In February 2012 I was awarded a Fulbright Core Scholars grant to conduct botanical research and seminars in Guaranda, Ecuador. Universidad Estatal de Bolivar is my host institution. My research project is a floristic study (a plant inventory) of a protected montane forest in the community of San José de las Palmas (Canton de San Miguel). In practical terms, I’ll be collecting plant specimens from a 70 ha (about 170 acre) community forest reserve on the western slopes of the Andes mountains at an elevation of about 10,000 feet (3,000 m). The study is significant because this forest is one of very few remnants of natural vegetation remaining in this region, which is known to have exceptionally high levels of plant species diversity.
On September 22, 2012 I arrived in Quito, via Delta airlines from Johnson City, Tennessee, where I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. The Ecuadorean Fulbright Commission provided thoroughly efficient and friendly support both before my trip and upon my arrival, when they helped arrange hotel reservations, airport pick-up, visa registration, bank account set-up, and a security briefing. The Fulbright program is an international exchange program, begun after World War II by US Senator J. William Fulbright, which sends US faculty, students and citizens to work and study in countries around the world, and brings foreign students and faculty to the US for academic and research programs. Information of the Fulbright program is online at: http://fulbright.state.gov/ and information on the US-Ecuador Fulbright program is at: http://www.fulbright.org.ec/web/cms.php?c=689
One of the primary objectives of the Fulbright program is to promote international friendship and understanding, and to build cooperative relationships between the citizens of the United States and countries around the world. I’ve begun this blog to participate in that process, and to share my experiences with colleagues and friends, and with anyone else who’s interested. The content of my blog entries will include pictures and commentary on topics botanical, cultural, geographical and miscellaneous. The photo on this post is of the volcano Chimborazo, the highest peak in Ecuador, 20,702 feet (6310 m) above sea level, seen from the hilltop in Guaranda where the statue of Guaranga, an indigenous leader who battled the Conquistadors, is located.