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I am a Conservation Biologist and amateur Conservation Photographer. Proud to be a National Geographic Explorer and a fifth year PhD student at Stanford University in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program of Environment and Resources.


I study natural recovery following illegal gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon. I am using methods drawn from ecology, microbiology, remote sensing, and the social sciences to understand the social drivers of gold mining and the potential for an area to recover after being abandoned by gold miners. This interdisciplinary approach allows me to work to  understand the broader social and environmental drivers and implications of illegal mining in this region. I hope that taking a comprehensive view of this human-driven environmental issue will not only help me to generate practical and actionable ecological results, but also help me to present this results in a way that does justice to the human communities that are engaging in and affected by this activity. I believe that socially-informed ecological studies are important for all conservation studies, but especially for those that occur in areas where the researcher is an outsider from the communities involved in a study.

Rachel C Engstrand


PhD Student 

Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment & Resources

Stanford University

473 Via Ortega

Y2E2 Building, Suite 226

Stanford, CA 94305

rce212 [at]

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