Our Projects

Habitat Restoration and Carbon Sequestration

Habitat destruction is the main cause of species loss worldwide. But it does not stop there. These losses impact humanity as well. Some areas of the world are so degraded that crops will not grow, water does not stay on the land and life is hard in these areas. By healing the land we not only benefit ecosystems but also all that need healthy ecosystems to survive, ourselves included. Thanks to the science of restoration ecology we have the tools and knowledge that enables us to repair and recreate damaged ecosystems. 

We are restoring this 40 ha biological reserve back to a tropical forest and using it as a demonstration site. Working with local Mayan farmers we exchange our knowledge.

 

Restoration ecology

Carbon sequestration

Biodiversity enhancement

Habitat conservation and preservation

 

Restoration
- Shadehouse for nursery - Nov 2016
- Tropical Jungle Ecological Restoration Camp - 8Ha planted July 2017
- Food Forest - 3 Ha Sept 2017
- Drinking pools for wildlife - 1. Sept 2017, 2. Apr 2019, 3. Sept 2021
- 1 acre of food forest with irrigation - Oct 2018
- 2 acres more of food forest with irrigation - July 2019 
- Native tree and vegetation planting: 335 trees in food forest (60-70 species), 1000+ native trees planted, 300+ plants, 8 ha seeded- 2016 - ongoing 
- Focus has been on the less disturbed east half of the property and future efforts will be focused on the more degraded western half.

 

Research and Innovation

Mexico is a Megadiverse country, #4 in the world, characterized by unparalleled natural beauty and biodiversity. As a result, Mexico has many rare and threatened species that need our attention and help. It is essential in this region to manage biodiversity in the remaining habitats and restore degraded lands to enhance biodiversity.

 

Our field station scientists collaborate with faculty and graduate students from local and international universities conducting research related to rare species ecology and recovery, ecosystem integrity, conservation planning and ecological restoration. Regenerative agriculture, tissue culture and plant propagation are also researched with the aim of creating regenerative agricultural systems. The workshop and innovation laboratory focuses on creating unique solutions to local and global challenges.

 

Citizen science

University and high school level 

Eco-laboratory / Field Station

Nursery

Laboratory for tissue culture

Monitoring deforestation, biodiversity

Regenerative Agriculture

Alternative building design

Sustainable technologies

Innovation Laboratory

Research
- 2 Mexican indigenous women environmental engineering students 4-month thesis Internships - Aug 2017
- Student biodiversity thesis on ants, 50 new species for the Yucatan added - Dec 2018
- Botanical garden of local native plants - May 2022
- Laboratory - In progress 
- Connecting and partnering with local and international universities - ongoing
- Regenerative agriculture - biochar, super brew fertilizer, microbiome enhancement, food biodiversity, propagation - ongoing
- Biological inventory of the property - ongoing 
- Monitoring soils and biodiversity indicators in our regenerative agriculture and ecological restoration areas - ongoing
The nature is full with awesome beauty,

The nature is full with awesome beauty,

The secret life of mushrooms

The secret life of mushrooms

The life grows under your feet and every

The life grows under your feet and every

#asclepiaseed #beautifulnature #sciencie

#asclepiaseed #beautifulnature #sciencie

Wandering in  nature we can find lots of

Wandering in nature we can find lots of

A baby snake #dipsasbrevifacies #reptile

A baby snake #dipsasbrevifacies #reptile

If you really want, you can

If you really want, you can

A giant cricket the perfect model

A giant cricket the perfect model

Another visitor to the water hole! Spott

Another visitor to the water hole! Spott

Happy sunday!_Ready for a new adventure.

Happy sunday!_Ready for a new adventure.

A handsome guy supervising our nursery,

A handsome guy supervising our nursery,

Good morning! ready to work

Good morning! ready to work

El huico yucateco (Aspidoscelis angustic

El huico yucateco (Aspidoscelis angustic

Garrapatero Pijuy ( Crotophaga sulcirost

Garrapatero Pijuy ( Crotophaga sulcirost

Avispa de cintura

Avispa de cintura

After rain is important to catch a littl

After rain is important to catch a littl

DSCN3485

DSCN3485

DSCN1262

DSCN1262

IMG_7663

IMG_7663

IMG_7722

IMG_7722

11.1

11.1

6

6

Cosechando diversidad # harvest #yucatan

Cosechando diversidad # harvest #yucatan

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DSCN1291

DSCN1082

DSCN1082

Eco-Education

 

We offer a multifaceted approach to eco-education where students of all ages and backgrounds learn about local ecology and environmental issues and are challenged to find unique ways to restore balance and health to their local area. All students are empowered to share the skills they learn at the centre with their communities to create benefits for all. Our latest project is the Planet Healers YouTube Channel to offer our wisdom to the world and inspire more people to make this world a paradise.

Student research internship programs

Community workshops

YouTube videos on many processes!

