In January 2012, an international delegation of 50 scientists, professionals, and graduate and undergraduate students arrived in Puerto Williams, Chile, to participate in the first international field course and workshop held at UNT’s field environmental philosophy, science, and policy research station in Cape Horn.
Students from UNT’s faculty-led study abroad program in Chile, and fellowship recipients of UNT’s International Research Experience for Students (IRES) grant funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), took part in the international course, “Tracing Darwin’s Path.” The course was held in Puerto Williams, Chile, the scientific center of the UNESCO Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve, from December 27, 2011 to January 12, 2012, and was led by Drs. Jaime Jimenez, James Kennedy of the UNT biology faculty, and Dr. Ricardo Rozzi of the UNT philosophy faculty. During this course, students camped on Robalo Lake, and studied the diversity of freshwater invertebrates, and forest birds in this remote sub-Antarctic watershed. They examined these interrelated groups of organism by studying the diet of birds, which includes a high proportion of invertebrates. The study of diet was conducted with a non-invasive methodology, through the analysis of bird feces. Additionally, the students studied and discussed the ethical dimension of the ecological relationships that sub-Antarctic birds have with diverse human beings, including the indigenous Yahgan culture, which represent the world’s southernmost ethnic group. Participants of this interdisciplinary course also included professional musicians, photographers, lawyers, engineers and film makers from Chile, as well as students and scientists from the University of Magallanes and the Omora Ethnobotanical Park in Chile, and a group from Buena Vista University, Iowa, led by Dr. Melinda Coogan, a former Ph.D. student at UNT.
The concurrently held workshop, “Ecotourism with a Hand-lens,” brought together cutting-edge international researchers and members of the local and regional communities to link science with ethical tourism as part of an initiative financed by Chilean governmental agencies, Innova CORFO and CONICYT Millennium Scientific Initiative, and the Omora Ethnobotanical Park in collaboration with UNT. Ecotourism with a Hand Lens in the Miniature Forests of Cape Horn is a sustainable form of special interest tourism developed by the scientific team of the Omora Ethnobotanical Park, which allows visitors an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the diversity of bryophytes (mosses, lichens and small plants) present in the subantarctic Cape Horn ecoregion.
This workshop gave U.S. students the opportunity to interact with renowned researchers and the local community. This sub-Antarctic region hosts more than 5% of the bryophyte species in the world, and over 60% of these species grow only in this region, therefore, one could say that this area is a world “hotspot” for bryophytes. The trail of the Miniature Forests of Cape Horn protects eight hectares of subantarctic habitats and includes fourteen stations, where magnifying glass sculptures direct the attention of visitors to species characteristic of the region. In this context the international, national and local participants of this workshop met to discuss the development of this tourism activity, and how to export Ecotourism with a Hand-lens to other regions of the world, such as the deserts of Arizona.
The Cape Horn Field Station is administrated by the Sub-Antarctic Biocultural Conservation Program, a research, education, and conservation program coordinated by UNT in the U.S., and the University of Magallanes and the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity in Chile. The study of freshwater invertebrates and bird diets will continue in this year’s faculty-led study abroad course, Tracing Darwin’s Path, from December 27, 2012 - January 14, 2013. Independent study and research opportunities will be available for students through the Sub-Antarctic Biocultural Conservation Program to study the sub-Antarctic freshwater invertebrate diversity and life cycles, the bird natural history, and/or the bird diet.
For more information, visit www.chile.unt.edu, or contact the Sub-Antarctic Biocultural Conservation Program at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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