Our evolving understanding of tropical biodiversity

Human ecologist Bill Durham discusses his career trajectory including his work in the Galapagos Islands, issues surrounding the new field of eco-tourism, and how a mishap with a lawn mower started his life’s work.

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Contributor

Bill Durham
Bill Durham is Bing Professor in Human Biology, Yang and Yamazaki University Fellow in the Department of Anthropology, and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment. While highly regarded among students for his true dedication to teaching and engaging undergraduates, Durham is also internationally renowned for his work in human ecology. His research interests range from biological anthropology to cultural evolution to the causes of scarcity and environmental degradation in Latin America. His current research is on generating sustainable development in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, investigating ecotourism as a means to poverty alleviation and self-determination in Central and South America, and understanding the environmental causes of emerging infectious tropical diseases.  For his work on the theory of co-evolution in human populations and the trade-offs between conservation and community development, Durham has been honored with the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim, Danforth, and National Science Foundations. He currently serves as Stanford Director of the Center on Ecotourism and Sustainable Development, and he has established a well-loved series of Field Seminars for students and alumni through the Stanford Alumni Travel/Study Program.

Interviewer

Jenny Rempel
Jenny Rempel is a senior Earth Systems major and Human Biology minor with a love of good food, good travel and the great outdoors. Her interest in the Anthropocene stems from these very pleasures: from exploring the injustices of current food systems to studying the potential for ecotourism in Galapagos to analyzing national land conservation trends, Jenny is determined to help shape this new geological era for the better. Having grown up in Fresno, California, Jenny is particularly fond of issues at the confluence of conservation biology and sustainable agriculture.  She spent the summer of 2009 at a high-elevation field site in Colorado studying the population dynamics of a montane butterfly species, and last summer she worked with Prof. Tad Fukami to investigate the effects of removing invasive species from forest fragments. As a NOAA Hollings Scholar, Jenny is currently working with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center to study the effects of ocean acidification on marine crustaceans. While on campus, Jenny enjoys growing, cooking and eating food at the Stanford Community Farm. She serves as a co-founder and leader of the Stanford Farm Project and she organizes the Environmental Faculty Dinner Series.  In the past year, Jenny has backpacked, swam, skied, snowshoed, hiked or camped in ten different national parks. She can’t wait to get back outside – where her thoughts on the Anthropocene were first formed!

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