UTEP Team to Study Conservation in Indonesia

An interdisciplinary team from The University of Texas at El Paso will travel to Indonesia this summer to collaborate on field research and develop conservation education programs, thanks to a three-year grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Four faculty and staff members and 13 students will leave the U.S. on July 4 and return Aug. 2. Associate Professor of Communication Stacey Sowards, Ph.D., departed June 17 to prepare for the arrival of the others in July.

USAID awarded UTEP $997,313 for the project, titled “Enhancing Behavior Change Through Conservation Programs.” The research team will collaborate with Universitas Mulawarman on the island of Borneo in Indonesia. The program will also include a partnership with Rare, an international conservation organization. UTEP has an existing relationship with Rare, offering a master’s degree in communication.

“The idea is to work with the university in Indonesia in terms of higher education and community development in relation to conservation issues,” Sowards said. “We’re working to build the Indonesians’ capacity for teaching and doing their own independent research.”

Students were selected competitively by recruiters from the study abroad office as well as other faculty involved in the grant. All students involved in the trip have earned a 3.5 grade point average or higher at UTEP.

“USAID is pleased to award a grant to UTEP to build a mutually-beneficial academic and research partnership between UTEP and Universitas Mulawarman in the areas of conservation education, computer technology, field research and practical approaches for increasing conservation education and behavior change through public campaigns,” said USAID/Indonesia Mission Director Glenn Anders. “Through this partnership, we can strengthen our environment and conserve natural resources for generations to come.”

Home to the world’s third largest rainforest, Indonesia provides unique opportunities for conservation efforts. UTEP will bring internationally recognized research and teaching methods, particularly in environmental communication and conservation biology, to the partnership. UNMUL and Rare bring a localized and community-based focus in Indonesia.

Faculty and staff who will participate in the UTEP research team include co-project directors Richard Pineda, Ph. D., and Sarah Ryan, Ph.D., both of the Department of Communication; Sunay Palsole, director of instructional support; Niamh Minion, study abroad coordinator; Harry Meeuwsen, Ph.D., director of the Center for Effective Teaching and Learning; William Hargrove, Ph.D., director of the Center for Environmental Research Management; Barry Benedict, Ph.D., professor in the College of Engineering; Vanessa Lougheed, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences;  Craig Tweedie, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences; and  William Robertson, Ph.D., UTEP associate provost.

“It’s a very unique opportunity for UTEP to pursue a partnership in a different part of the world,” Roberston said. “It expands our global reach.”


About USAID:

USAID is an independent agency of the U.S. government that provides development and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States. Since the 1950s, USAID has worked with the Indonesian government and civil society to stimulate the country’s development and meet the needs of its people.

USAID programs in Indonesia expand access to a quality education, strengthen democracy, improve health, enhance understanding, sustain the environment and promote prosperity.