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CEDO Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans – Founded in 1980

In 1977 Carl Hodges, Director of the Environmental Research Laboratory at the University of Arizona established the Desert Development Foundation. His dream was to create a cooperative Mexican-American research and educational center in the northern Gulf of California to support the needs of scientists and students studying the area. Hodge’s dream was to create a self -supporting research and educational facility promoting binational cooperation.

In 1980 the facility became CEDO Intercultural and Peggy Turk Boyer, a young marine biologist, became executive director and led the organization for 40 years. CEDO Intercultural is now led by Nélida Barajas Acosta who became Executive Director in 2019.

For over 40 years CEDO has tested and developed six essential building blocks focused on strengthening communities to participate in the design and realization of sustainable livelihoods to ensure their future and the health of the ecosystems on which they depend. The blocks are integrated to achieve ecosystem conservation and fisheries co-management in two eco-regions of the Northern Gulf of California: The Upper Gulf of California/Colorado River Delta Biosphere Reserve and the Puerto Peñasco- Puerto Lobos Biological Corridor.

satellite image of ocean and desert Baja California

Field research was among the first activities of our young institution, and through partnerships with visiting researchers from across the U.S. and Mexico, in addition to community-based monitoring projects, and our own studies, CEDO built an integrated research program from the ground-up. This collaboration quickly advanced our understanding of the northern Gulf of California and its biophysical, ecological and socioeconomic features, such that it is now one of the most thoroughly researched habitats in the Gulf.

But with population growth, the influx of tourism, and increasing pressure on marine and coastal resources, the research showed a disturbing trend; impacts to species, habitats, and ecological processes were growing and getting less sustainable. With this in-depth knowledge, a unique vision emerged: a future where vibrant coastal communities would actively participate in managing their livelihoods in balance with healthy and resilient ecosystems. It became our urgent mission to bring local people together with knowledge and solutions, and to work together for a more sustainable future in a way that prioritized traditional livelihoods and economic needs.



More than 40 years later, CEDO’s roots have grown deeper and stronger than ever, with community-led efforts for conservation, sustainable development, and environmental education that have gained the attention and support of decision makers and natural resource managers at the highest levels of government. CEDO’s integrated approach combines a wide array of disciplines (education, capacity building, research and monitoring, climate-change assessment and adaptation, and economic initiatives), and is being scaled to address the needs of more than nine coastal communities where thousands of people make their living from small-scale fisheries, tourism and associated economies.

satellite image of ocean and desert Baja California