Alejandro Ruben Vila, Chile

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Alejandro Rubén Vila, Wildlife Conservation Society, Chile

Chief Science Officer, Wildlife Conservation Society Chile                                                  

 xMarine  xPark  xHuman Wildlife xPlan  xTTT2019  x2019TTT   x2019Interviewer  x2018Trainer xScholar2014  x2014Talk  xTalk  xChile xLatinAmerica 

Avda. General Bustamante 144, Of. 42, Providencia, Santiago, Chile


2019 Profile:  Alejandro is a participant in the first-ever SCGIS TTT Summit Meeting.

2019 Map Gallery Interviewer TEAM MAPITAS


2018 Profile: Alejandro became at TTT Trainer at the Nov. 2018 Scgis Training Workshop at the Böll Foundation in Santiago, Chile.  Ale was the primary organizer of this workshop, and assisted teaching two classes: ArcGIS for Environmental Analysis  and Advanced Topics for ArcGIS.  (Photo below, Ale teaching cartographic modelling)


2014 Profile: Alejandro's first year with SCGIS was in 2014, when he attended John Schaeffer's core Conservation GIS Course and was awarded his certificate in June, 2014 (Photo Alejandro, L, with John Schaeffer, R)


"My first job in the conservation arena was at the Education Department of Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina (FVSA) in 1988. At the sametime, and while still an undergraduate student, I volunteered in several WCS research projects studying sea lions, elephant seals and killer whales at Peninsula Valdes, Patagonia. In 1991 I received his Biology degree from the University of Buenos Aires, studying sea lions behavior. From 1993 through 1998 I coordinated the Pampas Grassland program for FVSA. While coordinating this program, I supervised park rangers, researchers, students, and volunteers working at Campos del Tuyú Reserve and Punta Rasa Biological Station, gathering information on the endangered pampas deer and migratory shorebirds. At that time I also worked closely with the government to establish a Ramsar Site in Samborombón Bay and participated actively in several actions for the conservation of coastal and marine areas, such as the Patagonian Coastal Zone Management Plan.

    In 1999 I was appointed Coordinator of the Patagonian Forest Program in Argentina in a joint effort of FVSA and WWF. Over the next five years, I was in charge of binational efforts to identify priority areas for the conservation of biodiversity in the Southern Temperate Forest Ecoregion of Argentina and Chile. During this time, I also began to study the endangered Andean deer as a part-time researcher for WCS. 
In 2004 I left FVSA to join WCS’s Southern Cone Program in Latin America as a field conservationist, working in terrestrial and marine issues for WCS Argentina and WCS Chile. As a field conservationist for WCS, I have lead research and exploration teams during the last fifteen years in Patagonia. From this position, I also conducted training courses on wildlife research, conservation and environmental education in close cooperation with government agencies and NGOs. I completed my PhD in Ecology at Buenos Aires University, studying pampas deer ecology, in 2006. From 2009 to 2013 I was appointed Marine Conservation Coordinator for WCS Chile. In 2013 I was appointed Conservation Coordinator for WCS Chile. My previous experience using GIS in conservation projects was mentioned above.

describe what is the most unique and the most challenging about the conservation/GIS work that you do: WCS has played a very active role in Chilean conservation in the past several years. Through its involvement in the establishment and current management of Karukinka, a private protected area in Tierra del Fuego, WCS has applied its scientific and policy capacity towards an area of very high conservation value at the southern tip of the continent. Karukinka constitutes the northern border of the Admiralty Sound, a bi-national watershed, unique for its biodiversity, and important for local activities like tourism and artisanal fisheries in southern Chile.


    The Admiralty Sound is home to globally important marine wildlife, such as elephant, leopard and fur seals, Chilean dolphins, marine otters, Magellanic penguins, the only inland colony of black browed albatross in the world, and globally important fish and shellfish stocks, among others. The area is surrounded by spectacular mountain peaks, hanging valleys, waterfalls, fields of glaciers, and steep forested hillsides, which are protected by Alberto de Agostini National Park, managed by the Chilean National Forest Service (CONAF), and Karukinka. Such rich natural resources provide important benefits to the livelihoods of local people, such as sustaining artisanal fisheries and wildlife-based tourism. Although the Sound was included in the Cabo de Hornos Biosphere Reserve, this management category is not formally recognized by the Chilean government and, consequently, this “paper reserve” is not effectively protected.


