Who We Are

Established in 1983, Las Casas de la Selva is the home of Tropic Ventures Sustainable Forestry & Rainforest Enrichment Project, located in the southern mountains adjacent to the Carite State Forest, in the municipality of Patillas, on the island of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean.

The aim of the project is to research and demonstrate the economic use of rainforest land using methods that do not destroy the rainforest ecology. Members of The Institute of Ecotechnics initiated this unique project pioneering experiments in sustainable rainforest ecology, through line-planting of valuable timber trees. Nearly 300 acres of the 1000-acre property have been planted with over 40,000 native and exotic hardwood trees with extremely promising results. Since 2003, plantation areas have been experimentally thinned, timber sold, and scientific research carried out all over the land.

700 acres remains as a wilderness preserve for watershed protection, research, and educational ecotourism. The project is certified as a Stewardship Forest, has an approved ‘Sustainable Forestry Stewardship Management Plan’, and is registered as an Auxiliary Forest.

‘Ready, willing and able’ apprentices from all over the world have worked and lived here. Our motto is “learning by doing”. Tropic Ventures Research & Education Foundation was incorporated in 1998 as a non-profit in Puerto Rico to support the project’s research and education activities. The Earthwatch Institute has been a key collaborator in assisting in the scientific mission.

Our Overall Objectives:

  • Create a sustainable forestry project that demonstrates humans’ ability to co-exist and co-evolve in the rainforest biome.
  • Create and maintain an ecotechnic site, on which a project suitable to developing potentiality is operating.
  • Create an environment conducive to participation and contemplation to understand the true history of humanity, and our home, the biosphere.
  • Create a site that attracts authentic encounters (in study, science, business, arts, travel), and contact with Historical, Contemporary, and Future life.
  • Create a site where reciprocal maintenance with all existence is practiced.

The Team
The current onsite management team are Thrity Jal Vakil, FLS, Director, who has worked with the project since 2000, and Andrés Rúa Gonzalez, Technical Director since 2005.

The Institute of Ecotechnics was established in 1973 to initiate and develop the new discipline of Ecotechnics, which intends to harmonize ecology & technology by means of hands-on educational programs and the research & development of demonstration projects and products. Global Ecotechnics Inc. owns and oversees the management of these projects, and was created in 1994 to integrate and develop a number of projects that several of its directors began in the late 1960s, aimed at developing ecological and cultural demonstration projects in various key regions of the planet – oceans, rainforest, city, savannah, desert, Mediterranean. These key people include the inventor and cofounder of Biosphere 2, John Allen, Marie Harding, William Dempster, Mark Nelson, Chili Hawes, Kathelin Gray, Margaret Augustine, and Deborah Parrish Snyder.

Previous directors of Las Casas de la Selva include:

From 1983 to 1993: John ‘Rubio’ Druitt
From 1993 to 1997: Richard Druitt
From 1997 to 2007: Sally ‘Sierra’ Silverstone  (Sierra passed away in September 2020)