Tortoise Conservation in Mexico
I led an international team in discovering a new species of desert tortoise, however, what I am most proud of is how I turned the academic exercise of naming a species into a conservation action that has resulted in protecting its habitat.
Before the description was published, I spearheaded an innovative campaign to auction the naming rights of the new species. This included commissioning original artwork of the species and searching for the appropriate audience. Through a partnership with the Turtle Conservancy and other organizations, we raised $100,000 at the "Turtle Ball" in New York City and have purchased 1,000 acres of habitat for this species, extending the boundaries of the Reserva Monte Mojino in Sonora, Mexico. The newly protected area not only benefits the tortoise, but safeguards the globally endangered Tropical Deciduous Forest ecosystem and the other species that live there, including 5 species of wild cats, 79 species of amphibians and reptiles, 226 bird species and an extremely diverse and unique flora.
It was only through collaboration that this project was successful. This exemplifies how conducting collaborative, interdisciplinary science is critical for successful conservation.