High tech and bio tech companies get a lot of press around Boston, and for good reason. Every day, organizations disrupt inefficient models with new tools and offer intriguing headlines for the local business press with stories of fresh success, new investments and notable acquisitions. But how many of them can say that they have a direct, positive impact on the livelihoods of a community of 40,000?
That is the case for the team at Project Piaba, a research group housed within the New England Aquarium. Led by Aquarium biologist Scott Dowd, this team of primarily volunteers has spent the better part of the last 20 years conducting research into the ornamental fish trade in the Rio Negro basin of the Amazon (the South American jungle, not to be confused with the tech giant). In conducting their research, Project Piaba has quietly helped build structure and support for an entrepreneurial community of nearly 40,000 to maintain their lifestyle, livelihoods, and environment in a sustainable way.
Scott’s work on Project Piaba has been recognized by aquariums and environmental organizations around the world including the Lisbon Aquarium and, most recently, the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Headquartered in Gland, Switzerland, the IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization. They work to find solutions to the world’s environmental and development challenges. When the IUCN recently created the Home Aquarium Fish Sub-Group, Scott was named the first chairperson of this new group, a major milestone that was celebrated by team members and internal Aquarium supporters.
In many ways, the work Project Piaba undertakes is a wonderful microcosm of sustainability in the modern world, and not just from an ecological perspective.
Consider that in its broadest sense, the concept of sustainability is really all about the ability for a system or process to endure over time. Because of this, we are able to view sustainability in a broader context than its typical tie to nature. We see this expanded context in our very own communities in Boston and Cambridge where we talk about the local business environment and the startup and entrepreneurial ecosystems.
These environments and ecosystems didn’t just spring up overnight. Like the success in the Rio Negro region, our own ecosystems have been developed and nurtured over long periods of time, allowing them to grow to the heights they reach today. Also like the community in Rio Negro, the survival and success of our existing ecosystem relies on a system of support that is international in nature, a collaborative infrastructure that offers positive socioeconomic impact both locally and around the world.
In Boston, that means that more than 50 consul generals live and work in the area, including representatives from countries like the UK, Japan and Switzerland. These Consulate Generals are almost expressly focused on building international relations and powerful business connections to promote global growth. Take current Swiss Consul General, Dr. Felix Moesner, and his team at swissnex Boston. They bill themselves as a “nexus for knowledge exchange,” and follow through on that promise by hosting numerous events throughout the year connecting innovative Swiss entrepreneurs with the world at large.
Project Piaba has similarly assisted in building a sustainable model with local sensibility and sensitivity. They have demonstrated how to think globally and act locally…only their local action takes place in multiple places around the world in an interconnected fashion that ultimately has a global impact. For this, we salute the many hours they have contributed to making the world more sustainable, and for the stellar example they set for the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem.