Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Amanda Sackett: A Break From Research in Ecuador


Amanda Sacket enjoys visiting the equator during her summer as a Center for the Blue Economy Fellow at IUCN in Ecuador.

“This experience would not have been possible for me without the Center for Blue Economy.”

I spent the summer working in Quito, Ecuador on documenting the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) on the South American continent. In the middle of the summer I had an amazing opportunity to attend a regional conference for the Convention on Biological Diversity. The conference was attended by representatives from every government from every country of South America. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was invited to the conference as an “inter-governmental” organization and I was chosen to participate.

Taking a Break From Research

Thankful for a break from tirelessly collecting information on MPAs and reading hundreds of management plans, I participated in workshops where country representatives shared information on on the strengths and weakness of their biodiversity conservation efforts. The purpose of the meetings was to officially report on progress and collaborate on new ideas as to how to complete their commitments to the 2020 targets, such as designating 10 percent of their territorial waters as protected areas.

Connecting with Latin American Leaders


The conference was divided into themes. In the morning the topic was communication and Ana Puyol of TRAFFIC gave a great presentation on how to effectively relay the message of biodiversity loss to the public. She showed a short video entitled “Love not Loss,” which I highly recommend. She spoke about creating networks of communication and the importance of strategically conveying messages.

After the presentation, we were given group work and I was paired with a Bolivian woman representing the indigenous communities of her country and an official from Ecuador’s Ministry of the Environment. Everyone had insightful comments about how environmental communication could be improved.

Later, the topic changed to finances and Chile’s representatives gave a presentation on how their government has been funding its efforts to fulfill their commitments to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Once again, we were assigned group work and tasked with brainstorming ideas on how to diversify and increase the amount of funding for each country's National Strategy Plans. I had a discussion with the representatives from Suriname and Guyana and we came up with some novel approaches. One useful resource that was cited often during the finance talks was “The Little Biodiversity Finance Book.”

Proving My Spanish Skills

Throughout the day, I was able to rely solely on my language skills and did not have to use the translation headphones. The classes at the Institute helped me improve my Spanish and bring me to a professional level. At the end of the summer, I left Ecuador feeling motivated that things were heading in the right direction for both my Spanish skills and towards meeting the Convention on Biological Diversity's goals.