For over 35 years and up until just a few weeks ago, Wendy worked with indigenous people and university students on sustainable resource use issues, including a recent project targeted at indigenous knowledge of native bees.
August 14, 2019
With great sadness, we share the news that Dr. Wendy Townsend, an alumna of the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida (UF) and the Center for Latin American Studies' Tropical Conservation and Development (TCD) Program passed away on August 10, 2019 after a courageous battle against cancer.
For the past several years Wendy has been a Courtesy Professor of TCD in the Center for Latin American Studies at UF. Wendy was based in Santa Cruz, Bolivia where she was a Scientific Advisor and Associate Researcher at the Noel Kempff Mercado Museum of Natural History. She has been with the museum for more than 20 years and was recently recognized for her extensive contributions to the museum’s collections. Wendy was also a council member of COM Fauna and a member of the Bolivian Academy of Science. In addition, Wendy’s expertise was recognized internationally through her role as a lead author and sustainable use expert in the global initiative of the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
Wendy was passionate about working with students and she frequently mentored students through AISES and SACNAS with an emphasis on building students’ scientific research skills. She was frequently an invited lecturer in Community Natural Resource Management course in the “Management of Biodiversity” Master´s program at the Gabriel Rene Moreno Autonomous University (UAGRM) in Santa Cruz. Recently, Dr. Townsend received the first “Premio” for Scientific Research awarded by the UPSA and the ANCB-SC (Private University of Santa Cruz and Bolivian National Academy of Sciences – Santa Cruz) for her advancements in the knowledge of local native bees.
After completing a Bachelor’s of Science in Conservation of Natural Resources at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master´s degree in Biology from the California State University of California, Fresno, Wendy began her Latin American experiences in Colombia where, as she noted, she was honored to have been taught by a Murui knowledge holder, Vicente Macuritofi. In her view, Vicente demonstrated the scientific knowledge contained within his cultural teachings. Since then, respect and inclusion of traditional knowledge became a core principle in her work and Ethnobiology became an important direction. Dr. Townsend’s evaluation of wildlife use by Sirionó Indian subsistence hunters and the land extension requirements for sustainability, the subject of her Ph.D. dissertation at UF, became a contentious and important theme in the territorial demands presented by Indigenous People of lowland Bolivia. For over 35 years and up until just a few weeks ago, Wendy worked with indigenous people and university students on sustainable resource use issues, including a recent project targeted at indigenous knowledge of native bees.
Wendy was a pioneer in promoting participatory research with various Indigenous communities in Latin América including the Sirionó, Tsimane’, Mosetene, Ayoreo, Yurakaré, Chiquiano, Guarayo, Guarani, Baures, in Bolivia, the Cofan in Ecuador, and Yekwana in Venezuela. Wendy believed that participation in research “builds critical thinking and leadership skills, revitalizes community organizations, and contributes to self-esteem”. Wendy also felt strongly that participatory research promotes diversity in science by involving local people and traditional knowledge sources. She argued that “participatory monitoring by local people can uncover new ecological relationships and methods as well as inform local decision-makers”. Further, Townsend believed that local participation in research projects “promotes creative thinking to help solve social and environmental issues, a result which may be more important than the research results themselves”.
We will miss Wendy greatly – as an inspirational scholar, teacher, colleague, and friend.
To learn more, please visit this post from Noel Kempff Natural History Museum https://www.facebook.com/MuseoNKM/posts/1156586134529052.