The Firestone Center for Restoration Ecology at Pitzer College was established in March 2005 through international ecologist Diane Firestone’s generous gift of her stunningly beautiful farm, Finca La Isla del Cielo, near the town of Dominical, Costa Rica. Ms. Firestone dedicated over a decade of effort to bring the farm, once an overused and depleted cattle ranch, to its current state of natural restoration. She believes that, under Pitzer College’s stewardship, her vision for the farm will be realized and will have a wider educational impact on a broader audience. An ecological easement is being recorded to preserve the existing biodiversity of the property and limit non-educational development in the future.
The Firestone Center is home to programs in Pitzer’s science, language, and international studies curricula, and provides opportunities for faculty research and student engagement in an intercultural context. The program features local collaborative resource management, especially of its own stand of harvestable timber bamboo, a focus on human and tropical ecology, the study of reforestation and sustainable agriculture/permaculture practices, and community-based education including intensive language and culture studies. Carol Brandt, Vice President for International Programs and External Studies, coordinates the work of the faculty who have been responsible for the program’s initial development, including Ethel Jorge for the Spanish language and culture components, Environmental Studies professors Paul Faulstich and Melinda Herold-Menzies for the human ecology components, and Joint Science Department members Donald McFarlane and Cheryl Baduini for the tropical ecology components. Costa Rican native Isabella Arguello is the on-site program director, and the first student team began working there during Summer 2005. The first full contingent of students were at the Center during the Fall 2005 semester.
A Board of Friends for the new Center is being created. It will be composed of individuals who have an affiliation with and/or interest in supporting and promoting the Center’s activities and continuing development, and who will provide advice and assistance to Pitzer faculty and staff. The Board will gather at least once annually at the Center’s 145-acre site in Costa Rica. Ms. Firestone will be a life member of the Center’s Board of Friends.
Pitzer College Dean of Faculty Alan Jones said, “The creation of the Firestone Center is the culmination of a dream that has been in development for many years at the College. That our faculty will have an opportunity to pursue their interests in restoration and tropical ecology in this remarkable place is an enormous step forward for the entire academic program.”
Study Abroad in Costa Rica
Joint Science Department Costa Rica Site