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Newest Fellow Aireona Bonnie Raschke Researches Ecotourism Development in the Caribbean through the Whale Watching Industry in the Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo, February 11, 2016

“There are opportunities to strengthen relationship between China and Dominican Republic through Chinese diaspora”, GFDD Fellow Yuan Li says

The Fellows Program, an initiative of GFDD and FUNGLODE, is happy to introduce its latest scholar Aireona Bonnie Raschke, PhD candidate in Biology and Society at Arizona State University. Aireona’s research focuses on ecotourism development and the whale watching industry in the Caribbean, and its effect on native cetacean species and local communities in the Dominican Republic. Her field work through the Fellows Program will be conducted over the spring and summer of 2016.

About Aireona
Aireona holds a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona. She is currently a PhD candidate at Arizona State University, working with Dr. Ann Kinzig as her supervisor.

She is interested in studying the connection and potential synergies between conservation, human well-being and economic development. Urban ecology, ecosystem services, integrated conservation and development projects are topics that Aireona has studied during her time at ASU.

Her PhD dissertation is focused on whale watching ecotourism development in the Caribbean, and its effect on native cetacean species and local communities. During the course of this project, she will be investigating local perceptions of the whale watching industry, the relationship between various country characteristics and whale watching's economic success, and the varying vulnerability of different cetacean species to the impacts of whale watching.

About the Research
As a GFDD/Funglode fellow, Aireona will be focused on gathering data on local perceptions of the whale watching industry through the use of qualitative interviews. During the course of this work she will be interviewing local people in communities with whale watching businesses, as well as whale watch operators, relevant government officials and NGO employees. Mixed, qualitative methods will then be used to analyze the interviews and produce a narrative about the current state of local relationships surrounding whale watching in the Dominican Republic. The potential for collaboration and conflict will be highlighted during the course of this work, and then coupled for comparison with information from a preliminary study looking at the same thing in Dominica.

Aireona will complete her fellowship under the guidance of her in-country advisor, Mr. Oswaldo Vasquez, whale and dolphin conservationist with the Ministry of Environment in the Dominican Republic.

About the Fellows Program
The Fellows Program was developed in 2009 to respond to the  desire of GFDD and FUNGLODE to develop a community of scholars that contributes to the Foundations’ growing body of research on matters of international concern that directly impact the Dominican Republic, complementing the overall mission of GFDD and FUNGLODE to promote academic exchange, generate scholarship, and influence the creation of public policy related to economic and social development both at the national and international level.

Through The Fellows Program, GFDD and FUNGLODE seek to generate scholarship on issues at the forefront of the United Nations’ agenda in order to give voice to national and regional concerns and offer viable solutions to domestic and international challenges.

The Fellows Program provides opportunities for M.S., M.A. and Ph.D. candidates interested in conducting high-level research in the Dominican Republic on issues related to sustainable development. The final output of the investigation is a comprehensive report which includes empirical data. Fellows realize research in coordination with GFDD and FUNGLODE staff, National Advisor and their university professors. Fellows that carry-out exemplary work have the opportunity to present their findings before the United Nations community on behalf of GFDD and FUNGLODE.