Leila Porter, Ph.D., has spent the past 20 years forging partnerships in Bolivia to help protect the Amazonian rain forest, and the species that live there.
Along the way, she has also trained a new generation of American and Bolivian primatologists and conservation biologists, including many of her own anthropology students on NIU’s campus, to help carry on this work.
Porter first started working in Bolivia in 1997, when she set up a new research site to compare the behavior and ecology of monkeys for her doctoral dissertation.
At that time, she also set a goal of protecting the research area, helping to ensure the survival of the primates, birds, plants and reptiles living there.
Her years of work paid off last year, when the field site, now named the Tahuamanu Biological Field Station, was formally recognized by the Bolivian government as a regional conservation area.
Over the years, she has used her work in her classrooms, and also expanded NIU learning beyond the classroom, having students develop conservation plans for primates and other species, and also helping some students travel to Bolivia to pursue their own passions in the area of conservation.
For her work, Porter earned the honor of a 2019 NIU Presidential Engagement Professorship, an award that honoring professors with outstanding records of community engagement.
“As a faculty member at NIU I have had the opportunity to collaborate with many Bolivian colleagues, and to facilitate student research projects in Bolivia,” Porter said. “With the Presidential Engagement Professorship award, I can further my goal of establishing an international network of faculty and students working to protect endangered primates and other wildlife in the Bolivian tropics.”