Conservation Achievements

VARINIA SAGASTUME, Biologist   

Project: Transforming aquaculture practices to benefit shorebirds  in Guatemala.  

Key strategies: Established a close working relationship with 

Acuamaya, the country’s largest aquaculture producer, to identify the best management practices for shorebirds and people, and organized hundreds of volunteers to implement community-based shorebird monitoring efforts.  

Impact to date: Varinia formalized the first organized survey efforts for nesting and wintering shorebirds in Guatemala, helping to generate essential data for current and future conservation. She established an agreement with Acuamaya to explore market incentives and pilot practices to improve habitat within the farm, as the basis to expand this initiative to other shrimp producers. Varinia has developed her consulting firm, bringing her expertise to conservation efforts throughout Latin America, partnering with nonprofits, international agencies, and academic institutions.

JONATHAN VARGAS,  Ornithologist 

Project: Recovering Snowy Plovers in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. 

Key Strategies: Partnered with the real estate sector and agencies 

to protect priority sites, and launched a volunteer-driven social campaign to create awareness to limit vehicles, off-leash dogs, and other disturbances on the beach. 

Impact to date: Human disturbance has been reduced by 90% in 800 acres of coastal habitats, benefiting thousands of shorebirds. Snowy Plovers have been recovering in the region, from just one pair in 2008 to 80 adults and 150 chicks in 2022. Local nonprofits and the city have adopted the project, securing the permanence of these efforts. Jonathan is an influential shorebird expert, leading conservation efforts throughout Mexico  and partnering with nonprofits and academia, with support from the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and international organizations such as Point Blue, Manomet, and National Audubon Society.

ROMÁN CANUL,  Civil Engineer     

Project: Restoring Huizache-Caimanero, a 30,000-acre coastal lagoon system in Sinaloa, Mexico, degraded by poor planning and sedimentation.    

Key strategies: Developed a geo-hydrological model to identify the best restoration interventions and partnered with local nonprofit Conselva, fishing cooperatives, and local communities to secure funding for implementation.  

Impact to date: In 2022, Román helped establish a Natural Protected Area to protect shorebird habitat. He also helped secure funding for restoration that serves as a model for guiding investments for climate resiliency in Mexico. Román’s work brought recognition as one of 20 Young Leaders influencing the water sector in Mexico. He is now a tenured professor at the University of Campeche, where he is Chair of the Graduate Program in Coastal Engineering.

ELIANA MONTENEGRO, Socio-ecologist  

Proyecto: 

Project: Community-based restoration of La Segua, Ecuador, a priority wetland threatened by shrimp aquaculture expansion. 

 

Key strategies: Forged relationships with local shrimp 

farmers to implement best practices to benefit shorebirds, and created ASO Humedal, a local nonprofit to identify 

ongoing opportunities for sustainable economic activities. 

Impact to date: Working with legal experts, Eliana established the first conservation easements to use shrimp ponds as shorebird habitats at peak migratory season. In collaboration with 2023 Coastal Solutions Fellow Enrique Fornasini, she is implementing restoration projects at the wetland and developing a conservation business plan for the region. Eliana is now the Flyways coordinator in Latin America for Birdlife International, based in Quito, Ecuador.

MANUELA ERAZO,  Social Anthropologist  

Proyecto:  Project: Protecting the Tubul-Raqui Wetland in Chile, a priority site for shorebirds facing multiple development threats.  

 

Key strategies: Organized Mapuche-Lafkenche indigenous groups and Chilean fishermen, once communities in conflict, to work together and develop a proposal for the Ministry of Environment to create a 5,000-acre coastal wetlands sanctuary. 

Impact to date: The Tubal-Raqui Nature Sanctuary was approved by the Chilean government in 2022, establishing formal protection for this site. In collaboration with the communities, Manuela’s team is now developing the management plan for the sanctuary. Manuela’s work earned her the Blue Pioneer Marine Conservation Leader award from the University of California Santa Cruz. She is now the director of Chile’s Marine Governance Initiative, working for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

ANDREINA PERNIA, Architect

Project: Creating a landscape conservation Plan for Parita Bay, Panama. 

 

Key strategies: Organized a working group of municipalities, agencies, producers, and community leaders to define a joint conservation vision for the region.  

Impact to date: The eight municipalities within Parita Bay signed an agreement to enact a conservation plan to protect 80,000 acres of wetlands that are home to thousands of shorebirds, as well as diverse communities and economic activities. She also partnered with the Cattle Ranchers Association and landowners to protect 6,000 acres of coastal habitats, and pilot hydrological restoration projects with support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Andreina coordinates the policy initiatives at the Ramsar Wetland Center for the Western Hemisphere.

Coastal Solutions Fellowship Program

The Coastal Solutions Fellows Program builds and supports an international community to design and implement solutions that address coastal challenges across the Pacific Americas Flyway. Our main goal is to conserve coastal habitats and shorebird populations by building the knowledge, resources, and skills of Latin American professionals, and by fostering collaborations among multiple disciplines and sectors.