutions.He is a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society and School of Sustainability and a Fulbrighter in Chile. His research examines the institutional barriers of energy poverty recognition and response in the United States and explores the spatial, racial/ethnic, and socioeconomic patterns of residential energy affordability, consumption, and efficiency. He completed his Ph.D. in Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability, concentrating on Energy Justice.
Dr. Jan Breitling (Germany) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Environment and Development at University for Peace. Originally trained as a Forest Engineer in the Technological Institute of Costa Rica, he holds a MSc. in Environmental Sciences from Wageningen University and Research, The Netherlands, and a PhD from the University for Peace. His research interests include the political ecology of forest cover change, climate change and climate security, and the role of ecotourism in conservation and community resilience to change.
Dr. Kifah Sasa is Sustainable Development Program Officer for the United Nations Development Programme in Costa Rica. Since 2009 he works as senior advisor for the Green Commodities Programme, Kifah has worked for social development and the environment for 17 years in different roles. From setting up and leading NGOs to support community organizations on a voluntary basis; to advising Central American Ministers of Social Integration, Housing and Health on the management of regional projects, as part of the Central American Integration System. He has worked for the United Nations Development Programme, managing projects related to biodiversity conservation, marine protected areas, environmental economics, sustainable production of agricultural commodities and democratic dialogue.
Luis E. Vargas Castro is a tropical biologist whose current research combines ecology and conservation technology. He has ample experience in field ecology, wildlife monitoring and bioacoustics. Luis has worked on various research projects since 2008 and has a keen interest in data analysis, making science more accessible for all and developing projects with meaningful impacts on biodiversity conservation. Luis graduated from the University of Costa Rica with a B.Sc. in Biology and a Licenciatura (Specialty) degree in Zoology. He later obtained a Ph.D. in Biology at the University of Miami, FL. Also,. He currently works as a Researcher at Universidad Estatal a Distancia (UNED) and does consultancy work for ecology, wildlife monitoring and conservation research projects.
Maria Rita Manzano Borba has over 15 years of diverse professional and academic experience. During this period, her interests and work have focused on the intersection of development, natural resources, and conflict. Maria Rita has worked across geographies and developed solid multi-cultural communication skills to engage and liaise with the public and private sectors, local communities and international organizations in dynamic and complex environments. She has worked for consulting companies, think tanks, extractive industries, and international organizations such as the UNHCR and IFC. Maria Rita holds two Master degrees, in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, and in Human Geography from the University of Sao Paulo. A Brazilian national.
Mary Little LL.M. is an associate professor at the Center for Sustainable Development Studies, School for Field Studies (SFS), in Costa Rica. She also teaches courses on food security and sustainable tourism at the United Nations-mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica. Brofore teaching, Mary studied human rights law advocated for the legal rights of refugees and women experiencing domestic violence. These experiences with advocacy have informed her social justice approach to research and teaching. Her research explores community-driven waste solutions, responsible tourism and regenerative food initiatives. Currently, she is focused on agrotourism as a mechanism for climate adaptation and the links between, tourism, food security and social-solidarity movements for her Ph.D. candidacy at the University for Peace.
Mary Little LL.M. es profesora asociada del Centro de Estudios de Desarrollo Sostenible, Escuela de Estudios de Campo (SFS), en Costa Rica. También imparte cursos sobre seguridad alimentaria y turismo sostenible en la Universidad para la Paz. Antes de enseñar, ella estudió derecho de los derechos humanos y abogó por los derechos legales de los refugiados y las mujeres que sufren violencia doméstica. Estas experiencias con la defensa han informado su enfoque de justicia social para la investigación y la enseñanza. Su investigación explora soluciones de desechos impulsadas por la comunidad, turismo responsable e iniciativas de alimentos regenerativos. Actualmente, se enfoca en el agroturismo como un mecanismo para la adaptación climática, y está examinando estrategias de seguridad alimentaria en áreas turísticas para su Ph.D. en la UPaz.
Michaela Korodimou’s research and practice exists at the intersection of human mobility and environmental change. Her recently completed doctoral research explored placemaking in displacement and was centered on an exploration of the entanglements of mobility and place in a changing world. Her current work looks at incorporating understandings of climate change into humanitarian aid contexts to support those facing the iterative and compounding impacts of conflict, disasters to adapt to the impacts of climate change in a just and inclusive way. She holds an MSc in Environmental Change and Management from the University of Oxford and a PhD in Geography from the University of Liege.
Natalie V. Sánchez is a Costa Rican behavioural ecologist interested in Animal Communication and Bioacoustics. She obtained her 2 bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of Costa Rica where she began her interest in the ecology and behavior of birds. Natalie obtained a Master's degree in Conservation and Wildlife Management from the National University of Costa Rica and a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of Alberta, Canada. Since 2012 Natalie has worked in different education programs in Costa Rican and Canada teaching course for Costa Ricans, US, and Canadian students, including tropical ecology and statistics courses at university level. Natalie is currently working as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Windsor, Canada, studying resident and migratory birds in Costa Rica in collaboration with the non-profit organization Guanacaste Dry Forest Conservation Fund.
Olivia Sylvester, holds a Ph.D. in Natural Resources and Environmental Management and is the Head of the Environment & Development Department at the University for Peace as well as an Associate professor. She is also an adjunct professor for Oregon State University. For over a decade, Dr. Sylvester’s research program has focused on sustainable food systems, agroecology, Indigenous and feminist methodologies, food security/sovereignty, gender, and climate/environmental justice; she has published 30 articles and book chapters on these topics. Dr. Sylvester has also worked closely with Indigenous communities in Costa Rica to develop protocols for ethical research. She is currently the coordinator of one MA programme (Environment, Development & Peace) and two MSc programmes (Water Cooperation & Diplomacy and Ecology & Society) and teaches across these programmes. Dr. Sylvester is also a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the International Society of Ethnobiology, and the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage Project, and the Society for Agriculture and Human Values. Being active within these networks allows her to work at the interface of policy and practice.
Professor Eaton is a soil microbial ecologist, and has been in academia for 35 years, after receiving his Ph.D. in Microbiology at the University of California, Davis. He has been a faculty member, departmental Chair, and Academic Vice President, during this time. He has taught over 120 different sections of courses associated with General Biology, Microbiology, Virology, Immunology, Infectious Diseases, Ecology, Tropical Ecosystems, and Microbial Ecology. His research was on aquatic animal infectious diseases for 11 years, and for the past 24 years he has been conducting research on soil microbial ecology projects in the United States Pacific Northwest and Central Eastern regions, Belize, and Costa Rica (since 2002). His research is focused on understanding how climate change, land management, other disturbances, and habitat remediation efforts affect soil ecosystems.