Save World Biodiversity through Travel

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Save World Biodiversity through Travel

Costa Rica
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Ecology Project International envisions a program to bring youth from biodiversity hotspots in Latin America (Costa Rica, Galapagos Islands, and Mexico) to visit the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the world’s first National Park in Montana and Wyoming, where they will participate in hands-on scientific projects, learn about conservation, interact with Montana peers, and be inspired to apply their knowledge of conservation.






About You
Ecology Project International
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Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



Ecology Project International

Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

Ecology Project International

Organization Phone

+1 (406) 721-8784

Organization Address

P.O. Box 9192 Missoula, Montana 59807

Organization Country
Your idea
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Country your work focuses on
What is the likely impact of your idea? (150 words max)

Individual transformation - To gain first-hand experience in the natural world, as well as the disastrous results of unabated human impact on nature is a transformative experience – one that is vital for youth world-wide if they are going to play a role in forging solutions to global environmental challenges. Changing the research paradigm - EPI shares its collaborative vision and partnerships with researchers from around the world. Investing local residents in research is fundamental to successful conservation. Capacity building - EPI's programs foment shifts in attitudes and behaviors regarding the importance of conservation and the value of local flora and fauna. EPI participants also gain practical skills and scientific knowledge. Increased environmental protection - Participants finish EPI programs not only armed with a broader education, but these students directly contribute to saving threatened and endangered species. Empowerment – EPI’s programs empower youth to take an active role in international conservation.

Why is promoting global travel and engagement important? What makes your idea innovative? (200 words max)

Deeply engrained in our approach is the ethic of international dialogue and collaboration. EPI’s programs are unique: no one else creates scientific partnerships that involve local residents in research and experiential education in Latin America, and 2009 marks the first time our students from Latin America participated in our Yellowstone Ecology Program in Montana. In our model, visiting students from other countries meet their local peers who are collaborating on the same project. We are creating global impact through local participation, capacity building, and empowerment. At each project site, local and visiting students participate in the same program – but in a different language – and come together for a day of cultural exchange and scientific collaboration. They present to each other their findings on the data that they collected and its analysis. Global conservation is more efficient when it is trans-cultural and sensitive to the realities of different countries. When we partner students in this fashion they realize that no matter who you are or where you come from, you can make a difference in the world and exchange ideas about how to make it better.

What would it take to launch or spread your idea? How much would it cost to make your idea a reality? (150 words max)

To spread our idea, EPI needs the funds to launch a publicity and media campaign to raise awareness with students about our programs. According to our research, it would take approximately $100,000 to fund an effective media campaign. Our organization is based on an innovative business model; all students pay tuition to participate, investing them in the program outcomes. Because we work with underserved populations, the majority of our students are not able to afford the full cost of participation. We maintain a scholarship fund, and provide up to 90% tuition assistance for local student participation (they comprise 2/3 of our total enrollment). To extend this opportunity to reach more youth, EPI also needs financial support for scholarships for thousands of individuals each year, amounting to $150,000. These scholarships for low-income youth will be matched 2:1 by the tuition paid by our participants.

Describe your work as a social innovator (150 words max)

EPI’s first program was developed in Costa Rica in the 1990s. Prior to EPI's presence in Costa Rica, local residents were not included in the conservation solution for Leatherbacks at Pacuare Nature Reserve. Most Costa Ricans in the area had eaten sea turtle eggs or meat. The Reserve employed armed guards to keep locals away and residents were discouraged from being on the beach during the nesting season for fear that they were there to poach turtle eggs. When EPI first proposed this collaboration, Reserve staff expressed the concern that EPI would be "training future poachers" in their protection techniques, and that locals would have no interest in learning about sea turtles and their habitat. Now, after nine successful years of our program, local residents are embraced by Reserve staff and seen as collaborators in a shared goal.

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