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Leonardo Sáenz earned his PhD in water resource management at Kings College London in early 2011. King’s College London is a top 20 university in the World. He has worked in Latin America since 2002 on research and development projects related to understanding the impacts of land use change on the ability of landscapes to sustain ecosystem service provision, especially for water and HEP production. The work focuses on the development of spatially explicit and process based hydrological models and frameworks. He has worked as researcher in the FIESTA project (Fog Interception for the Enhancement of Streamflow in Tropical Areas), the ESPA Andes-Amazon project 2007 (Ecosystem Services and Poverty alleviation - DFID-UK) and the CGIAR CPWF (Challenge Program on Water and Food) Basin Focal Project for the Andes. He currently works as an Eco-hydrologist for Conservation International, where his work focuses on understanding the impacts of dam developments on the eco-hydrology of the Andes-Amazon system; and in helping to understand how to better balance the needs for water from both, humans and ecosystems. His work in this area was recently highlighted in a Nature News article.
His work on optimization of hydropower performance while reducing environmental impacts starts from the hypothesis that there are significant opportunities to improve the sustainability of dam reservoirs globally through protection of cloud forests. Since cloud forests are a minor fraction of the global extent of tropical dam watersheds but filter a significant proportion of their available surface water, their protection can help guide the investment of limited resources for improving performance objectives in existing dam reservoirs. This is one of the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams (WCD) mandate - 2000. He has particularly focused part of his research on exploring these benefits on the Andes-Amazon in order to benchmark where we are now in terms of sustainability; and in order to provide context to the opportunities for people and economic development to fulfill their energy needs from improving efficiencies in existing infrastructure. This strategy can be low cost and high reward because it means producing more energy with less use of water, while minimizing impact on critical freshwater ecosystems from the hard infrastructure development path. His work has been presented in many conferences including the Stockholm World Water Week, 2010; London’s Planet under pressure, 2012; and the monthly research seminar of the climate division at the Inter American Development Bank (IDB), 2012.