Image: Ecuador, Fundacion Cambugan.

Our Story 

Cloud Forest Institute was originally founded to develop an educational exchange between Ecuador and the US.  Research about online distance education learning communities began in 1996 when Patrick Burnstad aka Sumo, co- founder of  CFI, became affiliated with the Globewide Network Academy (GNA). GNA  originated in 1993 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Within the following year Sumo helped co-found the Internet Biologists. The first course that CFI presented was  “Doing Biology on the Internet” and was held in a virtual reality MOO created by Diversity University.

Cambugán Watershed

In 2004 CFI began partnering with ALLPA and Fundacion Cambugan to protect the Cambugan Watershed. The Cambugán River is located in the western Andean mountain range, about 50 km north of Quito, just 15 km north of the equator. The area belongs to the parish of San José de Minas in the region of Quito, in the province of Pichincha. The Cambugán Watershed is approximately 5 km wide and 12 km long at an elevation of 1300m to 3200m.

Cambugán River, Ecuador


Ecuador has the highest biodiversity per hectare of any South American Country. Yet researchers say that at the current rate of deforestation, 2.3% per year, it will be nearly denuded by 2025. This small country is the home of at least 10 distinct existing indigenous groups.  These habitats and cultures are in danger of being lost to the encroachment of western civilization and the environmentally destructive practices of transnational corporations.

In 2006 CFI co-founded the Amazon Myco Renewal Project now known as Co-Renewal. Myco-remediation experiments to test how oyster mushroom mycelium work with the final phase of oil spill clean up began soon after in Lago Agrio.


Earth Cycles

Earth Cycles

  • 1996 – Obtain federally designated 501 (c)(3) educational and scientific non-profit corporate status

  • 1997 – Affiliate with the Globewide Network Academy

  • 1998 – Co-found the Internet Biologists

  • 2000 – CSUMB Real Life Learning: Ecuador Pilot Program

  • 2001 – Real Life Learning Ecuador Program Year 2

  • 2001 – Affiliate with CIBT to be recognized as Instituto Bosque Nublado, an Ecuadorian NGO

  • 2001 – Collaborate with Salem in Mindo, Ecuador hosting volunteers, interns, and students

  • 2002 – Activist Support for Resistors of Mindo segment of OCP Oil Pipeline Project

  • 2003 – Office headquarters at River Oaks Compu-Farm in Potter Valley, CA

  • 2004 – All Ages Revolutionary Summer School 2004

  • 2005 – All Ages Revolutionary Summer School 2005

  • 2006 – Summer course in Ecuador, Co-found Amazon Mycorenewal Project (AMP)

  • 2007 – Mycoremediation experiments in Lago Agrio

  • 2008 – CFI/AMP interns Jess Work and Brian Pace initiate  Service Learning Mycoremediation course

  • 2016 – Earthquake Relief Effort with Groupo CAEMBA build 5 bamboo shelters in Canoa, Equador 

  • 2016 – Small Diameter Pole Utilization, MendoDragon Intentional Community

  • 2018 –  Forest Reciprocity Group Established