INPA students report from Xixuau
January 25 2019
Reporting from Xixuau
When describing the forests I work in I tend to shy away from using loaded words like "pristine" and "wild". The first implies that the end result of human occupation is always degradation of the "natural" world (to use another loaded word) while the second denies a place for humans in "nature". Anthropologists and archeologists have debunked the myth of the "pristine Amazon" and where one draws the boundary between "natural" and "human" is a matter of personal choice. The bottom line is, however, that renouncing these words would make the task of describing my experience in Xixuaú unnecessarily complicated and long-winded, so I will just go ahead and say it... Xixuaú is a pristine and wild place.
It seems to me a place where a single community of simple folk have recognized the importance of forests that surround them and strive to live within the means of the very special ecosystem in which they live. They do this through a combination of ecotourism, scientific tourism, and extraction. From the perspective of a scientist I was very pleased, both with the quality of the forests which they protect and the services (internet, sleeping accommodations, and laboratory space) which they provide. My own work was greatly facilitated by excellent local guides and their willingness, even eagerness, to work in difficult conditions. Beyond this, I was able to offer two of my students what I believe will prove to be a life-changing experience for them.
The human and natural capital which Xixuaú already possesses should make this place a unique destination for future investigators of the natural world that is "off the map" and distinct from the handful of over trodden biological stations where most research is undertaken these days. Indeed, Xixuaú fills an important void, making research in this remote, very underexplored region feasible. In the end, I imagine that this community will only continue to grow in its commitment to the forests it occupies, and I hope that more scientific investigators can contribute by making Xixuaú one of their destinations. The willingness to conserve and protect nature is already deeply embedded in this community, ensuring that facilities for scientists will continue to expand and that future investigators will be received with open arms, as I was.
Ethan Householder, PhD