Fundación ECO (Ecosistemas del Chaco Oriental) is a conservation and education organization as well as the Argentinean umbrella under which the Owl Monkey Project operates.
In 1996, my wife, Claudia Valeggia, and I established research projects in the Province of Formosa. While my work in Formosa focuses on the study of primate behavior and mammal conservation, Claudia conducts studies in human reproductive biology. Her project, The Chaco Area Reproductive Ecology Project (CARE) works with the Toba and Wichi of the Argentinean Chaco.
Our extended field work in Northern Argentina led Claudia and I to take notice of the urgent need for action regarding issues of conservation and education in the area. Thus, together, and encouraged by our mentor Dr. Rudy Rudran, in 1999 we founded Fundación ECO with the mission of promoting education.
The foundation was a novel concept in Formosa, and it was initially difficult to generate interest; much personal sacrifice was involved in the establishment of the organization. Slowly, family and friends became more and more involved and since then they have been instrumental in the development of Fundación ECO’s programs.
Today, the foundation provides educational research experiences to students from around the world with the hope of raising awareness about this forgotten region of Argentina. We also regularly work with colleagues and friends from Formosa in trying to promote education at all levels.
The foundation is now also the Argentinean umbrella organization under which the Owl Monkey Project and the Chaco Area Reproductive Ecology Project operate. In 2007, the University of Pennsylvania purchased a house in Formosa to establish an international field station for our projects. The Penn-owned field station (Casa 100 – the house’s address) is operated and maintained by the ground support of Fundación ECO.
Casa 100 Research House, Formosa, Argentina
The University of Pennsylvania Research Station is operated with the assistance of Fundación ECO
Analia became involved in the Owl Monkey Project and in the Fundación ECO (the umbrella NGO that logistically supports the project) in 2002. She met Eduardo through the friendship of their sons who were playmates in elementary school. Analia shared the common aim with Eduardo and his wife Claudia to better education in the Formosa province. Her work with the local government has made her a key player in the early (and present) day relations with the Province. Analia is currently a professor at the University of Formosa. As president of the Fundación, she serves as our local figurehead and naturally falls in the role of mother for all volunteers that come from a distance to stay in the CASA 100 Field Station.
Ernesto officially became involved in the Owl Monkey Project in 2007, when he joined Fundación ECO, the umbrella NGO that logistically supports the project. After several years of serving as an informal advisor to the Foundation, he now serves on the board as Treasurer. By day Ernesto works in Human Resources; however, his meticulous nature and local philanthropy bring organization and publicity, respectively, to the Owl Monkey Project and to the Fundación ECO. Ernesto’s participation in the board helps to operate the CASA 100 Field Station, volunteers and local politics of the ECO foundation.
I met Marcelo when he was working at the Argentinean Primate Center in Resistencia. I was in need of assistance in my research and Marcelo came to Formosa to visit the site of the still-non-existent Owl Monkey Project. In 1999, Marcelo joined the project full-time and has been working with me since then.
Marcelo’s role has been instrumental in the success and longevity of the research site of Proyecto Mirikina. Nobody knows the monkeys of Guaycolec better than him. He has been responsible for the capturing of over 140 owl monkeys. His field skills have also sent him on numerous trips to my field site in the Ecuadorian Amazon to collaborate in the capturing of owl, saki, titi and squirrel monkeys at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station.