Our Staff

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C-Flores_bio photo1Cesar Flores is Director of the Cocha Cashu Biological Station and of San Diego Zoo Global Peru. He initiated his research career in Cocha Cashu in 1986, exploring the phenology of squirrel monkey fruit diets. Since then he has remained connected to the Park and the station, carrying out research in plant ecology, and assisting with Park guard training programs. Cesar is a Peruvian, certified forestry engineer, graduated from the la Molina National Agrarian University (1988), holding a Master of Forest Science from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental studies (1995), and currently working on his Ph.D. dissertation on the regeneration ecology of tropical lowland cedars. His interests range from plant establishment and eco-physiology, insect –plant interactions, and tropical soils, to forest management for ecosystem services (eco-hydrology being his most recent undertaking).

T11_0585_172Dutch biologist Jessica Groenendijk first travelled to Manu National Park as co-leader of two Imperial College University expeditions in 1993 and 1994. After obtaining a Masters in Aquatic Resource Management at King’s College University, Jessica returned to Manu in 1999, working for the Frankfurt Zoological Society to implement applied research and conservation activities for the giant otter, including site plans for management of human activities in giant otter habitats (Cocha Cashu amongst others), in close collaboration with Peruvian authorities, other NGOs, and local people. She also monitored the demography of key populations of the species in Madre de Dios, and catalysed the development of monitoring standards across the species distribution range, working together with otter conservationists from 8 countries.

Between 2006 and 2008, Jessica was Technical Advisor to the Frankfurt Zoological Society’s North Luangwa Conservation Programme in Zambia. Here she was responsible for the monitoring of the introduced black rhino population; networking and fundraising for a third rhino translocation in May 2008; and managing the NLCP Conservation Education Programme, involving 9 schools in the adjacent Game Management Areas.

Jessica is co-author of a popular/scientific book Giants of the Madre de Dios (2006), is currently working on a second book about giant otters and their conservation (to be published in February 2019), and has written several articles in popular magazines such as BBC Wildlife, Africa Geographic, and Earth Island Journal. As Communications Coordinator for Cocha Cashu, Jessica is responsible for promoting the Station and its activities to a national and international audience through a range of media, including this website and our Facebook page.

T11_0585_065Peruvian economist Verónica Chávez has a broad experience in administrative and logistical management of the Cocha Cashu Biological Station, for which she has worked for the last 12 years. She is responsible for the preparation of budgets, coordination of visitor schedules and travel logistics, purchasing of general supplies and fuel, and meeting the many requirements of Cocha Cashu’s researchers and staff. She also facilitates the vital process of obtaining research permits, working closely with the Peruvian Park Service (SERNANP). She loves nature and feels personally committed to the research and conservation of biodiversity.

_7PC6690-reducedDr. Roxana Arauco-Aliaga is both the Research Coordinator of Cocha Cashu Biological Station and its in situ administrator. She participates in scientific events and programs of the station, and is one of the key players in the organization and implementation of the annual “Tropical Ecology and Field Techniques Course” at Cashu. As the administrator, she works to make sure that our staff, researchers, students, and all visitors at this remote location have the basics (and more) to carry out their research, and enjoy their visit and their lives at Cashu. 

Southeast Peru has been the focus of much of her work as a scientist. Her love and passion for Amazonian rainforests began in 2000 when she joined, for 7 months, the resident naturalist program operating at the Explorer’s Inn in Tambopata. From then on, by working as a guide, field assistant, monitoring biologist, BBC film location scout, PhD student, and recently, as a biological station field manager in 2013, she has regularly made her way back to Southeast Peru, including Tambopata, Bahuaja Sonene, Madre de Dios river, Los Amigos, and Manu. Her more than 10 years of experience relevant to tropical forests and conservation (tourism, research, large scale monitoring programs and education), together with her scientific background have provided her with opportunities to look at and learn from different realities and perspectives and have shaped her vision about the complexities of the economic and social context of an Amazonian rainforest. Roxana is a Peruvian biologist interested in evolution, community, population, and behavioral ecology, with a special focus on tropical ecosystems and collective behavior. She is a bachelor from the National University Federico Villarreal (Lima), with a PhD in Ecology and Evolution from the University of Utah, and a postdoc from Stanford University. 

