Department Head and Associate Professor
Department of Environment and Development

Olivia Sylvester, Ph.D. (Canada), is the Head of the Environment, Development and Peace Department, and Associate professor at the University for Peace. She holds a Ph.D. in Natural Resources and Environmental Management from the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Manitoba (Canada). She also holds an MSc. in Biology from the Universidad de Costa Rica and a BSc. in Biology from the University of Calgary (Canada). In the last decade, Olivia’s research program has focused on food sovereignty, agroecology, climate & environmental justice, and gender. Specifically, she works with Indigenous people, women, small-scale farmers, and youth on these topics. Her research is driven by social and environmental justice, and she uses relevant methodologies (e.g., Indigenous, feminist) to achieve these goals. She has over 30 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and new articles and is the editor of 3 books. She has co-produced videos for Bribri Indigenous development with identity and her most recent book project supported Huetar Indigenous Elders author and publish their cultural knowledge and practices. Olivia is the coordinator of the following Master’s programmes: 1) Environment, Development & Peace, 2) Ecology & Society, 3) Water Cooperation and Diplomacy.

Click here to access her Research Gate page.


Peer-reviewed Journal Articles

Sylvester, O., & Ramin, C. (2024). Factors that influence coffee farmers choices regarding pesticide use in Costa Rica. In preparation for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems.

Sylvester, O., Ramin, C., Serrano González, B., Hernández Mena, Z., Pérez Hernández, y Schuster-Wallace, C. (2024). Acceso y Gestión del Agua en los Pueblos Indígenas de Costa Rica: El Caso del pueblo Huetar de Quitirrisí de Mora. En prensa en Ambientico.

Hell, F., & Sylvester O. (2023). An Ecofeminist Review of Alternative Tourism Research in the Global South. ARA: Journal of Tourism Research, 70(13), 68-87. ISSN:2014-4458

Ashencaen Crabtree, S., Parker, J., Sylvester, O., García Segura, A., Man, Z. (2023). ‘Balancing the Books’: Research Paradigms, Funding, Ethics and Accountability in Research with Indigenous People. Debates en Sociología, Accepted and in press.

Ashencaen Crabtree, S., Parker, J., García Segura, A., Man, Z. and Sylvester, O. (2022). Epistemic hegemonies, Indigenous methodologies and the dialectic turn. The Social Science Journal.

Little, M. & O. Sylvester (2022). Agroecological producers shortening food chains during Covid-19: opportunities and challenges in Costa Rica. Agriculture and Human Values, DOI:

Sylvester, O., & M. Little (2021). “I came all this way to receive training, and now I am going to be taught by a woman.” Factors that support and hinder women’s participation in agroecology in Costa Rica. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, DOI: 10.1080/21683565.2020.1811830

Sylvester, O., Garcia Segura, A., Ashencaen Crabtree, S., Man, Z., & Parker, J. (2020). Navigating western and Indigenous methodologies in North-South, cross-cultural research: successes and challenges. AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples 16(1): 45-54.

Ashencan Crabtree, S., Parker, J., Man, Z., Garcia Segura, A. & Sylvester, O. (2019, July 03). Discover Society. Sustainability, development and devastation: new encounters in indigenous dialogues. Retrieved from

Avalos, G., Gei, M., Rios, L. D., Otarola, M. F., Cambronero, M. Alvarez-Vergnani, C., Sylvester, O., Rojas, G. (2019). Scaling of stem diameter and height allometry in 14 neotropical palm species of different forest strata. Oecologia,

Sylvester, O., Garcia Segura, A. G. (2017). Ulàpeitök: Applying Bribri Indigenous teachings to an ethnobiology Ph.D. methodology. Engaged Scholar Journal 3(2): 123- 140.

Sylvester, O., Bianco, M. Greenwood, J. and T. Mkanthama. (2017). Breaking down barriers to university-community engagement: a Master’s student led sustainable agriculture workshop for children in Costa Rica. Journal of Sustainability Education 16: ISSN: 2151-7452.

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). Wild food harvesting and access by household and generation in the Bribri Indigenous Territory, Costa Rica. Human Ecology 44(4): 449-461.

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). The protection of rainforest biodiversity can conflict with food access for Indigenous people. Conservation and Society 14(3): 279-290.

Davidson-Hunt, I. J., R. Pengelly, C. J. Idrobo and O. Sylvester. (2013). Anishinaabe adaptation to environmental change in northwestern Ontario: a case study in knowledge coproduction for non-timber forest products. Ecology and Society 18 (4): 44.

Sylvester, O. and G. Avalos. (2013). Influence of light conditions on the allometry and growth of the understory palm Geonoma undata subsp. edulis (Arecaceae) of neotropical cloud forests. American Journal of Botany 100(12): 2357-2363.

Sylvester, O., G. Avalos, and N. Chaves. (2012). Notes on the ethnobotany of Costa Rica’s palms. PALMS 56(4): 190-201.

