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International Exchange: Karen Kainer and Jon Dain Teach in Japan with SFRC Alum and Professor Masaaki Yamada

In the late 1990’s two SFRC graduate students had a conversation in passing that would change the trajectory of their careers. Karen Kainer, now a Professor with SFRC and the Center for Latin American Studies, suggested to her colleague, Masaaki Yamada, that he look into a paper about the agroforestry systems of Japanese immigrants in the Amazon.

Masaaki was immediately intrigued. His mentors, advisor Dr. Henry Gholz, and committee member, Dr. P.K. Nair, encouraged him to pursue this new passion as his dissertation topic. Now, Dr. Yamada is a professor at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT), and is still studying the successes of these fascinating immigrants some twenty years later. In fact he just finished a five-year project with the Japan International Cooperation Agency in Brazil, titled “Rural Income Enhancement and Environmental Conservation and Rehabilitation in the Amazon through Dissemination and Certification of Successional Agroforestry Systems.”

This year, Karen and Masaaki’s careers intertwined again, when Masaaki invited Karen and Jon Dain, Lecturer and Director of the Florida Natural Resources Leadership Institute, to a 10-day teaching and learning expedition in Japan.

Jon Dain, Dr. Karen Kainer, Shiho Kagami, and Dr. Masaaki Yamada

“Dr. Yamada, and his colleague Shiho Kagami were incredibly attentive and lovely hosts to our visit, organizing all sorts of learning activities,” said Karen.

As a visiting professor, Karen taught a two-day intensive short course on Community Forest Management to about 25 students working towards their masters’ degrees in Agriculture. The students represented Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Malawi, Uzbekistan, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Brazil, and the Philippines. The course explored how CFM is influenced by larger historical, cultural and socioeconomic contexts in the students’ home countries.

Meeting with city officials


“We had so many incredible opportunities. One day, I delivered a talk to about 70 high school and junior high students and teachers, city officials, and citizens of Fukushima on “The Amazon rainforest,” said Karen, “That evening, a local mushroom merchant organized an enchanting dinner for Jon, Masaaki, and I with city dignitaries.”

Karen and Jon’s daughters with grad student Keiko Ohira



Karen also visited with former UF Professor Kaoru Kitajima and her graduate student Keiko Ohira to learn about local forest management and processing facilities near Kyoto. To continue the international exchange, Karen will host Keiko in her lab at SFRC for the 2019-2020 academic year!