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Derek Tesser: Perspectives of the Chocó Rainforest from Space to the Understory

By August 21, 2022No Comments

The most biodiverse and threatened tropical rainforest in South America is not the Amazon. While less renowned, the Chocó Biodiversity Hotspot along the Pacific Coast of Ecuador and Colombia lost 98% of its primary forest due to industrial oil palm expansion and illegal logging in the last few decades.

Yet hope is not lost. A complex history weaves together diverse cultures throughout the Chocó. Today, local communities alongside conservation efforts promote sustainable cultivation of the Chocó.

With a combined focus on biodiversity, music and culture, the Itapoa Project has advanced scientific understanding alongside amplifying the voices of local communities within this unique and delicate ecoregion.

Derek Tesser is a Lecturer of Science at CUNY’s Guttman Community College since the college opened in 2012. Derek’s background is in history, biology and environmental science, and he holds degrees from New York University and Brandeis University.

Derek has led multiple study abroad expeditions with NYC community college students to the Chocó rainforest in Ecuador. These trips explore the Chocó’s rich biodiversity and investigate anthropogenic causes of deforestation and land use change. Derek also works with the Itapoa Project to cultivate sustainable cacao farms for local chocolate production in the Chocó.

Derek is completing a PhD at the CUNY Graduate Center with a focus on satellite imagery techniques to study tropical ecosystems and biodiversity. Derek is currently involved with the development of a NASA campaign to investigate mangrove ecosystems in the Chocó.

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