Brent Loken grew up in a small rural community in Iowa wandering the marshes, creeks and woodlots near his home. It was during these excursions that he developed a passion for wildlife and began pursuing a career as a conservation biologist. As an undergraduate at Augustana College, Brent researched waterfowl in Michigan, schistosome dermatitis in Montana and Big Horn sheep in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. But the world beckoned and a short diversion from his career as a conservation biologist turned into fifteen rewarding years as a science teacher and administrator, working in schools in Syria, Pakistan, Bolivia, Alaska, Tanzania and Taiwan.
As one of the founding administrators at a new expeditionary learning school in Taiwan, Brent was responsible for designing and helping to implement a vision of education nearly unique in that region of the world. The success of designing and implementing a school from the ground up gave Brent the experience and confidence to create a conservation NGO that integrates leading sustainability science research and the traditional ecological knowledge of local people to build sustainable and resilient social-ecological systems.
Brent is currently collaborating with the Wehea Dayak people in East Kalimantan, Borneo, to help protect one of the largest primary forests and intact orangutan populations in East Kalimantan. To date, he has helped to organize a biodiversity and ethnoecological study in Wehea, implemented a ranger training program, designed an environmental and cultural rediscovery center and is helping the Wehea community to document their culture and traditions.
Through Brent's work internationally, he has become interested in the factors that lead to self-organizing and sustainable use of resources in some communities and unsustainable resource use in others. Brent's doctoral work at Simon Fraser University will help him better understand the configuration of variables that lead to resilient and sustainable outcomes. Ultimately, Brent hopes his research will help pave the way for new approaches to conservation planning and policy and that information learned from this study can be applied to other regions of the world characterized by complex problems in conservation and development featuring fragmented "wild" biota, indigenous peoples, and emerging local governance.