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Colin Arisman

Natural resources major

Colin Arisman

UVM senior Colin Arisman, a natural resources major and Honors College student, wrote an honors thesis that will live on after he's left university life. Arisman's work in the Intag Cloud Forest in Ecuador influences farming practices in a place where the impacts of agriculture are of critical importance.

Related ...

  • Arisman's work attracted the attention of Earth Economics, a Washington state-based non-profit devoted to researching and implementing economically viable and environmentally sound solutions to problems around the world. They've helped advise Arisman's work and have shown interest in his proposal.
  • Natural resources program
  • UVM Honors College

"Saving the rainforest" was no doubt the dream for many children of the '90s, but Arisman used his senior thesis as an opportunity to explore a set of promising solutions for the negative effects of farming in biological hotspots like Intag.

Following a two-week, UVM travel study course "The Politics of Land Use in Ecuador," Arisman took three months "off" from his time at UVM to stay in Intag, work in a farming cooperative, study Spanish and conduct research for the thesis that would fulfill his work as an Honors College student when he returned to campus.

His work is based on research his adviser Professor Joshua Farley has been conducting in Brazil -- specifically, how payment for ecosystems services, coupled with agroecology, can mitigate damage to the environment. When Arisman approached Farley to advise his thesis, Farley suggested researching this possibility in another locale.

Arisman says it was important to him not just to work from afar -- conducting research at the library, and finishing the thesis without ever having touched the soil he would spend so long studying -- and instead see firsthand the practices employed by farmers in Intag. This perspective was perhaps shaped by another travel study course he took in 2010 to the Dominican Republic.

"I'm very interested in where environmental conservation and social justice meet," says Arisman. "Finding solutions that benefit people and the environment is a very promising idea to me."

By traveling to and living in Ecuador, Arisman was able to see how Farley's ideas could work -- and already were working -- in Intag. "The most central part of my project was already occurring on the local level," Arisman says, acknowledging the agroecological movement already growing in the region. "My thesis is a lot more about communicating their success."

His advisor holds high hopes for Arisman: "I think his work will have a real impact," Farley says.