Karina Atkinson

Young Alumnus of the Year 2013

Karina Atkinson (BSc 2007), Wildlife Conservationist

By William Lim, Avenue Intern

Karina Atkinson Para La Tierra. Copyright Stefanie Heitmueller for Photographers Without Borders 2017

Karina Atkinson was awarded the Young Alumnus of the Year 2013 for her conservation work in Paraguay. She is the executive director of Para La Tierra, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the conservation of Paraguayan wildlife.

Back in 2013, somewhere in the Paraguayan Atlantic Forest, Karina Atkinson was missing the cool climate of Scotland when an email appeared.

“I was in a wooden hut in the Laguna Blanca Nature Reserve in the middle of nowhere. The fan was on as we had no AC and everyone was out on the field so I was on my own,”she says, recalling the moment she won the award.

“I was overwhelmed and honoured. Having an institution you call home recognise you for an award is something really special. I loved the fact I could share it so closely with my family when normally I’m so far from them.”

Karina’s work at Para La Tierra is a mixed bag, taking on conservation, scientific research and education. The sterile labs of her degree have been swapped out for fieldwork. Karina describes the dynamic nature of her work.

“Some days we’re exploring the swamps looking for frogs or snakes. Other days we’re visiting communities asking about their attitudes to monkeys in their gardens.

“Or we’re working on writing a scientific paper. The thing I love is how variable it can be, it’s certainly never boring!”

Despite the challenges she faces living so far from Glasgow, Karina hopes to build on her work with plans to expand.

“We’re venturing towards eco-tourism as a business model which funds conservation of an area," she explains. "We’re starting by opening a hostel where guests will be contributing directly to social and environmental projects."

Karina followed her dreams, and her work continues to have a massive impact on people and wildlife in Paraguay.