THIS book, and the research it is based upon, is the result of what makes most science happen today. An idea circulated among a network of individual acquaintances caught fire and stimulated the development of a proposal that was ultimately funded, leading to an outcome much larger and far-reaching than any one participant could have expected or produced. The seed was planted when then Ph.D. candidate Savitsky walked into the office of Clemson University faculty member (and director of the Archbold Tropical Research Center) Lacher and suggested doing a dissertation research project that would combine his interest in geographic information systems (GIS) and Central America. At the time, Lacher had worked mostly in the Caribbean and Brazil but knew Christopher Vaughan of the Universidad Nacional (UNA) from several conferences and workshops. We contacted Chris, who put us in touch with Jorge Fallas, and thus began the discussions of research ideas that, over time, developed into our research proposal and eventually this book.
The first concrete discussions occurred when Savitsky went to Costa Rica and met with the faculty and staff at UNA. The idea of a modified gap analysis began to develop about this time; the challenge was to develop an approach that had been applied with success in the United States but had yet to be utilized in a more data-poor country. The original idea was to do a regional project that would contrast countries with different levels of data availability, but this was soon discounted owing to logistical difficulties. We developed a proposal for Costa Rica together with our colleagues at UNA and were funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in a competitive grants competition.