An Independent School • Grades 5-12

Sophia Wood '13: Communications and conservation

Communications and conservation  |  Chile and Ecuador

Bill Aviles | Courtesy Sophia Wood ’13

On the Sani Reserve in the Amazon rainforest, Sophia Wood ’13 helps survey vegetation to estimate carbon sequestration. The bagre yura leaf comes from a tree with edible fruit; its bark can be used as a poultice to help coagulate open wounds.

October 2018

By Paula Bock

Life journey: In the year since graduating from Georgetown University, I’ve lived in four different countries. After working in conservation in Fiji and joining a startup in Colombia, I settled into a communications role for Magma Partners, a seed-stage venture capital firm in Santiago, Chile, where I work 10 months of the year. From June to August, I am based deep in the Amazon rainforest, where I manage a 50-person conservation research project for Operation Wallacea to help the Sani indigenous people resist pressures to exploit oil on their land. I have wanted to live and work abroad since participating in Lakeside’s GSL Senegal program.

On the dilemma posed by rare, poisonous snakes

In Ecuador, our team works closely with eight local men from the Sani community who guide scientists during data collection surveys, sharing a small camp and spending long days walking and canoeing through the Amazon. One of our guides lives deep within the jungle and frequently finds large, venomous snakes outside his house. Despite working for a conservation project alongside international scientists, including a herpetologist, his family often kills the snakes because of the danger they pose to the community. Our guide’s father recently stepped on a very rare bushmaster (the world’s largest pit viper), which his mother promptly killed with a stick before it could strike anyone in their family.

Just two days later, his brother killed another bushmaster (pit viper) as it tried to crawl into his canoe on the Napo River. Sophia wood '13

Living with no internet or cell service, and about four hours from the nearest hospital by speedboat, there is no room for unnecessary risks in the Amazon. It is frustrating to see the community kill rare wildlife; however, these actions show the importance of involving local stakeholders in conservation efforts since they are the ones who bear the burden of conserving wildlife.

Biggest misconception about Chile before moving there

Augusto Pinochet tortured, exiled, and killed thousands of people who threatened his conservative regime, so I did not expect to run into many modern-day supporters who wish Chile would return to the far right. I once sat in a taxi where the driver told me Chile was much better under Pinochet and was falling apart under then- President Michelle Bachelet, who was letting crime run rampant.

Travel Tip

Visit in December or February. Spend a few days in Santiago to get a feel for daily life in the capital. Take a week to explore the Lakes Region — especially all the towns and volcanoes around Lake Llanquihue.

This article was first published in the Fall/Winter 2018 Lakeside magazine. Paula Bock is innovation and communications strategist for Mobilizing Myanmar, an initiative leveraging Burma’s smartphone revolution to connect women and the poor with economic opportunity. She’s the mom of a Lakeside 10th grader.