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Dr. Sandra Villardi: Addressing Water Imbalance in Colombia's Ciénaga Grande with


In hydrological wetland management research, few individuals have significantly impacted more than Dr Sandra Villardi. Dr Villardi (Colombia, South America) has dedicated her life to preserving delicate ecosystems such as mangrove forests, dune and beach systems, coral reefs, sea grasses, and coastal lagoons. As a renowned professor at various Colombian universities and the Vice-Minister of the Environment, she is a leading advocate for environmental protection. This blog sheds light on Dr Sandra Villardi's remarkable work, focusing on her collaboration with local communities in the defence and awareness-raising efforts at the Ciénaga Grande of Santa Marta (Colombia).

Defending Colombia's Coastal Gem:

The Ciénaga Grande of Santa Marta, located in the northern part of Colombia and South America, is an extensive lagoon complex spanning approximately 4,280 km². It has 730 km² of water bodies and holds the distinction of being Colombia's most extensive coastal lagoon complex. Playing a crucial role in supporting diverse life forms. Dr Villardi has passionately advocated for the conservation of this vital ecosystem. Her outreach efforts, spanning various networks and media platforms, have raised awareness about the significance of the Ciénaga Grande of Santa Marta.

The Cienaga’s Imbalance Challenge:

Unfortunately, the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta has been facing a water imbalance issue resulting from a deficit of fresh water supplied by rivers such as Magdalena, Fundación, Aracataca, and Frio, as well as the encroachment of saltwater from the Caribbean Sea. This imbalance induced by hydraulic infrastructure and poor water management threatens the delicate equilibrium of the ecosystem. Dr Villardi recognizes the urgency of addressing this challenge and has been at the forefront of efforts to find sustainable solutions.

A Pioneer in Wetland Management:

Dr Villardi's contributions extend beyond her advocacy for the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta. She has spearheaded initiatives to promote wetlands' visibility in public policies to protect the environment. Notably, she authored principles and criteria for delineating continental wetlands, providing a vital tool for enhancing resilience and adaptation to climate change in Colombia. By fostering interdisciplinary research and collaborating closely with multicultural communities, Dr Villardi has propelled wetland management to new heights.

Acknowledging Multicultural Wisdom:

In 2012, Dr. Villardi stated: "It is very important to recognise that in this multicultural country, we need scientists to approach other known knowledge systems. A knowledge of local, traditional, historical and generational dynamics of the territory that we do not manage to measure."

"Es muy importante reconocer que este pais multicultural necesitamos los cientificos acercarnos a otros sistemas de conocimiento que conocen, tienen un conocimiento local, tradicional, historico y generacional sobre las dinamicas del territorio que nosotros no las alcanzamos a dimensionar"

This statement reflects her belief in the importance of integrating diverse knowledge systems into scientific research and conservation efforts. Dr Villardi understands the invaluable knowledge held by local communities and strives to bridge the gap between scientific expertise and generations of traditional knowledge. Acknowledging and respecting different perspectives, she paves the way for a more holistic and inclusive approach to environmental stewardship.

Recognition and Impact:

In 2018, Dr Villardi's exemplary contributions to environmental conservation were celebrated when she was among the 29 Colombian women recognized by UN Women, UN Environment, and Fundación Natura. Her remarkable achievements were commemorated in the publication of "Women Who Care for Nature: Stories of Defenders of the Environment in Colombia". Positioning Dr Villardi's status as a true environmental female leader, inspiring generations to come.

A person who Collabs!

Dr Sandra Villardi's tireless efforts in environmental conservation have left an indelible mark on Colombia's ecosystems research and management. Her steadfast commitment to the defence of wetlands, particularly the Ciénaga Grande of Santa Marta, has garnered national and international recognition. Dr Villardi inspires and drives positive change in environmental policies and practices through her research, teaching, activism, and collaborations. In Open Collaboration Hydrology, we highlight her vision of water research and her unwavering dedication to community engagement.

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