   Both the government and several independent studies have identified the Admiralty Sound as a priority target for marine conservation. However, the lack of any formal protection, associated management plans or guidelines to regulate tourism and fisheries in the Sound leave it vulnerable to the encroachment of coastal development that has challenged much of Chile’s northern waters. By promoting an Marine Protected Area (MPA) and a participative processes of coastal zoning as effective tools to organize fisheries and tours operating within Admiralty Sound we will reduce the existing threats.


   Our challenge on the Admiralty Sound will contribute to an integrated model of MPAs in Chile, one that articulates terrestrial and marine conservation efforts, integrates public and private actors, and establishes a transboundary conservation approach. This model will provide tools to be used by the Government for implementing MPAs elsewhere in the rich and fragile coasts of Patagonia, and as a catalyst for advancing marine conservation along the entire Chilean coast.


   The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), founded in 1895, saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education, and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. WCS conserves critical landscapes and seascapes by helping governments, national organizations, and communities establish and manage parks and protected areas, and integrate them with the complex matrix of surrounding land uses. WCS conducts more than 500 wildlife research and conservation projects in 60 countries, and is a leader in identifying local solutions to wildlife conservation challenges.

With over 40 years of continuous presence in the Patagonian region of Argentina and Chile, WCS has been at the heart of some of the greatest wildlife conservation achievements in the region. Working with national, regional, and local governments, the region’s scientists, and local communities, WCS generates knowledge for conservation, trains local researchers, builds public awareness, and creates and strengthens new protected areas. Our commitment to conservation in Patagonia is strengthened by the creation of a number of coastal and marine protected areas and stewardship of some of the most valuable conservation properties in the region: the 300,000 hectare flagship conservation reserve Karukinka, in Chilean Tierra del Fuego, and the two westernmost islands of the Falkland/Malvinas chain — Steeple Jason and Grand Jason.

In Tierra del Fuego lies one of the 75 Best of the Wild Sites of the Global WCS Portfolio: Karukinka, a magnificent reserve owned by WCS Chile, which shelters unique Patagonian landscapes and wildlife. Karukinka protects the largest intact stands of old growth lenga beech in the southern hemisphere. Its extensive peatlands are like miniature forests that shelter an incredible biodiversity and represent one of the most important wetlands in the world. These ecosystems serve as a globally important carbon storehouse and contribute to mitigate climate change effects.


   From my position in WCS Chile (Director of Conservation), I am in charge of both research and educative efforts to conserve the biodiversity of southern Patagonia. I am leading a work team composed by young terrestrial and marine researchers, park rangers, and education specialists. I am also working in close cooperation with Chilean public services, other NGOs, and the academic sector. I devote a significant amount of time to maintain a participatory and positive relationship among institutions and members of several organizations.


SCGIS 2014 Conference Paper:

The Admiralty Sound: An opportunity to integrate terrestrial and marine conservation efforts
"In this paper we present the participative process to promote a Marine Protected Area in Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, Chile, as well as a preliminary zoning to minimize conflicts between existing human uses and conservation."


Esri 2014 International User Conference Paper

 Identifying areas of high-value to strengthen marine conservation in Patagonian Channels and Fjord Ecoregion of Chile

 ABSTRACT: Although Chile has been establishing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) since the 1960s, studies to identify representative areas for marine biodiversity conservation at the ecoregional scale are lacking. Using the Marxan decision support tool, we conducted a systematic planning process to identify High Conservation Value Areas (HCVAs) in the Channels and Fjords ecoregion. We involved 74 experts and other stakeholders in the identification of conservation features, setting of targets, and compilation of distribution data. Current distributions of 39 features were used to conduct Marxan analyses. We ran two scenarios. In the first scenario we locked planning units (PUs) that contain the Francisco Coloane MPA in the network. In the second scenario, we also excluded those PUs that overlapped with Appropriate Areas for Aquaculture (AAAs) defined by the coastal zoning process of the Chilean government. One-hundred percent of the proposed conservation targets were met in both scenarios. Although the distribution of 12 conservation features overlapped to a certain extent (>10%) with AAAs, Marxan was able to find conservation solutions avoiding these areas. Our suggested portfolio of HCVAs was a network of 33 sites. This network included 31 sites in the continental shelf and two in the oceanic area, totalizing 99,432 km2 or 12% of the ecoregion. These results provide the first science-based road-map for decision makers and conservationists, and will also serve to guide future efforts to establish MPAs. In this context, our results were shared with the current policy-driven coastal zoning process developed by the Chilean Government for Southern Chile.