Staff Spotlight: Aaron Prairie


Born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico Aaron was raised to love and appreciate the natural world. Ever since he was a young boy he would constantly be flipping rocks, inspecting trees, and watching streams looking for cryptic life spread everywhere around him. This love for science and nature translated into an intense passion for Biological sciences. He is currently pursuing a research career, but before running off to graduate school, he plans to experience the tropics and uphold and contribute to the vision of Kalu Yala.

What position do you hold at Kalu Yala? What has been your career path so far?

Aaron: I hold the position of Biology Director and I act as a naturalist guide for guests that come to the property. My career path so far has been undergrad research and study of arthropods (primarily insects) and I plan on attending grad school and getting a PhD within the next 3-4 years.

What was your favorite traveling experience?

Aaron: My favorite traveling experience was coming down as an intern in 2012 for Kalu Yala. I had been in school for as long as I could remember and I finally had the chance to get out of the classroom and explore the tropics for myself. I had the freedom to pursue my own interests in ecology and the opportunity to explore the Tres Brazos region, asking my own questions and actively hunting for answers.

I made life-long relationships with people and met some of my best friends in the world here. I learned more in the 3 months I spent in Panama than I had in the previous 2 years of college. It was the first time I every truly experienced the freedom to go and do what I wanted and loved.

What unique qualities does your company possess?

Aaron: One is the entrepreneurial, inquiry-based learning experience for interns. Students get the chance to design their own projects and ask their own questions. They not only have the chance to be immersed in nature, but in the local communities of Panama as well.

We are also very transparent to our employees and interns and make decisions from the bottom up as a team. Everybody in the company has a say. Notably, everybody working for the company is under the age of 30. We are more than just a company, we are a community. Kalu Yala is a lifestyle that we all share and we all have the freedom and power to make things happen.

What changes would you make to the study abroad industry?

Aaron: More emphasis on cultural integration rather than cultural imperialism.

Describe a time when you felt especially proud to be part of the Kalu Yala team.

Aaron: I felt especially proud when we went as a team on vacation to Costa Rica. We attended the envision festival as a volunteer crew and instantly gained fame as the 'Panama Crew'. We immediately impressed people by our group bond and ability to work so well together.

We helped build composting bathrooms, helped build stages, we worked at a coffee stand, managed some kitchens and really made an impression. Strangers already knew about us before we ever met them and wanted to be involved with our operation. I was just so proud to have these friends and coworkers.