Florencia Pech Cardenas
I am a Botanist and an indigenous woman from the Yucatecan Maya ethnia. My lifelong passion for studying largely stems from my background; I come from an economically disadvantaged family. Thus, being able to finance my studies proved a relentless challenge. My pursuit of strong grades, my continual interest to study, and economic limitations were all factors which motivated me to apply for scholarships, and other financial resources. I am proud to say that all of my academic work, all of my international travel for conferences and research projects, and more have been financed by scholarships which I have tirelessly pursued.
I got my Undergraduate degree in Biology from the Autonomous University of Yucatán in México. My initial research experiences started in the field of the cultivation of plants among indigenous communities. This includes among Mayan communities from which both sides of my family can trace their roots. I immersed in studying the floral biodiversity and sustainability of family gardens in the Maya Region of the Yucatan Peninsula. This made me realize how a healthy ecosystem needs to integrate human and natural systems alike.
I also worked as a research assistant in the Department of Ecosystem Management at the School of the Southern Border in Chiapas, México. This experience allowed me to learn theoretical concepts and field practices alike in agroecology. Ultimately, to learn about restoration and revaluation practices found in indigenous ecosystem knowledge. My months in Chiapas culminated in participative research and developing curricula to teach nutrition and agroecology in school gardens. By the end of my position with the School of the Southern Border in Chiapas, I felt more ready to study and implement best community practices for ecosystem conservation.
I did my Master’s degree in Natural Resources in the Scientific Research Center of Yucatán. By the time of my Master’s thesis, I researched the state and range of native bromeliad species across Mexico, including their roles in native communities.
Later, I assisted in the 2015 Conservation Botany and Ethnography Field School in Yaxunah, Yucatan, Mexico under the leadership of Dr. Grace Bascope and Will McClatchey of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas-Maya Research Program. Their insights and the whole experience strengthened my skills sets and informed my approach to future botany field research. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to conduct a research project for the community which brought together technical skills of botanical research with community organizing skills.
My current research interests focus on the study of dry tropical forest ecosystems with goals of developing conservation strategies and to contribute to the sustainable development for such regions. This means not only looking at restoring natural resources, but also restoring and revaluing traditional ecological knowledge from indigenous communities who inhabit these regions. My specific interests focus on: 1) Analyzing sustainable management strategies in order to propose initiatives which conserve natural resources in tropical dry forests; 2) Evaluating the state of conservation and risks of extinction among native plant species, and; 3) The study of natural resource use among indigenous communities, which will thus motivate the restoration and revaluation of traditional knowledge.