Dr. Ron Swaisgood serves San Diego Zoo Global as the Brown Endowed Director of Applied Animal Ecology. He also heads the Giant Panda Conservation Unit and is the General Scientific Director of Cocha Cashu Biological Station in Manu National Park in the Peruvian Amazon. Ron earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior from the University of California, Davis. Trained as a field biologist, Ron supervises a number of conservation science programs, primarily in California, Mexico, China, South Africa and Peru. These include (1) ecological and behavioral research programs for several bear and other mammalian species (2) population monitoring and adaptive management programs for local bird, reptile and amphibian species; and (3) translocation/reintroduction programs for several species such as kangaroo rats, owls, rhinoceros, condors, tortoises, and frogs. Some of these programs have endured for over a decade. In this capacity, he supervises field teams on three continents and has developed and implemented a number of international collaborations.

Most of Ron’s research experience focuses on using ecological and behavioral theory to address critical conservation questions, using science as a tool for improved conservation management, and with most projects involving single species conservation in a broader ecosystem context. Habitat evaluation and in some cases restoration is a critical part of these programs. The latest technologies, ranging from GPS satellite collars to remote video surveillance, combined with the extensive laboratory resources available at ICR, are employed to answer key ecological questions with conservation implications.

The Zoo’s giant panda program, headed by Ron, has been one of the ICR’s largest, most collaborative international programs, involving multiple partnerships with universities, zoos, and governments. The California condor is another example, where long-term efforts, including establishment of a field station in partnership with several Mexican agencies, have contributed to the recovery of a critically endangered species throughout much of its former range.

More recently, Dr. Swaisgood has increasingly focused the division’s conservation science efforts in Peru. In addition to Cocha Cashu, he supervises a large-scale program on Andean bear ecology and conservation, in collaboration with Spectacled Bear Conservation; and an Amazonian population ecology program, in collaboration with WWF, designed to use large mammals as indicators of ecosystem function and to facilitate conservation planning and management.

Karla Ramirez is the Field Educator of CCBS. She studied Biology and has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand. She has a special interest in social and political processes in the conservation of natural resources, including environmental education. Her adventurous spirit has led her to participate in several volunteer programs, with emphasis on environmental education, in Peru, England, and Kenya. She has also consulted in Peru and New Zealand involving different NGOs, social enterprises, and an itinerant science museum. She believes that participatory methods in education for conservation are key to the collaboration between science and interculturality.

Ahnel Zelaya studied environmental engineering at the Universidad Nacional Agraria de la Selva – Tingo María, in Huánuco. She is our professional environmental education practitioner, and supports the efforts of the San Diego Zoo Global Peru team to enhance, in schools in nearby communities, the knowledge, appreciation, and love for nature she herself feels, through field workshops that promote respect, conservation, and the connection of knowledge of nature with research developed inside and outside the Station. She is happy to work in such a special area as Manu, with people who are very informed about different areas of science and natural resources, and where every day there is a flood of new information.

Fortunato Rayan Perez works at Cocha Cashu since 2009. In the early years he worked as a boatdriver, participating in various projects. In the course of his work he realized he was in a paradise of flora and fauna, and in this aroused his passion for photography, because photography is a very important instrument to convey images of the natural world to the general public. He believes that photography is a tool that is complemented by the work done by scientists, and hopes his images do their bit to contribute to the protection of nature. Since 2016, Fortunato holds the position of Administrative Assistant at the Cocha Cashu Biological Station.

Eloy Ochoa is a professional rainforest adventure chef, with experience in Manu National Park since 1997. He has worked for several years at Cocha Cashu, preparing healthy, balanced, and nutritious food for our researchers, course students, and Station staff. He is part of research and conservation efforts, and also loves and protects nature.