Avalos, G. and O. Sylvester. (2010). Allometric estimation of total crown area in the neotropical palm Euterpe oleracea at La Selva, Costa Rica TREES 24(5): 969-974.

Sylvester, O. and G. Avalos. (2009). Illegal palm heart (Geonoma edulis) harvest in Costa Rican national parks: patterns of consumption and extraction. Economic Botany 63(2): 179-189.

Book Chapters

Ramin, C. & Sylvester, O. (2024). Water and Industrial Agriculture: A case study of pineapple in Buenos Aires, Costa Rica. In: (Sylvester, Breitling, & Ramin, Eds.). Water Emergency: Case Studies and Global Perspectives. University for Peace Press.
Sylvester, O., García Segura, A. (2024) Bribri Title: Bribripa má batséitsè, / A Sustainable Food System from a Bribri Indigenous Perspective. Book: Indigenous Wisdom and Innovations for Planetary Health and Sustainable Food Systems. Canadian Scholars & Women’s Press.

Sylvester, O., (2024). SDG12: Responsible Consumption and Production Sheryl L Hendriks and Suresh C (Eds.), Handbook on Public Policy and Food Security. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Avalos, G., Sylvester, O., Cambronero-Quesada, García Segura, A. (2023). Patrones de diversidad, distribución, usos etnobotánicos y conservación de las palmas de Costa Rica. Leal Sander, N., Pulido Silva, M. T., y da Silva, C. J. (Coordinadores). Uso de las palmas en Latinoamérica. DOI 10.24824/978652514377.4

Villhauer, B., & Sylvester, O. (2021). Decolonizing REDD+ for Climate Change Mitigation? A Case Study of Costa Rica’s Cultural Mediators Program. In Leal Filho, W., Luetz, J. M., & Ayal, D. Y. (Eds.) Handbook of Climate Change Management. Springer.

Sylvester, O. (2020). How youth brought their water back and built long-term community adaptive capacity: A case study from Costa Rica. In Leal Filho, W., Luetz, J. M., & Ayal, D. Y. (Eds.) Handbook of Climate Change Management. Springer.

Sylvester, O. (2020). Seguridad Alimentaria. En Seguridad y Asuntos Internacionales. Lozano, A. (Ed.). Asociación Mexicana de Estudios Internacionales (AMEI) y Siglo XXI Editores.

Sylvester, O. (2019). Achieving Food Security in the Face of Inequality, Climate Change and Conflict. In Crisis, Fragility and Conflict in an Uncertain World. Rojas, F (Ed.). Palgrave Macmillan.

Rojas, F., Sylvester, O., Zahar, Y. (2018). From knowledge to action: supporting women in agriculture in Latin America. In Rural women around the world: 28 enlightened voices (pp. 147-154). San Jose, Costa Rica: IICA.

Edited Books

Sylvester, O. (2024, Editor). Conocimientos de la Cultura Huetar de Quitirrisí. Rescate de la memoria, costumbres, y tradiciones de nuestros abuelos y abuelas. Autores: Mayores Huetar.

Sylvester, O., Breitling, J., & Ramin, C. (2024). Water Emergency: Case Studies and Global Perspectives. University for Peace Press.

Garcia Segura, A. 2016. Ditsö rukuö: Identity of the seeds, learning from nature, IUCN, Switzerland (Sylvester, O., Editor),

Newspaper Articles

Sylvester, O. (2022, Sunday November 13). Mujeres e indígenas excluidos de la ciencia. La Nación.

Little, M., & Sylvester O. (2020). Mujeres agricultoras retando los estereotipos de género en Costa Rica. Agroecología.

Jefa de Departamento y Profesora Asociada
Departamento de Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo

Olivia Sylvester, Doctora en Filosofía, es Directora del Departamento de Medio Ambiente, Desarrollo y Paz, y Profesora Asociada de la Universidad para la Paz. Es Doctora en Recursos Naturales y Gestión Medioambiental por el Instituto de Recursos Naturales de la Universidad de Manitoba (Canadá). También tiene una maestría en Biología por la Universidad de Costa Rica y una licenciatura en Biología por la Universidad de Calgary (Canadá). En la última década, el programa de investigación de Olivia se ha centrado en la soberanía alimentaria, la agroecología, la justicia climática y medioambiental, y el género. En concreto, trabaja sobre estos temas con indígenas, mujeres, pequeños agricultores y jóvenes. Su investigación está impulsada por la justicia social y medioambiental, y utiliza metodologías pertinentes (por ejemplo, indígena, feminista) para lograr estos objetivos. Ha publicado más de 30 artículos, capítulos de libros y nuevos artículos, y es editora de tres libros. Ha coproducido vídeos para el desarrollo de los indígenas bribri con identidad y su proyecto de libro más reciente ha ayudado a los ancianos indígenas huetar a escribir y publicar sus conocimientos y prácticas culturales. Olivia es coordinadora de los siguientes programas de máster: 1) Medio ambiente, desarrollo y paz, 2) Ecología y sociedad, 3) Cooperación y diplomacia del agua.