Dr. Jorge Ahumada
Dr. Jorge Ahumada
I am a tropical ecologist with over twenty-five years of experience working in tropical forests globally. I was born in Bogotá, Colombia and lived most of my childhood in the city and away from nature, but as a teenager I became fascinated with oceans, fish and coral reefs. I picked this up from watching Jacques Cousteau’s TV series where he and his crew traveled and discovered new and interesting species all over the world. I then decided to study Biology as a major to eventually become a marine biologist. However, all this changed after a university field trip course to the cloud forests in northern Colombia in 1986. I had never been in a “real” forest with so much diversity and incredible birds. Over the next few years, I worked with other researchers in the Colombian Amazon studying spider monkeys and birds.
After completing my education in Colombia, I traveled to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Barro Colorado Island, Panama to study spider monkeys. I met many graduate students and scientists that encouraged me to go to graduate school in the United States. Finally, in 1990 I was awarded a fellowship to complete my Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolution at Princeton University. I worked with tropical wrens (similar to the house wren), studying their reproductive behavior in unpredictable environments in the Caribbean.
I have spent the last 10 years of my career working on applied aspects of ecology that are key to conservation. After a brief tenure as a Professor at Universidad Javeriana in Colombia, I came back to the U.S. to work in modeling tropical forest plant communities, avian malaria in Hawaiian birds, and climate-driven models of mosquito dynamics. Six years ago I started working for Conservation International as the Technical Director of the TEAM Network. Since then, I have continued to use my expertise as a scientist to understand the effects of climate change and land use change on tropical forests, but now at a global scale. This is a fascinating area of research, because for the first time ecological data in tropical forests is becoming publicly accessible to everyone who needs it. I consider myself very lucky to be able to do this work, manage a network of 16 sites and contribute to the conservation of tropical forests.