San Francisco Scientific Station

Our research center is devoted to generating a wide array of ecosystem and social information, and training promising young Ecuadorian and international scientists in the conservation of high priority tropical mountain ecosystems in southern Ecuador.

Our San Francisco Scientific Station is set in a region where Amazonia, the high Andes and the paramo converge – three of the world’s highest priority conservation areas. In fact, the station is located in the “hottest of hotspots” at the lowest elevation portion of the Andes, known as the Huancabamba Depression.

Over 300 peer reviewed publications have been generated by international and Ecuadorian researchers, providing useful information for local farmers and communities, government officials, and policy makers regarding conservation and development. Previous to this effort, decisions impacting the ecosystems as well as the cultures and communities of Ecuador’s southern Andes were often made based on incomplete information.

The research facility is easily accessible and is within about 20 miles of Loja, the capitol city of the Loja Province. The station can accommodate up to 35 researchers at a time and offers ample work space, meals, Internet access, a nursery production area, a comfortable dining hall, radio communication, an herbarium, a computer laboratory, telephone access, and a 15 kilometer network of footpaths to diverse research sites inside the forest reserve. There is a full time administrative and support staff available to help researchers with logistics, materials and the locating of potential research sites.

In 1997, the German Research Foundation began a research program at the station, and in 2007 the Foundation renewed its lease expanding its multidisciplinary research program aimed at understanding ecosystem components and processes. The new program, “Biodiversity and Sustainable Management of a Megadiverse Mountain Ecosystem in Southern Ecuador,” is focused on linking research to effective conservation management actions. Researchers are currently examining a number of potential sustainable land use strategies within the forest network, and are developing models for evaluating various conservation and development scenarios. The research program is currently the German government’s most important scientific program outside its territory.

We are applying this research by serving as a facilitator of information for communities and policy makers in regards to decisions on land use and forest management. We place particular emphasis on educating decision makers about the benefits of forest conservation and the free ecosystem services that the forests provide, such as reliable and safe water supplies.

A key component of the station is that for each research project a young Ecuadorian student is trained with the intent that these individuals will in the future assume important political positions of responsibility in regards to ecosystem management, conservation, research and education in Ecuador.