BAR HARBOR, MAINE — Michelle Pazmiño ’17, of Quito, Ecuador, recently returned from attending the 12th Conference on Biological Diversity in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The conference is a body of the United Nations in charge of the conservation, sustainable use, and fair and equitable sharing of biological and genetic resources. Pazmiño attended the event Oct. 6-17 with COA Professor of Global Environmental Politics Doreen Stabinsky.

Pazmiño, a second-year undergraduate, was accepted as part of the conference’s youth constituency representing the COA student organization Earth in Brackets.

“It’s amazing she has taken the opportunity and the challenge to attend the conference in the middle of the term, prepare for it, go learn so many things, project the Earth in Brackets principles and come back with the experience to be shared,” Stabinsky said.

Pazmiño joins a legion of College of the Atlantic undergraduates who’ve attended and participated in important international conferences in just the past year, including the World Conference on Youth in Colombo, Sri Lanka in May; the first-ever Social PreCOP on Climate Change in Margarita Island, Venezuela in July; and the UNESCO Education for Sustainable Development Youth Conference in Okayama City, Japan, in November. COA students also will attend the Twentieth Conference of the Parties — the highest-level U.N.-sponsored climate change talks — in Lima, Peru, in December.

“When I was younger I wanted to be an artist, but mostly I pictured myself working for organizations like Greenpeace saving endangered animals, rescuing species from oil spills. I wanted to hold banners and posters in protests against deforestation. I just did not know what studies or career would take me closer to being active in such things” Pazmiño said. “Now, I would say I am interested in many areas of study but I’d highlight visual arts and biological sciences, apart from politics related to ecology and the environment, as my current focus.”

Pazmiño said she came to know about the conference in Stabinsky’s class last year.

“It caught my attention because to some extent it involves more science-related topics and personally, in the past, I have related and felt more comfortable with science rather than social studies,” she said. “With the conference, I started to see how biodiversity can be such a broad and complex topic that involves so many areas of concern and controversial issues.”

“My first impression was, ‘Wow, this is how these meetings happen and these agreements actually exist.’ All the governments that ratified the convention and other stakeholders reunited in a huge plenary room deciding on the future of biodiversity. It sounds ridiculous that humans have now the power of deciding what is done or not with the earth and its resources.”

“Other thoughts I had were, ‘Wow, I am finally going to have that tangible experience, that real image of how these things that I have been studying are like, and how they work. To be honest, when I started, everything sounded so theoretical and up in the air, which made it somewhat difficult to understand.

“I hope to keep being involved,” Pazmiño said. “I want to learn much more about it. I am definitely interested in participating in this processes and being active about biodiversity and the environment. After all, we are the generations that will bear the consequences of decisions and actions taken nowadays, and we are the ones who will have to take over and keep working for the planet.”

College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively shape its future. A leader in experiential education and environmental stewardship, COA has pioneered a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to learning—human ecology—that develops the kinds of creative thinkers and doers needed by all sectors of society in addressing the compelling and growing needs of our world. For more, visit

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