Explorer Profile: Tarin Toledo-Aceves, Ecologist

Explorer Profile: Tarin Toledo-Aceves, Ecologist

Tarin Toledo-Aceves is a forest ecologist who is trying to save tropical cloud forests in the mountains of Mexico from deforestation and overexploitation.


5 - 8


Biology, Ecology, Conservation, Geography, Human Geography, Physical Geography


Tarin Toldeo-Aceves

Tarin Toledo-Aceves studies Mexico's tropical montane cloud forests. There she is working with local people on ways to restore and sustain that ecosystem.

Photograph courtesy of Tarin Toledo-Aceves
Tarin Toledo-Aceves studies Mexico's tropical montane cloud forests. There she is working with local people on ways to restore and sustain that ecosystem.

Every year Earth loses around 5.5 million hectares (13.6 million acres) of tropical forest. This is due to deforestation or cutting down too many trees to be replaced, which are commonly transformed into crops and pastures for cattle grazing. This causes great ecological damage. There are a variety of reasons why people cut down trees in rural communities, including to make room for agricultural crops and to use the wood to manufacture products. Ecologists, like Tarin Toledo-Aceves, are working to strike a balance between logging for human needs, because we all use timber products, and leaving enough trees standing for the plants, animals, and people who live in the forest.

Toledo-Aceves loves trees, but she also understands that people who live in and near forests depend on them economically, which has led to illegal logging. Therefore, she has made it her mission to help tropical montane cloud forests in Mexico to be maintained via sustainable logging practices. Sustainable logging implies that trees are harvested but enough trees are kept so the forest will remain and recover.

Deforestation has altered forests across the tropics, leading to an increase of young secondary forests, which is the vegetation what grows back after the original forest has been removed. Even forests under cover of clouds high up in the mountains of Mexico have not escaped logging. Much of the cloud forest in Mexico now exists only as secondary forest.

With a grant from the National Geographic Society, Toledo-Aceves is researching how to better use Mexico's secondary cloud forests. Better forest management—through selective, sustained logging—helps business owners earn the revenue they need from timber and nontimber products while enabling the forest to regrow its trees. Enough trees are kept intact to maintain biodiversity—the collection of living things living in any particular place. This means that only designated trees can be cut down at any given time. Toledo-Aceves strives to include local communities living in and near these forests in her efforts to manage the forest more sustainably. She hopes that those communities, by becoming involved in forest management, can continue to use their forests for years to come.

The journey to becoming a forest ecologist can be long yet rewarding; it requires hard work, meeting new people, travel, and visiting beautiful forests. The effort pays off when you see how your research is affecting Earth. Toledo-Aceves has spent many years, and earned a few degrees, learning what forests need and how to help them. She has a bachelor’s from the Universidad Nacional Autinoma de Mexico, a master’s at Mexico's Instituto de Ecologia A.C., and a doctoral degree from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, doing her research project in the tropical forests of Ghana.

In addition to her current work, Toledo-Aceves has committed to learn and share her knowledge with local populations in the areas where she works, coordinating more than 25 workshops in rural communities. On top of all that, she has planted more than 5,000 trees and counting.

Cloud forests are still being threatened by deforestation, by overharvesting, as well as by the effects of climate change, making them a global conservation priority. Because cloud forests need particular conditions of climate to exist, the increase in temperature caused by climate change affects the survival of many species that only inhabit in these forests. Toledo-Aceves and other forest ecologists are working to restore and protect the forests so these valuable resources will be around in the future.

Media Credits

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Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Clint Parks
Roza Kavak
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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