Our Team

Fabricio Camacho Céspedes

I am a Costa Rican licensed forester. My professional expertise is landscape restoration through agroforestry. My main professional interest is to develop innovations for the sustainable intensification of forestry and agriculture in the mountainous tropics. I am also interested in tropical dendrology and had the honor to publish a book about the Trees of Cabo Blanco, the first protected area of Costa Rica (which was established in 1963). 

More recently, I have become interested in agroecology, the science of applying ecological principals to agriculture and forestry. In this line of work, I have developed and implemented several innovations on our campus, including the production and utilization of cultures of native soil Effective Microorganisms for the biological enhancement of agricultural systems and the bio-optimization of organic fertilizers. I have also developed a new model of anaerobic digesters for the decontamination of waste water derived from animal farms. These new digesters not only effectively remove the pollution contained in the wastewater by converting the volatile solids into biogas that can be used as a biofuel, but also reduce the risk of infection of pathogens. Additionally, they produce biofertilizers, including the floccular sludge that precipitate in the reactor and can be extracted for incorporation into agricultural systems. 

All of my work is done in collaboration with farmers, scientists and experts from Costa Rica and other parts of the world. I am currently affiliated with the Center for Agricultural Research at the University of Costa Rica and the Institute of Soil Science at Leibniz University of Hannover, Germany.

My work at UGA consists of managing and administering the campus (30 staff members, 153-acre property with forest reserve, integrated farm and campus infrastructure, US $1.5 million yearly operating budget), mentoring sustainable agriculture students, and research.

Visit my Research Page

 

José Joaquín Montero Ramírez

I am a Costa Rican biologist who has been studying the butterflies and moths of Costa Rica for the past 16 years. I worked for 13 years as the curator in charge of the butterfly and moth collection at Costa Rica's National Biodiversity Institute (INBio). My research has primarily focused on the natural history and ecology of Lepidoptera, DNA barcodes and taxonomy. I have published two books (Butterflies and Moths of Costa Rica and Manual para el Manejo de Mariposarios) and various scientific papers related to Lepidoptera. I am currently writing my third book about the butterflies of San Luis of Monteverde.

My work consists mainly in the coordination of three areas: research, teaching and internships. In the area of research, I help professors, students, and independent researchers secure research permits. I also assist them with aspects related to equipment and laboratory use, as well as advice on field work. With regard to teaching, I facilitate the training of staff to maintain a standard in the quality of information we share with our students and guests. I also collaborate with teachers to design and implement classes and workshops for various academic programs, using the butterflies and moths as a case study. In the case of internships, I lead and mentor a team of resident naturalists, as well as interns in other disciplines (water quality, photojournalism) - a group which includes both graduate and undergraduate students.

 

Joyce Leiton Evans

Joyce Leitón currently serves as Academic Programs Coordinator at UGA Costa Rica (UGACR). Born and raised in San Luis, Joyce attended the Quaker School in Monteverde and spent much of her childhood on her family’s coffee and dairy farm. Joyce is of both American and Costa Rican descent. Her father is Costa Rican and her mother, originally a Wisconsin native, moved to Costa Rica in 1985.

Prior to joining the UGACR team, Joyce primarily worked in tourism. Channeling her coffee farm roots, she first worked as a guide at Café Monteverde, a local coffee cooperative, and later continued on to work at a local travel agency. Joyce began working at UGACR in January of 2015 as Reservations & Logistics Coordinator, where she was able to leverage her contacts and extensive knowledge of the San Luis and greater Monteverde areas.

 

Martha Garro Cruz

I grew up in the Monteverde area, specifically in Santa Elena and San Luis, where I currently live. I studied Tourism and Natural Resource Management. In the past I have worked as a tour guide, as an environmental educator, and as a research assistant for bird and plant studies. Currently I am part of some community groups in San Luis that deal with social and environmental issues; for example, I have been a Zumba instructor for several years with the “Monteverde en Movimiento” program, which strives to reduce health issues in local populations and to promote a healthy lifestyle through physical exercise. I am currently continuing my education in Natural Resource Management. 

I work as an Academic Programs Facilitator, specifically regarding research and internships. I collaborate with different research projects related to the study of birds, mammals, water quality, butterflies among others. As the Head Naturalist, I also facilitate the recruitment and training of Resident Naturalists and other interns, to maintain a standard in the quality of information we share with our students, professors and guests. I also handle the organization and logistics of the academic and extracurricular activities that we offer.

 

Daniel Leitón

I have been working at UGACR since December 2015. I love being part of this team!

Born and raised in San Luis, I attended the Cloud Forest School in Monteverde before returning to work in San Luis at UGA. My familiarity with the area is a crucial addition for the campus. Students and interns know me for my savvy with all of the inner workings and facilities at UGACR, which gives me the ability to point visitors in the right direction.

Outside the office, I can be found playing soccer or helping out on my family's farm. My family is an integral part not only of local business, but of the volunteerwork around the community and local school as well. I will take extra time to support your understanding and integration into our community.

 

Ernest Minnema

I am an Independent Researcher and Resident Naturalist on the UGA Costa Rica campus. Originally from The Netherlands, I have nourished my fascination for forests by focusing my work on the tropics. I was born in to an adventurous family who both encouraged and enabled their children to travel. My extensive travels to many corners of the world provide me with the inspiration to continue to cross borders, even in the world of research. Living by the motto, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”, I have created a list of experiences that ranges from working in the Amazon rain forest to traveling to South East Asia.

During 10 years as a biological field technician and naturalist, I have accumulated a wealth of field experience in different habitats in Brazil, Guyana, the Caribbean, Australia, New Caledonia, Panama and Costa Rica. These experiences have strengthened my passion for the tropics and its forests in specific. My whole life I have enjoyed climbing trees to escape the world below and I never stopped doing so, although the techniques have become a bit more refined over the years. In my research on the UGA campus I am able to put these skills to good use.

My long-term interest in arachnids and herpetology has followed me throughout all of my travels, even to previously unexplored areas of the Amazon. Multiple stints throughout the tropics have given me a well-rounded understanding of animals and habitats in many areas of the world.

As a Resident Naturalist I educate our visitors on a variety of subjects ranging from sustainability to specific information about certain animal taxons. This knowledge is transferred in both indoor (classes and workshops) and outdoor (guided hikes and other tours) on our property. 

As a naturalist, my intention is always to entertain and educate at the same time. This isn’t such a hard feat when you spend time studying how each individual species has a characteristic that makes it a true wonder of the world. Together with my sense of adventure, optimism and approachability this makes me feel right at home bridging the gap between science and our visitors.

Besides these responsibilities as naturalist, I focus on my own T.A.C.T. project (Terrestrial and Arboreal Camera Trapping). It’s a resourceful mix of using the camera trap and tree climbing skills I have gathered over the years to create a unique project that aims to generate baseline knowledge about the vertical stratification of mammal communities in the tropics.

 

Virgilio Brenes

Virgilio Brenes has served as the Business Manager of the UGA Costa Rica Campus for over 12 years, following 11 years in financial management at the Monteverde Institute.

In addition to his professional career, Virgilio has dedicated significant time over the years to community involvement and leadership, serving in capacities that include: Member of the Community Board which negotiated with federal government representatives to successfully bring telephones, electricity, and roads to the community of San Luis and a leader of the Aqueduct Committee which coordinated the effort to bring equitable and dependable water to all inhabitants of San Luis.

Virgilio is an enthusiastic ambassador for his native Costa Rica and for all that UGACR is doing to share its wealth of research and knowledge with the broader world community.