What if a program had the power to drive broad-scale change across one of the world’s most bio-diverse and vulnerable ecosystems? Each year, the Amazon rainforest loses approximately 2300 mi2 to deforestation. That’s more than eight times the size of the city of Chicago. Starting in June of 2016, a team of University of Chicago graduate students will spend 10 weeks in Brazil, bridging the gap between cutting-edge scientific findings and biodiversity conservation efforts. 

On March 31, 2016 the International Innovation Corps (IIC) hosted a panel at Chicago Harris with leading scientists from the Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia (IPAM), Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), and Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC). Leading the discussion were scientists Dr. Paulo Moutinho from IPAM, Drs. Christopher Neill and Linda Deegan from MBL, and Drs. Paulo Brando and Michael Coe of WHRC. 


Dr. Neill kicked off the discussion emphasizing the importance of using scientific data to inform policy. The causes of deforestation have changed as a result of Brazil's transitioning economy. Brazil’s economic growth has created greater demands for both food and energy production, resulting in deforestation and intensification of land use in the Amazon, explains Dr. Neill. Students participating in the IIC’s Summer Policy Lab will have the unique opportunity to examine the effects of this transition, within the broader context of global climate change. 


Dr. Moutinho shared that despite deep historical roots for deforestation practices in Brazil, a combination of "social movements, scientific breakthroughs, and political will" has enabled Brazil to reduce deforestation by approximately 50% since 2004. Despite this progress, however, the proverbial ‘dragon of deforestation’ has yet to be slain.

In order to reach Brazil’s goal of zero deforestation, Moutinho argues that a combination of effective law enforcement and infrastructure investment is needed, along with the application of scientific findings into policy decision-making. The aim of the IIC Summer Policy Lab will be to use science as the tool to directly inform the government and empower a social movement, ultimately driving policy change.


The International Innovation Corps (IIC) at Chicago Harris is partnering with the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), USAID, Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) and Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia (IPAM) to launch a summer opportunity to address pressing issues in biodiversity conservation policy in Brazil. A group of up to 10 UChicago graduate students will spend 10 weeks in Brazil bridging the gap between cutting-edge scientific findings and Brazil’s biodiversity conservation efforts. Students will work in a collaborative, multidisciplinary team with an international group of students, researchers and policy experts. This is an exceptional opportunity to study the effects of biodiversity conservation efforts in the Brazilian Amazon and create actionable recommendations to the Brazilian government. Working in Brazil with biodiversity and ecosystem experts, policy experts, students and government officials, UChicago students will learn how research can be used to drive broad-scale change across one of the world’s most important and vulnerable ecosystems.