“The world’s last great ecosystem was disappearing before my eyes.”

In the early 1990s, Ivan Gayler, a San Diego businessman, was traveling with his daughter in South America. Flying over the Amazon, he saw a web of logging roads and fires burning lush forests. “The world’s last great ecosystem was disappearing before my eyes,” he said. The sight brought him to tears and moved him to action, and Nature and Culture International was born.

After this experience, Ivan looked for an opportunity to save a significant area of tropical rainforest. He found that opportunity in southern Ecuador when he met a group of local conservationists who wanted to establish a joint reserve and scientific field station. By chance, he also met a representative of the German Research Foundation, a university consortium that was seeking to develop a tropical forest research program in Latin America. Ivan covered the costs of building the new research center, which would be run by Ecuadorian staff and led by Renzo Paladines, NCI’s Vice President, to house the program.

Ivan brings an abundance of passion, curiosity, and inspiration to our work. From the beginning, he recognized that conservation needed to happen at the local level, and NCI now boasts an incredible team of over 150 local conservationists, legal professionals and mapping experts working to save critical ecosystems throughout Latin America.

Click here to read more about Ivan’s conservation dream in the San Diego Union Tribune.