Discovering Research Opportunities in Quito, Ecuador


The objective of my trip was twofold: (1) to conduct a preliminary analysis of land cover, soil properties, and precipitation in select watersheds in areas on the outskirts of Quito, Ecuador and (2) to build connections in Quito that would enable future research in the region. Prior to undertaking this trip, I had experience teaching in Mexico and Honduras, and leading field research trips to Ecological Research sites owned by the University of California. I built on this experience in Ecuador and in planning my trip I worked closely with Berkeley-based nonprofit International Watershed Partners (IWP), Quito water supply and wastewater management agency Empresa Pública Metropolitana de Agua Potable y Saneamiento (EPMAPS), and the research branch of EPMAPS, Fondo para la Protección del Agua (FONAG). Once in the field, I documented land cover characteristics and collected soil, water quality and meteorological data. I identified urban expansion and erosion as primary concerns which pose environmental threats to this region. Streams in urban watersheds are typically subject to increased streamflow, erosion, and water quality issues compared to streams in natural watersheds. In agriculture and grazing areas, erosion is a major threat that results in the loss of fertile topsoil and degrades the productivity of farmland. Ongoing urbanization in this region will likely increase food demand and reduce the availability of farm land, intensifying these harmful processes. There were challenges along the way. For instance, data acquisition was more difficult than I anticipated, both in terms of obtaining datasets from agencies in Quito and collecting field data myself. I also learned that planning has limitations, and it is important to adjust quickly to changing circumstances while on international research projects. I have submitted a report to FONAG which documents my work. The agency has interest in sponsoring me for future research, and we will work to identify appropriate projects that are mutually beneficial. The data that I have collected will be valuable for any future work I conduct in Quito.

Gopal Penny
Publication date: 
September 25, 2013
Publication type: 
Student Research