This course to Peru was a wonderful experience. Thanks a bunch to all who were involved! I am super happy to have met everybody who participated and to have started some exciting science with them! My primary goals coming into this course were to meet new people, learn new perspectives, and get involved in collaborative research. I would say that I am very happy with how those goals have been fulfilled. I feel that we all made good friendships that will continue, we saw a lot of fascinating presentations about all the research in which we are involved, and the fire project already has a post-course plan in place!
One thing that I think I learned about myself is that I really like Latin America and Peru. After working in Costa Rica and Argentina, I had forgotten what it is like to work in Latin America with all of its diversity, both biological and cultural. I really enjoyed working with the awesome course members from Peru and other parts of Latin America and I will be trying my best to spend more time in Latin America.
I also learned that graminoids are actually very interesting! I usually try to avoid them in favor of the pretty flowers of forbs, but the challenge of recognizing the variety in graminoids is pretty exciting to me now. I will be continuing to learn about the diversity in these often-overlooked plants.
Perceptions of climate change in Peru were close to what I expected. I was impressed at how knowledgeable and concerned most people were when it came to climate change. Almost everybody we interviewed expressed concern and could cite specific examples of how they were seeing the climate change. The topic was less controversial than at home. However, after visiting Lima I wonder whether opinions might be somewhat different there. Lima is such a huge city and it felt much more disconnected from nature and farming compared to Cusco and Paucartambo, where we did our interviews. And, around 1/3 of the population of Peru lives in Lima!
Interviewing people went really well overall. While a few people were shy and didn’t want to participate, most people were happy to talk with us and curious about what we were doing. As we were doing the interviews, we did realize that we were targeting specific types of people (people spending time in the square, which tended to be people with dogs or people selling goods). I feel that we would need to expand our efforts to get a more representative sample of the populations which we surveyed, but overall, I think we have a very interesting dataset.