NSF International Research Experiences for Students
"Integrating ecological sciences and environmental philosophy for biocultural conservation in the temperate and sub-antarctic Ecoregions of southern South America"
Lead Investigators: James Kennedy, Christopher Anderson and Ricardo Rozzi
With the funding of a U.S. National Science Foundation IRES Grant (OISE 0854350), this program allows approximately 8 graduate and undergraduate students per year from the University of North Texas and an alliance of selected partner institutions to conduct research guided by a local mentor at the Omora Ethnobotanical Park, Puerto Williams, Chile or one of the other two long-term socio-ecological research sites in Chile coordinated by the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity. Dates for the field experiences are flexible with a minimum stay of 5 weeks and a preference for availability including mid-December until late-January (the austral summer). Possibilities to extend the stay for an entire spring semester are also considered favorably. This program is conducted by UNT in association with UMAG, IEB, the Ecological Society of America's SEEDS program and other associated U.S. universities.
Research topics include:
1. Discovering the underperceived biodiversity of sub-antarctic watersheds.
- Conduct biodiversity assessments of little known taxa, including terrestrial, freshwater and marine invertebrates in the austral archipelago.
- Evaluate patterns of native diversity that go unnoticed.
- Initiate autecological and life history studies of particular taxa that hold special interest due to their ecological role or for evolutionary or biogeographical comparative purposes with either other sites in Chile or North America.
2. Native and exotic species in temperate, sub-antarctic ecosystems.
- The creation of biodiversity databases (using websites and information technology) that describe the distribution and species assemblage maps for native and exotic species (using GIS) and use the preceding activities to assess the overall drivers, mechanism and impacts of invasive species in the austral archipelago (using niche modeling and GIS).
- Studies of beaver disturbed and non-disturbed sites, e.g., conducting decomposition experiments, nutrient cycling studies and evaluations of the role of biodiversity on ecosystem function.
3. Perspectives on biodiversity, decision-making and biocultural education.
- Ecological metaphors. Begin by researching and organizing the results of the biodiversity inventories and elaborate metaphors, such as "Miniature Forests of Cape Horn" or "Tourism with a Hand-Lens," that synthesize ecological discoveries and appeal to children, tourists, and the general public group. They will use the results obtained by the freshwater inventories and synthesize concepts related to life histories, habitat use and ecological relevance of freshwater invertebrates, such as caddisflies.
- Multicultural ethnoecology. Students will organize names in English, Spanish, and Yahgan, as well as scientific names of representative taxa and habitat types at the Róbalo watershed. For this purpose, they will work with the digital databases and recordings of Yahgan language and ecological knowledge produced by Omora researchers during the last 10 years. They will also conduct some structured, semi-structured interviews with members of each of the socio-cultural groups, recording in field notebooks as well visual and sound media, the names, ecological knowledge, practices, attitudes and values toward watershed biodiversity. Some students might participate in the composition of multi-cultural guides on watershed biodiversity, containing illustrations, and common and scientific names of the representative taxa and habitats. IRES students will analyze the names and associated ecological knowledge, comparing indigenous and other forms of folk ecological knowledge with scientific knowledge and will focus on the identification of similarities and differences among these diverse forms of knowledge.
4. Integration of research, educational and ecotourism activities.
- Evaluation of the four step cycle methodology, which integrates (1) research, (2) metaphors, (3) field activities with an ecological and ethical orientation, and (4) implementation of in situ conservation areas toward the end of the research experience, IRES students will participate with their Chilean mentors in workshops offered to pre-school, middle school, high school teachers, and local tourist guides. These workshops will be conducted at the Omora Ethnobotanical Park and will focus on the identification of representative taxa, and understanding the ecosystem services they provide along with the beauty of these taxa and their biotic communities. In addition, IRES students and their Chilean mentors will prepare scripts for guided visits to Omora Ethnobotanical Park and the CHBR.