The Tropical Conservation and Development (TCD) Program at the University of Florida was established more than two decades ago in recognition that socio-ecological systems are inherently complex and inter-connected. Consequently, solutions to conserving biological diversity and improving human well-being require integrative and novel approaches that transcend traditional academic disciplinary boundaries. Further, it requires individuals with practical skills who embrace working in teams with diverse stakeholders to define, tackle, and solve complex problems. In the next decades, the stresses on socio-ecological systems are very likely to increase due to a number of factors, many of which are coupled through complex feedback loops. For example, actions taken by local, state, and global actors impact the earth’s systems, such as through drivers of climate change, and such changes in climate impact development through their effects on water resources, abundance/distribution of key ecosystem service providers, energy demands, food production, disease vectors, among others. Understanding the linkages between socio-ecological systems, predicting system responses and ability of these systems to resist change or adapt to stress and disturbance, and managing these systems for sustainability are grand challenges facing society.
TCD is designed to prepare the next generation to address these grand challenges. Our mission is to bridge theory and practice to advance biodiversity conservation, sustainable resource use, and human well-being in the tropics. The TCD program attracts students and faculty from across more than 20 academic units on the University of Florida campus and provides inter-disciplinary coursework, field experiences in conservation and development, and practical skills for students to become effective environmental leaders. The TCD network is large, with more than 400 alumni working in conservation and development fields throughout the world. The challenges ahead for the program will be to continually assess the priorities and needs at multiple scales and remain at the forefront in adapting the program and its novel learning-action platform to best respond to society’s environmental challenges. Success will depend on catalyzing and leveraging TCD’s diversity, resources, and partnerships to build an active learning community of committed scientists and practitioners, working in concert with a variety of stakeholders, to address socio-ecological problems that threaten biodiversity conservation and prevent improvement in livelihood of people that directly or indirectly depend on natural resources.
We invite you to become more familiar with the TCD program and look forward to any comments or questions you might have about the program.
Director, Tropical Conservation and Development Program