NEWS AND ONGOING PROJECTS

(scroll down for photos)

2014: The Caves of El Amay!

After a preliminary exploration in 2012, we returned this year to explore what is now called Dragon Cave (after a "dragon's head" formation). We discovered a beautiful underground cavern ornamented with wonderful cave formations (speleothems) of many kinds: Stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, popcorn, soda straws, and ribbons line the walls and ceilings.  Can we use this beautiful treasure to help save the cloud forest?  We are scheduling a workshop to train local guides in technical climbing and caving skills as well as low-impact camping and environmental conservation.  As we build this skill set, we will attract tourists to explore the caves of El Amay!

Biological Exploration: automatic trail camera research

In February and March, 2014, we conducted a photographic survey of the cloud forest wildlife using automatic trail cameras. We recorded images of the threatened Highland Guan (Penelopina nigra), brocket deer (Mazama americana), and coati (Nasua narica) in our initial survey consisting of 100 camera nights. This was the first verified photograph of the brocket deer in the cloud forest area.  A second, longer survey is scheduled for later in the year.

2013: New micro-loan project at the village of Laj Chimel

This is our second greenhouse project at Laj Chimel. The first, the "Vivero Comunitario" has been producing native tree seedlings since 2011. The new greenhouse project is focusing on the production of chrysanthemums, a flower that is highly coveted for ceremonial use.  The flower nursery is our first micro-loan and was implemented with an agreement for partial repayment of the project expenses. The foundation for this approach is to ignite an entrepreneurial and self-sufficient spirit among our clients.  We want them not just to survive--we want them to grow. 

2013: New greenhouse project at San Pablo Cenzontle

San Pablo Centzontle is a critical conservation community situated hard against the high cloud forest. Some of the citizens are actively cutting down the ancient forest at the edge of the village. We recently funded their very first greenhouse so they can raise native trees. We look forward to working with the village leaders to end the conversion of virgin cloud forest into corn fields.

2013: Second planting at the Vivero Comunitario (community greenhouse) at Laj Chimel.

We are raising thousands of endangered pinabete (Guatemalan fir) trees, which can be used to reforest the land where they naturally live. 

2012: Critically endangered Guatemalan spikethumb frog discovered!

Our collaborating scientist, Lic. Alejandra Zamora, discovered a previously unknown population of the critically-endangered Guatemalan spikethumb frog (Plectrohyla guatemalensis) at Cerro El Amay. Click thumbnail.



2012: GIS software grant from ESRI

ESRI, the makers of ArcGIS (geographic information system) software is facilitating our work with the donation of two ArcGIS licenses.  We will use the software to continue our research and conservation efforts.

2012: Second planting with ASODICH

The Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Chimel has planted their second round of native trees. The first planting was a resounding success, and resulted in the reforestation of denuded hillsides and the start of a sustainable forest plantation that will produce lumber, fuel, and seeds.

2012: Arthropod studies:

We have begun a project to survey the arthropod diversity of Cerro El Amay, welcoming the participation of Dr. Jack Schuster from Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG). Dr. Schuster is Director of the Laboratory of Entomology and Systematics and established the magnificent arthropod collection at Center for Biodiversity in Guatemala City.

Dr. Schuster is collaborating with Conservation Imaging board member and entomologist, Dr. Timothy Hatten to examine the biodiversity and distribution of cloud forest insects. Dr. Schuster has demonstrated that Passalid beetles are strong indicators of biogeographic endemism. Our work will emphasize the importance of conserving Cerro El Amay as a unique and irreplaceable biological resource.

2012: Amphibians and Chytrid fungus at Cerro El Amay:

We are thrilled to be collaborating with Dr. Margarita Palmieri, Chair of Biological Sciences at UVG. Dr. Palmieri and her recent graduate, Lic. Alejandra Zamora, are studying the outbreak of Chytridiomycosis fungus that has decimated amphibian populations throughout the tropics. Ms. Zamora accompanied our June, 2012 expedition to Cerro El Amay, sampling for Chytrid fungus among cloud forest amphibians. She discovered a previously unknown population of the critically endangered Guatemalan spikethumb frog (Plectrohyla guatemalensis).  See a video of Alejandra in the collecting process.

2011: Forest ecology and composition

We recently completed the first ever forest survey at Cerro El Amay. Dr. Luis Merino worked with Instituto Técnico Maya in Uspantán to survey the cloud forest trees. In this process, he provided valuable field training for volunteer students. With the assistance of botanists at El Colégio de Frontera Sur in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, he derived a preliminary list of major cloud forest species and size class distribution. Please contact us for additional information.

2011: Laj Chimel Vivero Comunitario (community greenhouse)

We collaborated with board member Luis Merino to construct the first ever greenhouse at Laj Chimel and planted it with thousands of native pine trees.

2011: Carrizal Spring school tree nursery

With the help of volunteer students and teachers, we funded the construction of a beautiful nursery on the school grounds. It was a resounding success resulting in the planting of thousands of native tree seedlings to restore damaged watersheds.

2010: San Pedro la Esperanza village greenhouse

With volunteer labor donated by the villagers of San Pedro la Esperanza, we established a native tree nursery in thi beautiful, secluded village, so remote that, until 2009, the only way to access the village was by foot path.

2008-2011: Search for the Horned Guan

This enigmatic cloud forest bird (Oreophasis derbianus) lives only in the high cloud forests of northern Central America. We conducted searches for the Horned Guan in 2008, 2010, and 2011, covering the lands of La Gloria, Chimel, and San Pedro La Esperanza, all at Cerro El Amay. Unfortunately, it appears that this species has been extirpated through hunting. At some point, we would like to establish a reintroduction project for this species, although the logistics are daunting.

2009: Our first nursery project

The agrarian village of La Gloria is located on the northwest slope of Cerro El Amay. Here, the village leadership has collaborated with us on our first greenhouse project where we have raised thousands of native trees.

2012 Conservation Highlight:

The Crested Guan or Cojolito (Penelope purpurascens) is a species that lives only in virgin tropical forest and occurs at Cerro El Amay. Here, board member and CONAP representative, Elias Barrera, releases an individual that was confiscated from a public marketplace in a nearby village. See the video.

Blue Morpho butterflies of Guatemala: UVG collection Elias releases Crested Guan
Alejandra colects Chytrid sample from frog Dr. Timothy Hatten working, with a visitor. First Laj Chimel greenhouse
Agusto measures a cloud forest tree Three generations work on the Laj Chimel greenhouse Pino blanco from seed, in nursery

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updated 06/2014