We live in a time where we can no longer talk about ecosystem and biodiversity conservation without talking about people. We have reached a point where the only solutions that will truly allow us to achieve our biodiversity and climate goals must include social justice. Whether directly working with Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) or with other stakeholders that depend on healthy ecosystems, the future of conservation carefully weaves the intrinsic dynamics of these social and biological spheres. Intending always to weave social and ecological together, Santiago works as an Indigenous and Community Engagement Coordinator for Sustainability in the Digital Age and the Canada Hub of Future Earth. He dedicates his work towards impactful projects through community co-creation, inclusion, and a multidisciplinary mindset. Santiago has lived and worked in several parts of the world, including Brazil, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Canada, Panama, Mexico, and France, seeking to reconnect and further strengthen his connection with his Lebanese, Indigenous Colombian, and Spanish heritage.
Santiago is also a National Geographic Explorer, working with Indigenous communities in Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador to advance cultural, storytelling, and ethnobotanical conservation initiatives while co-creating reforestation projects tightly based on Indigenous leadership. He is also working on a multinational undertaking in Colombia, Puerto Rico, and Mexico seeking to empower local communities to repurpose sargassum seaweed to turn this ecologically hazardous problem into blue economic and sustainable opportunities. Simultaneously, he serves as Future Earth’s point of contact with SargCoop, an international initiative focused on the globalization of the Sargassum issue. Finally, he tightly works with the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) branch of the National Geographic Society, developing initiatives that bring forward the participation of LGBTQ+, women, and ethnically diverse people in conservation and science communication.
He holds a BSc in Biology and Conservation from the University of the Andes (Bogota, Colombia), a specialization in Geographic Information Systems from the University of California, Davies (Davies, California, United States), and an MSc. in Natural Resource Sciences from McGill University (Montreal, Quebec, Canada).
What Santiago likes to study
- Botany and Ethnobotany
- Sustainability and conservation leadership with Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities
- Climate Change mitigation and Adaptation with Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities
- Conservation Education
- Diversity in sexual strategies in the animal and plant kingdom.
- Alternative and integral conservation financing
- Sargassum biology, transformation and blue economic development
- Storytelling and community empowerment through photography, cartography and remote sensing (drones)
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in science, communication and on-the-field
- Peace building and tropical ecosystems
What Santiago recommends
The following are some interesting items you might want to check out:
- Some of my plant photography, Ultra Violet and Dark room plant photography: https://www.santiagorsaid.com/plant-photography
- Generaciones Sacudete (Spanish), the program from Colombia’s Ministry of Education where I developed methodologies to prevent gender based violence: https://www.icbf.gov.co/portafolio-de-servicios-icbf/generaciones-sacudete
- Study of deforestation in the traditional territories in the Maje Embera Drua communities in Southern Panama, where we have been working together since 2019: https://social.shorthand.com/RainforestUS/j2TM1IEmSn/deforestation-and-destruction-of-the-maje-water-reserve.html
- A bit more about the sargassum initiative: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/f9df2787b85a47d298dfde0477f68876
- My National Geographic profile: https://explorer-directory.nationalgeographic.org/santiago-said