Recent Alumna Awarded Fulbright to Study Environmental Degradation in Paraguay | St. Lawrence University

Recent Alumna Awarded Fulbright to Study Environmental Degradation in Paraguay

Though Lucy Hochschartner ’20 can’t pinpoint where exactly her passion for environmental activism originated, she knows that it’s her calling. 

“Growing up in the 21st century, environmental degradation is impossible to ignore. As a skier in the Northeast, the climate crisis is something I think about and notice every day,” she says. 

This summer, the Lake Placid, New York, resident and St. Lawrence Nordic ski standout received a Fulbright Award that will allow her to research conservation efforts far from the familiar trails of Mt. Van Hoevenberg and Higley Flow State Park in the tropical dry forest of Gran Chaco, which dominates Paraguay’s western border. The South American country has long struggled with deforestation, and when the country passed a law outlawing deforestation in the Atlantic Forest on its eastern side, it neglected to protect Gran Chaco to the west. 

“I hope my research helps us better understand how Paraguay found the political will to create the zero deforestation law for the Atlantic Forest, so that we can try to create or take advantage of similar circumstances in the Gran Chaco and in other countries. Deforestation contributes to climate change, biodiversity loss, and often, grave injustice toward marginalized groups,” says Hochschartner. 

She also says that the climate crisis compounds the impact that environmental degradation has on the people and animals who call Gran Chaco home. These injustices motivate her to add to the body of research and participate in the activism that’s begun to take place there.

“The knowledge of this suffering, the way it touches every aspect of life, and its irreversibile nature (at least on human time scales) are what makes the climate crisis the problem that I want to devote my life to addressing,” says Hochschartner. “I am specifically interested in deforestation in South America, because of its huge consequences for global biodiversity and fascinating culture that I’ve only just skimmed the surface of.”

An environmental studies and government double major, Hochshartner believes she owes a great deal to her professors and mentors at St. Lawrence, who fostered confidence in her research abilities and inspired her to contribute research that empowers positive change. She points specifically to Professor of Environmental Studies Jon Rosales, Assistant Professor Jillian Jaeger, and her thesis advisor, Visiting Assistant Professor Kyu Young Lee. 

“Writing my thesis on Latin American climate policy adoption gave me the background I need to carry out this project in Paraguay,” says Hochschartner. “Dr. Kyu Young Lee challenged me more than any professor I’ve ever had, and I’ll be forever grateful to her for my understanding of what it takes to carry out sound research.”

Hochschartner has tentatively accepted her Fulbright award. Due to evolving circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic both in Paraguay and the United States, there remains a great deal of uncertainty about the program’s status in 2021. Despite this, she’s humbled by the opportunity and optimistic about its possibilities. She says the research, though deeply compelling, can’t compare to the personal growth she hopes to experience.

“I hope to improve my ability to work predominantly in Spanish and with people whose experiences differ from my own, so that I can better collaborate in the future. As a worldwide crisis, the movement to address climate change is truly global in its reach, and we all need to be able to listen to each other, learn from one another, and work together… I know that while the Fulbright program can advance my academic career, I am most excited for the opportunities I will have to advance as a human being.”