As an archaeologist determined to understand the origins of the Maya civilization, I have pioneered an unconventional path to explain the rise of ancient civilization in the tropical Maya forest and reveal the importance that this knowledge has in contemporary conservation.

I have combined evidence ranging from archaeology to zoology to interpret the sustainable basis of the Maya in one of the world's last terrestrial frontiers: the tropics. Along the way, many challenges have arisen, but none with the complexity of El Pilar. El Pilar has been the focus of my bold conservation design for an binational park on a troubled border.

The vision I have for El Pilar is founded on the preservation of our cultural heritage in the context of the natural environment; I call this conservation model "Archeology Under the Canopy." I have built a collaborative and interdisciplinary team of local villagers, government administrators, university students, and scientists who are now strategically poised to transform the El Pilar vision to a reality.

Working with Maya forest gardeners, I have helped to found the Maya Forest Garden Network. Their knowledge of the Maya forest and their sustainable approach to farming is one that can be traced back to ancient times. Maya forest gardening has expanded my vision of the conservation of cultural heritage and currently I am developing models for Maya forest garden education sites to further this understanding of the environment.

Now is the moment for action.