Isabella Bovolo

Guyana means “land of many waters” in a native Amerindian language, but it also houses one of the most pristine rainforests left in existence, the Iwokrama. In 1996, Guyana and the Commonwealth of Nations established an organization of the same name. According to Iwokrama resident scientist Isabella Bovolo, the organization aims to fill large data gaps to learn more about the inter-linkages between the vegetation, climate, and biodiversity in the Guyana Shield, as well as the local and regional impacts of climate change and deforestation.

Throughout her career, Bovolo has spent time researching in various areas of the earth sciences. Now, her two main areas of focus include climate and hydrology. “The Iwokrama Forest is in a key geographical position for studying the complex interactions between climate and vegetation,” Bovolo says. To determine if the savannah belt — which separates the coastal area of Guyana from the upper Amazon Basin — will change in size due to the projected changes in climate, Iwokrama quantifies atmospheric circulation, water cycling, and precipitation over time. Bovolo examines the water cycle in small rivers, characterizing the hydrological response of the landscape and looking at nutrient cycling.

Bovolo also works closely with local communities, empowering them to develop eco-tourism, monitor illegal activities such as river mining and dredging, and share their stories through photos and videos. Bovolo says Iwokrama is a model for other countries with its creative conservation practices. “It is a practical approach,” Bovolo says. “And one which blends research, people, and business to the sustainable management of rainforests.”

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