OUR COURSE INSTRUCTORS
All of our Course Instructors are researchers, educators, and activists who live and work in the field. They have all been funded through the National Geographic Society for their research projects across Latin America. They have collectively founded and co-designed this Virtual Field School.
Ashli Akins is a 2019 National Geographic Explorer who critically examines the shifting relationship between cultural, environmental, and economic values, specifically relating to safeguarding cultural heritage in an era of rapid economic change. She has worked for over 14 years with Quechua communities of the Peruvian Andes, researching and advocating to mitigate adverse effects of unsustainable tourism and development. In 2006, she founded Mosqoy, a charitable organization, that is now a strong force for youth, women, and artisans of the region. Ashli graduated from the University of Oxford with a master’s in international human rights law, and previously received her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies, Latin American studies, and professional writing. She is now completing a PhD in interdisciplinary studies from the University of British Columbia, combining the disciplines of anthropology, law, and environmental studies.
DANIEL ARAUZ NARANJO
2018 National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow, Daniel Arauz Naranjo, manages a sea turtle project at Costa Rica’s Rescue Center for Endangered Marine Species (CREMA), where he catches, tags, and monitors sea turtles in foraging grounds in Costa Rica. He also coordinates a sustainable fisheries project, working with local fishermen to promote science and conservation.
VANESSA BÉZY, PHD
Vanessa Bézy has been studying sea turtles and the arribada phenomenon in Ostional, Costa Rica for over 10 years. She is a 2012 National Geographic Explorer who strongly advocates for the protection of sea turtles at the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge. Through her involvement with the local community, Vanessa has helped form alliances between the tourism sector and the Refuge, provided scientific data to support wildlife conservation policies, and established two non-profits dedicated to sea turtle and wildlife conservation in the area.
Andrea Izaguirre is a SCUBA instructor and conservationist from Honduras. She currently works as Programs Coordinator for the Bay Islands Conservation Association (BICA) in the Utila chapter. She has participated in various regional and national efforts to monitor the health of the Mesoamerican reef, focusing on coral/benthos interactions and mass bleaching events. She coordinated the Lionfish Awareness program since 2015, where she worked alongside external researchers from University of Oxford. Additionally, she is working on a National Geographic funded project, focusing on women fishers in Honduras, with National Geographic Explorer Dr. Keri Brondo. Currently Andrea resides in the island of Utila, with her rabbit, BunBuns.
Rebecca Smith is a 2018 National Geographic Explorer who is the onsite primatologist with Fundación Para La Tierra. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Zoology from the University of Edinburgh and her Masters at Roehampton University. She is now studying towards a PhD in Conservation Science with the University of Aberdeen. She has previously worked with captive and wild primates in Namibia, Panama, and Puerto Rico. She has been studying the hooded capuchins of Paraguay since 2013, and has presented her research at conferences in Asuncion, Chicago, Nairobi, and Durham. She supervises international students studying the urban howler monkeys of Pilar, runs the PLT Field Methods in Primatology course, and Primatology and Conservation online course. She teaches environmental conservation in 22 rural schools that border San Rafael National Park.
OUR SUPPORT TEAM
The Virtual Field School is supported by an interdisciplinary team of experts from around the world, who work collaboratively with the Course Instructors to develop curriculum, build accessible digital-learning platforms, and create engaging virtual fieldtrips with our partner communities.