Ruben Dario Palacio studied biology at Icesi University (Cali, Colombia) and earned a bachelor’s degree in 2014. After being granted a Fulbright-Colciencias Ph.D. Scholarship, he started his doctoral studies in 2016 at Duke University under renowned conservationist Stuart L. Pimm (former advisor). Ruben changed advisors to National Academy member James S. Clark in early 2020 and graduated in May 2022 with a Ph.D. in Conservation Biology.
Since 2016, Dr. Palacio’s scholarly contributions amount to two book chapters and seven peer-reviewed articles, including senior authorship in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2018) on the biogeography of the tropical Andes, entirely conducted by the science team of his non-profit, Fundacion Ecotonos.
He also has a first-author paper in the flagship journal of his field, Conservation Biology (2020), analyzing over 100 years of bird extirpations and land-use change in the KBA San Antonio cloud forest, where he’s devoted most of his conservation efforts. He also published a first-author paper in Diversity and Distributions (2021), a leading journal in the subfield of conservation biogeography.
My research and conservation work has had great impact:
The study on 100 years of biodiversity change in the San Antonio cloud forest was the basis for the purchase of 53 ha of land for conservation, and the proposal to establish a biological corridor to improve habitat connectivity. To support this vital work, please go to the website of my non-profit Fundacion Ecotonos.
My research on the seed dispersal network of the San Antonio cloud forest (2016) has been cited over 60 times and helped develop further work using network analysis for community ecology in other areas of Colombia. It has also appeared in a synthesis book “Ecological Networks in the Tropics” and as a key reference on the importance of Miconia, small tropical berries that are consumed by small and large frugivores alike.
The list of the birds of Cali (2017) has inspired the creation of a new bird guide for the city and its promotion as an ecotourism destination. The study is not only of local relevance. Cali might be the city with most birds in the world
The Research on biogeographic regions in the tropical Andes (PNAS front-cover 2018) has been cited over 150 times and has been influential to increase our understanding of evolutionary patterns in the Andes.
My work in 2015 restoring the habitat of the endangered Dahl’s Toad-headed Turtle has been the basis for an ongoing successful conservation project for the species, managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
The Quest for Truth is a Sacred Pursuit - Cloud Forests are heaven on Earth - Conservation is the Wildly important - Honor and Skin in the Game.
A Man of No Rank
I dislike academia’s obsession with credentials (publications and awards). It creates the wrong incentives and reduces the value that research can have on the world.
“I trust those who are greedy for money a thousand times more than those who are greedy for credentials.” – Nassim Taleb
Instead, I focus on making a contribution. My mission is to protect nature, not trying to get tenured. Sadly, I am in the minority camp. Many conservation biologists have spent decades writing detailed obituaries for species, wasting valuable resources instead of doing things to solve the problem.
“little to no credit is given by academic institutions for important conservation activities that do not have a dollar value (…) It is unlikely that an academic institution would grant tenure to faculty whose primary achievements contributed to saving a species or ecosystem.” (Parsons and Cigliano 2020)
Echo-anarchism (deep ecology), bioregionalism and localism.
I favor bottom-up approaches, instead of top-down control from governments. I believe in cities and regions, not in countries. I value freedom of speech and I am a privacy advocate.
In 2016 I signed along 1500+ fulbrighters a concern letter on the election of Donald Trump in the US.