July Educators of the Month: Hilda María Díaz-López & Ricardo Collado-Torres

This month, we are featuring two exceptional primate educators: a married couple, who work as a team.  Congratulations to Hilda María Díaz-López and Ricardo Collado-Torres on being selected as PEN’s July Educators of the Month.  Special thanks to Francisca Vidal-García for her nomination and blog submission.  

Hilda María Díaz-López and Ricardo Collado-Torres are two active primate educators, both from Tabasco, one of the most deforested areas in Southern Mexico.  It is a region where three species of Mexican primates are found (i.e. Alouata pigra, A. palliata mexican, and Ateles geoffroyi).  In Tabasco, it is common to see monkeys living in little isolated fragments close to ranches.  Hilda finds it surprising that people from Tabasco don't know about the flora and fauna in their local community.

Hilda and Ricardo met at the Universidad Juarez Autónoma de Tabasco (UJAT) in 2005.  At that time, Hilda was working at the Laboratory of GIS and Ricardo was an undergraduate student. She is a biologist and he is an ecologist.  Both were active in events at their university.  Realizing that they had similar interests and a shared love of nature, they married and now work together to benefit primate conservation.

Hilda’s involvement in primatology first began in 2003 when she studied the distribution and abundance of the black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra) and spider monkey (Ateles geoffoyi vellerosus) in a region of Tabasco for her undergraduate thesis.  Having lived in this state since she was a child, Hilda was keen to share her new knowledge about primates, particularly with children.  Ricardo accompanied Hilda in the field when she conducted research for her master's thesis and their love of primates and each other continued to grow.

Hilda is an expert in geographic information systems and ecological management.  She is currently a Research Assistant at the Department of Biological Science at UJAT.  Ricardo is a postgraduate student at UJAT.  He is also a great musician and singer!

As a complementary activity, Hilda and Ricardo conduct educational workshops during open houses, libraries, and special events.  They enjoy teaching and sharing their passion for primates with children and teenagers.  It is amazing to watch them in action!

Hilda and Ricardo have developed original ideas for delivering scientific knowledge by making it easy to understand for children.  To engage the children, they incorporate videos, sounds of monkeys, and songs in their workshops.  Ricardo (or Richy as we know him) applies his musical talent to develop different audiovisual material and Hilda shows materials to the children.  Ricardo is currently composing a song about Mexican monkeys.

A selection of Hilda and Ricardo's presentations is available online at:
http://prezi.com/q-93-pwbwv6a/monos-en-tabasco
http://prezi.com/giedaks0josh/ahi-vienen-los-monos

They have directed workshops in kindergartens, elementary schools, and junior high schools in Tabasco.  As collaborators at the Estación de Investigación Primatológica y Vida Silvestre, Hilda and Ricardo make an excellent team.

When asked about their experience as primate educators, they replied:

For us, it is a great experience to share knowledge about primates with children and their parents.  We believe that we can spark curiosity in them and inspire them to want to learn more and teach others.  Our efforts are only a small contribution to primate conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources.  We love howler and spider monkeys from our state, and we want people to understand their importance.  If we can help people to learn and care about monkeys, we can make a difference for their future.

Listen to a howler monkey vocalization here! 

This blog post was written by Francisca Vidal-García, a biologist and Ph.D. student at the Instituto de Ecología, A.C. in Mexico.  She is involved in delivering primate education workshops in Mexico, along with a team of primatologists at her university.  Francisca also previously served as PEN's Co-Regional Coordinator for Mexico.

Do you know an exceptional primate educator?
Submit a nomination for PEN’s featured primate educator blog series!
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