Arika Virapongse is a social ecologist whose research interests include social-ecological systems resilience, conservation and development, livelihood systems, and human dimensions of natural resource management. Overall, Arika seeks to produce useful frameworks and information for addressing critical local to global level environmental issues through integrated, systems-based social and environmental research. She believes that participatory approaches, knowledge sharing and co-development, and streamlining the information pathway (generation to application) are key to developing new approaches for improving human livelihoods and sustainable management of natural resources.
Arika’s most recent work has focused on development of observation and monitoring systems for collecting social-ecological data, application of social-ecological and resilience frameworks for management of natural resources and place-based community development, and improved interoperability of and access to diverse datasets for addressing social-ecological questions and research goals. As a practitioner, Arika is also the principal consultant and founder of Middle Path EcoSolutions, a firm that helps businesses and organizations align better to the needs of the their community and clients.
In addition to her work in the U.S., Arika has more than ten years of experience in community and household level natural resource management research in Latin America and Southeast Asia. In Thailand, she worked on research associated with homegardens, local food plants, ethnobotany, traditional medicine, and forest management by smallholders. In Brazil, Arika studied non-timber forest product market value chains, natural resource access, knowledge transmission, and livelihood strategies. In Brazil and Panama, Arika has developed and taught coursework on field techniques for collecting socioeconomic data about direct use of natural resources.
Arika earned her doctoral degree in interdisciplinary ecology in 2013 from the University of Florida. She completed a master’s of science degree in pharmaceutical botany at Khon Kaen University in Thailand and bachelor’s of science degrees in zoology and interdisciplinary studies at the University of Florida. Arika holds a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, and has completed training in Sustainable Community Development – Political empowerment, Authentic Leadership, Tropical Conservation and Development, science communication, facilitation skills, and user experience (UX) research.
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