Nature-based solutions

Alternative building design, energy, waste disposal…

Technological incubator

Regenerative farming techniques

Biodiversity – taxonomy, ecology

Education
- Biochar Production course taught - June 2017 
- Ecological Restoration Camp July 2017
- Ecotours began - Nov 2018
- YouTube Videos - many live and in production!
- Community training and outreach - Needed
- People involved in our project - 260+ (19 countries) visitors, students, volunteers, 3 thesis projects with 2 universities.
Infrastructure - Starting from scratch!
- Fixing the windmill to pump water - June 2016
- Restoring the house for volunteers - Aug 2016
- Ladder into the cenote - Sept 2016
- Showers and water system - Sept 2016
- Permaculture gardens began - Oct 2016
- Composting toilet - basic Nov 2016
- Hand clothes wash area - Dec 2016
- Greywater system - Mar 2017
- Campground established - Mar 2017
- Tiny home for 2 volunteers - Aug 2017
- Steps to the cenote Sept 2017
- Sacred Fire area - Oct 2018
- Kitchen and eating area for students and workshops - Jan 2019
- Internet installed - Jan 2019
- Upgraded compost washroom - Feb 2019
- Solar power - 1000W adds Mar 2019, more needed
- Housing for 4 more students - Mar 2019
- Workshop area - in progress Apr 2019
- Windmill 400W installed - May 2020
- Incorporate the non-profit - Needed
- Solar water heater - Needed
- Fundraising - Needed
- Social media promotion - Needed
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Environmental Action Plan

for Earth Connection Center

To create a regenerative system at the center these are the steps that we have taken:

Ecological Restoration of the Tropical Dry Forest ecosystem

After looking for reference ecosystems to model the forest after, since cattle ranching had clear cut and degraded the forest, we set out to restore the 40ha property. We found no reference ecosystems close to the property but did find a few over an hour away. We started collecting local seed from mother trees (large remnant trees), raised money on a Gofundme to build a small nursery on the property and worked with the seed to unlock their germination secrets. 6 months later in 2016, at the start of the rainy season, we held our first Ecosystem Restoration Camp. We planted hundreds of trees in 8 ha of forest. We tried 3 techniques: direct seeding a mix of tree seeds, bare-root seedlings and small potted trees (10x20cm bags).

 

After that, we have continued to add more biodiversity to the rest of the 40ha biological reserve and more and more wildlife has returned to the forest. It is a magical place now! See our YouTube videos to learn more!

 
Wildlife Ponds

We have built many wildlife ponds to attract wildlife and give them water to drink. In the Yucatan, water is 10m deep under the ground and there are no ponds or rivers above ground. Our cenote is open so some creatures can get in to drink but many cannot climb down the 10m. We have attracted many creatures to these watering holes and seen a great increase in diversity as we have the only accessible water for many km. The creatures also help us restore the forest by bringing us seeds!

 
Mentoring

We continue to mentor people that want to learn and host research students to help improve our processes of ecological restoration, regenerative agriculture and biodiversity conservation.

Water

Water is at a premium in the Yucatan especially in the 6 months of the dry season so everything with water is done carefully with a minimum of waste.

At the center, water is pumped up from the groundwater by a windmill and stored in a large storage tank. This is a blessing since we originally hauled buckets of water 10 meters up from the cenote and brought it to the house.

The water in the tank initially was not balanced and we had challenges with mosquitos.

Initially, we used lime in the water to change the pH and kill the mosquitoes…the local recommendation.

Then we were getting many tadpoles in the tank from local frogs and toads so we needed to change that strategy to a more sustainable approach. We noticed that the cenote does not have mosquitoes in it. So we added aquatic plants to the top to help cool the water and mosquito-eating fish. The system has balanced now and no more mosquitoes. We have dragon and damselfly larvae, water boatmen and small water striders. They in addition to the fish, which have taken off and breeding fast, all hunt the mosquito larvae. The mosquitos at the ranch are much less than in the local city. We keep an eye out for any standing water, clean up all garbage… In addition, we have a diversity of hungry creatures that eat mosquitos: bats, swallows, dragonflies…

 

Irrigation is done by hand or with a gravity-fed drip irrigation system in the food forest and gardens.

Every 2-4 days we run the generator and fill the water storage tank on the roof so we have running water at the casita.

We use low-pressure water-saving showerheads in the showers.

No toxic chemicals are allowed at the center – pesticides, cleaning products, personal products, chemical fertilizers in order to protect the cenote and the biofilter.

Dishwashing is done by hand using a minimum of water:

- A small amount of water is used on the dishes to soften the leftovers. Water is passed from dish to dish to minimize waste.

- Dishes are scrubbed with a watery soap solution of 10% soap.

- Water is then used to wash off the dishes, passing the water over to the next dish to take off the majority of dirt and then given a final rinse with clean water. Dishes are towelled off and air-dried to remove water that might contain bacteria.

