International Society of Tropical Foresters hosts 28th Annual Conference


The International Society of Tropical Foresters hosts its 28th annual conference focused on restoration and recovery in the tropics.

staff reporter

Courtesy of Ryan Smith

The 28th annual conference, hosted by the International Society of Tropical Foresters (ISTF), kicked off Thursday and will bring together attendees and panellists from over 90 nations online to discuss the restoration and restoration of landscapes in the tropics.

This year’s ISTF conference, organized by students from the Yale School of the Environment, will focus on the theme “Rethinking Restoration and Recovery: Landscapes of the Past, Present, and Future in the Tropics”. Attendees will explore topics ranging from metrics to finance in the context of tropical forestry and the COVID-19 pandemic. While the conference, which is normally held in person at Kroon Hall, was originally intended to be held in a hybrid format, it will now be held virtually due to the surge in COVID-19 cases around the world.

“In this conference we try to raise other voices that come from practice, like people working in projects, indigenous communities, people with knowledge and sometimes it’s hard for them to be here,” Co-Chair of the conference, Claudia Ochoa ENV ’22 said. “That is what this conference is about. It’s about making sure everyone has a voice, that everyone can learn, share and have some time to think.”

Ochoa, an environmental advocate from Peru, first attended an ISTF conference at Yale on sustainable development in 2016 and emphasized the conference’s role in bringing people together. At a subsequent conference, she met Ryan Smith ENV ’23, who had been working in Peru with Ochoa’s mutual friends. Smith is now co-chairing the conference with her.

This year’s conference will take place on January 27-29 and will feature speakers from industry, academia, activism and other backgrounds. According to co-chair Mariana Camacho Fernandez ENV ’22, over 700 participants have registered for the free conference. Relevant issues include addressing local needs, preserving biodiversity and combating degradation. Day one’s panel discussions will focus on political ecology, tropical forest restoration and discussions on the UN Decade for Restoration.

“As a team, we try to come up with a topical theme every year,” said Camacho Fernandez. “Something really big this year is the United Nations Decade of Restoration. As we sat down as co-chairs over the summer to consider what the conference should look like, we immediately knew it needed to be related to the UN Decade of Recovery.”

This year’s conference is sponsored by the Cullman Institute, the Leitner Family Fund, the Yale MacMillan Center’s Council on Latin American & Iberian Studies, and two YSE learning communities, in addition to the Yale School of the Environment.

According to Smith, the conference should take place in a hybrid format with online participation and in-person keynotes. In a normal year, around 250 attendees normally gather at Kroon Hall, but due to the rapid increase in COVID-19 numbers, members from all over the world will now be tuning in.

“There’s a silver lining with the virtual format,” Smith said. “It makes it more accessible to more people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend… We don’t know exactly how many will attend [each session]but just by the sheer number of registrations, we already have 150 more than last year.”

Smith also emphasized the role social media plays in advertising and highlighted the work of Carolina Sánchez ENV ’23, who led the ISTF communications team in promoting the conference.

The conference will begin with an introduction by Florencia Montagnini, Director of the School of the Environment’s Tropical Forestry and Agroforestry Program and will end with closing remarks by Liza Comita, Professor of Tropical Forest Ecology.

“In general, we searched for topic variety, geographic origin, gender, race, etc.,” ENV ’22 GRD ’22 panel team member Nadeem Demian wrote in an email to the News. “Speaking specifically on behalf of the finance panel, we were specifically looking for a representative from the Emergent Forest Finance Accelerator, who has received much press in recent history for their instrumental role in supporting the LEAF (Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest Finance) coalition. someone from a government perspective and someone to help implement these funding programs ‘on the ground’ in forested countries.”

Demian expressed confidence in the panels’ ability to explain the finances of tropical forestry. He highlighted the caliber of the speakers at the conference, which include Hege Ragnhildstveit, Senior Advisor at Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, Bryan McCann, Emergent Vice President of Markets, and Juan C. Ramos, Finance and Policy Manager at EcoAgriculture Partners.

Charly Frisk ENV ’23, a member of the panel team, also noted that Minnie Degawan, a Kankanaey-Igorot indigenous person from the Philippines who contributed to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, “will contribute a lens to the panel , which puts such justice at the center and accountability that must be at the forefront of environmental efforts.”

The Yale Student Chapter of the ISTF was founded in 1989.


Hamera Shabbir covers golf and fencing for the athletic department and School of the Environment for the science and technology department. Originally from California’s Central Valley, she is a sophomore in Political Science at Branford College with an interdisciplinary focus in Environmental Studies.


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