Greywater from the shower and dishes goes into a greywater filtration system. The system uses 2 barrels for anaerobic digestion and one with aerobic digestion and plants to remove nutrients.

Rainwater is collected from the roof and piped into rain barrels. We use this water to water our plants near the house.

Bulk drinking water is purchased locally at a water filling station using refillable jugs.

Baño

We have a compost toilet.

In our system, we separate the liquid from the solid in different holding tanks.

The urine is collected and used as the nitrogen component of our super-powerful brew fertilizer in the nursery.

The scat is mixed with carbon to create biochar and after thorough composting it is used under fruit trees and under trees in our habitat restoration projects. Not in the garden. Using it under fruit trees is safe as the fruit is well away from the compost.

Energy

We have a small solar system (1000W) and added a windmill (400W) installed on the roof of the casita that powers everything! We also have a small portable gas generator that we use as backup power and for when we are doing construction.

We have a fridge that only gets 3 hours of run time to cool down and most of the year this is enough to keep vegetables, sauces and eggs cool in the fridge and milk products, nuts and flours cool. We keep the nuts and flours in the freezer as beetles that might be in them are killed by freezing.

We don’t eat meat at the ranch. The fridge is not cold enough to store it safely and we choose to eat less meat because of the damage it causes to biodiversity and the high rate of deforestation. Besides that, if you have ever raised your own food, you know that the meat from grocery stores tastes nothing like it should. But that’s another story…

We regulate our sleeping hours from 2 hours after dark and then get up at the crack of dawn. There is enough light in the casita during the day.

In addition, we have laptop computers, cell phones, rechargeable flashlights, rechargeable batteries that are charged as needed to keep them running.

Some hand tools and the blender are run as needed aiming to run them only when the sun is high in the sky.

Garden and Nursery

We are using a regenerative/permaculture system in the garden: no-till permanent beds, crop rotations, companion planting, chop and drop… No chemical fertilizers or pesticides, we created a super-powerful brew to supply all the nutrients and microbes the plants need.

Because the soils in the Yucatan drain quickly, we are working with the soils to enhance nutrition and water holding capacity. There are a number of strategies that we are using:

Biochar – Biochar is a mixture of carbon that is created by burning organic waste in a low oxygen environment so that the carbon is left. The carbon is then mixed with the compost, manure, soil, urine and molasses and left to cure. The aging allows the activated carbon to absorb nutrients and the sugar in the molasses stimulates fungal growth. When finished the biochar is nutrient-rich and full of microorganisms beneficial to plant growth. It holds water in the soil and slowly releases nutrients to the plants. Video!

Fertilizer – Initially we used diluted urine to add nitrogen to the garden then a mixture of 10 % molasses, 10 % kombucha, 1% micronutrients and urine. The molasses has many micronutrients and sugar to stimulate microbial growth in the soil, kombucha has micronutrients and is acidic to help balance the pH of the basic soil, the urine is a source of nitrogen for the plants as this seems to be the limiting nutrient in our soils. Now we have improved that to our super powerful brew see our YouTube videos!

Insect control – we grow tobacco to use as a tobacco spray for aphid infestations. Most of the time, in a healthy ecosystem, if pests are a problem, wait 2 weeks and the beneficial insects will find and control the outbreak.

Watering – we use gravity-fed drip irrigation in the early morning and hand water individual plants.

 

Food forest was established in an area cut down for cattle ranching. The nitrogen-fixing thorny trees were left and plantings were done between the trees. Chimay is pioneer tree species and was already dying. The cows had eaten any new tree growth so there was no new understory so this was a good area to plant. We have over 50 species of tropical fruit trees planted!

Our aim is for the center to be food independent and we continue to research species and plant them to move towards that goal.

Garbage

We minimize the amount of garbage we create by being selective in what we buy and the amount of garbage that it will create.

In grocery stores, we do not use plastic bags on fruit and vegetables and use reusable bags and boxes at the checkout. We buy mostly fruit, vegetables, grains and very little processed/packaged food.

We do not burn garbage at the center so all garbage must be recycled or returned to the city to be disposed of.

We separate all paper and burn it in our biochar unless it has excessive chemicals in it i.e. glossy paper.

Aluminum is separated and at some point, we will build an aluminum forge and make something.

Plastic, which is the bulk of the packaging, we stuff into bottles to minimize the volume of the garbage and prevent it from getting into the environment.

All containers, yogurt, juice, milk… are cut open and used in the nursery to grow plants.

Glass bottles are crushed and were used in our outdoor bread oven as a heat sink.

Using this system, we have only one shopping bag of garbage to take to the city monthly.

Transportation

We purchased a used inexpensive minivan.

We go to the city weekly/biweekly to minimize gas usage. If we run out of something we make due until the next scheduled trip or forage.