Linking Patagonia and the World via Tourism and Seabirds

ABSTRACT. Human-wildlife dynamics exhibit novel characteristics in the Anthropocene, given the unprecedented degree of globalization that has increased the linkages between habitats and people across space and time. This is largely caused by unprecedented transnational mobility and migration, international labor and resource markets and trade. Understanding the relationship between humans and wildlife and their associated telecoupling processes helps to promote better management practices and governance for reconciling socio-economic and conservation interests. In this study, we review human-seabird interactions in the iconic Beagle Channel (BC) in southern Patagonia. Then, we adapted and employed the coupled human and natural systems (CHANS) approach and telecoupling framework to integrate disparate social and biological information and obtain a more holistic understanding of current human-seabird dynamics and trends in the BC. While our assessment includes the temporal scale of human-seabird relationships, we centered the CHANS and telecoupling analysis on the modern seabird-tourism interaction as a methodological delimitation of the system i) to permit greater understanding of ongoing conservation research and policy efforts and ii) to identify gaps in our knowledge and potentially unforeseen conservation threats. For this reason, we focused on the Argentine portion of the channel, where tourism is most heavily developed. Our synthesis in the BC telecoupled CHANS allowed us to recognize the strong historical local-to-global interactions between both human and natural subsystems and the sharp increase in distance telecoupling during the 20th century due to human mobility and tourism. Despite this globalizing trend in connecting the BC to distance place, ironically we found few human subsystem linkages between Argentina and Chile, despite both countries sharing political sovereignty over the channel. Recognizing and studying the telecouplings identified in this study could help multi-lateral efforts to incorporate the spillover systems (especially with Chile) and sending systems (i.e. transnational tourists’ countries of origin) into existing regional policies and global alternative (e.g., ecosystem services payment). Integrating these scales into our study and management of the BC would help ensure that humans continue to enjoy this unique and charismatic wildlife and at the same time reinforce responsible tourism as a local-global strategy for sustainable development and global conservation.

Assessing the Effects of Urbanization on Streams in Tierra del Fuego

Abstract. We set out to understand how urbanization affects streams in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego. Paired t-tests and linear regressions were used to compare physico-chemical stream habitat variables (temperature, turbidity, conductivity, dissolved oxygen and pH) and benthic macroinvertebrate community structure (density, taxonomic richness, Shannon-Weiner diversity) and function (functional feeding groups: FFGs) in four watersheds with urban and reference sites. We then calculated indices of biotic integrity for habitat (Rapid Visual Assessment Protocol: RVAP) and benthos (Ephemeroptera, Plectopera, Tricoptera richness: EPT, Family Biotic Index: FBI, Rapid Bioassessment Protocol: RBP and Biotic Monitoring Patagonian Streams: BMPS). Results indicated that urbanization negatively impacted these streams’ underlying ecological condition, decreasing benthic biodiversity and dissolved oxygen, while increasing conductivity and turbidity. FFG assemblage was similar between both sites, but urbanization increased the existing dominance of collector-gatherers. Additionally, urban sites presented lower values in three of the benthic macroinvertebrate indices (EPT, RBP, BMPS, but not FBI) and also for habitat (RVAP). These data fill an existing gap in stream ecology for southern Patagonia and are useful to create monitoring tools. By incorporating urbanization as a driver of ecosystem change, managers and planners will be better able to confront the issue of sustainable development in this region, which is considered one of the most pristine wilderness areas remaining on the planet but whose human population is concentrated in a few densely populated urban areas.


Resumen. Evaluando los efectos de la urbanización en los arroyos de Tierra del Fuego. Nos propusimos la meta de entender cómo la urbanización afecta a los ríos y arroyos en Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego. Para lo cual, se utilizaron pruebas t pareadas y regresiones lineales con el fin de comparar variables fisicoquímicas (temperatura, turbidez, conductividad, oxígeno disuelto y pH) con la estructura y función (densidad, riqueza taxonómica, diversidad de Shannon-Weiner, Grupos Funcionales Alimentarios: FFG en inglés) de la comunidad de macroinvertebrados bentónicos en cuatro cuencas con sitios urbanos y de referencia. Luego, se calcularon los índices de integridad biótica para el hábitat (Rapid Visual Assessment Protocol: RVAP) y el bentos (riqueza de Ephemeroptera, Plectopera, Tricoptera: EPT, Family Biotic Index: FBI, Rapid Bioassensment Protocol: RBP y Biotic Monitoring Patagonian Streams: BMPS). Los resultados indicaron que la urbanización afectó negativamente la condición ecológica subyacente de estas cuencas, disminuyendo la biodiversidad bentónica y el oxígeno disuelto, mientras que la conductividad y la turbidez aumentaban. El ensamble de FFG fue similar entre ambos sitios, pero la urbanización incrementó la dominancia existente de organismos colectores-recolectores. Además, los sitios urbanos presentaron valores más bajos en tres de los índices de macroinvertebrados bentónicos (EPT, RBP, BMPS, pero no FBI) y también para el hábitat (RVAP). Estos datos llenan un vacío existente en la ecología de los arroyos para el sur de la Patagonia, y son útiles para crear herramientas de monitoreo. Mediante la incorporación de la urbanización como factor de cambio en los ecosistemas, los gestores y planificadores estarán en mejores condiciones para hacer frente a la cuestión del desarrollo sostenible en esta región, que se considera uno de los espacios naturales más prístinos que queda en el planeta, pero cuya población humana se concentra en unas pocas áreas urbanas densamente pobladas.

Continuing to provide Patagonia Research Experiences for Students in Sustainability

In the austral summer of 2018, OSARA coordinated the last official cohort of PRESS students, which interns working in such diverse topics as the study of the carbon cycle in aquatic ecosystem to the socio-cultural valuation of biodiversity and ecosystem services in Tierra del Fuego. This brings out total to 24 undergraduate and graduate students who have benefited from this project.

However, to give long-term viability to these interactions and also promote reciprocal exchange with Latin American students and researchers, OSARA worked with Northern Arizona University (NAU) to prepare a new funding proposal to the 100,000 Strong in the America program, coordinated by the U.S. State Department. This new project would fund students and faculty to collaborate between NAU, the National University of Tucuman (UNT), the National University of Tierra del Fuego (UNTDF) and the Austral Center for Scientific and Technical Research (CADIC) in the area of sustainable energy resources and development, particularly students in geology and environmental sciences.

Plus, we are preparing a PRESS 2.0 by continuing the internship program at CADIC and UNTDF for NAU students based on a collaboration with the Interdisciplinary Global Program, where undergraduate students self-fund 6 month internships at foreign research centers.


Adding Value to Ecosystems

For several decades, the term “ecosystem services” has been used by environmental scientists and managers to connote the benefits people and societies receive “free” from nature. Beginning in the 1990s, there were many efforts to monetarize these services, but today it is also increasingly recognized that their socio-cultural values are as important. Since 2012, OSARA has worked with Northern Arizona University (NAU), the Universidad Nacional de Tierra del Fuego (UNTDF) and a host of research and conservation institutions in Patagonia to implement the PRESS project, which among other things seeks to study nature from multiple social and ecological perspectives.

From January till March 2016, undergraduate students from NAU and UNTDF conducted surveys in Tierra del Fuego National Park and the town of Ushuaia. They found that residents and vistors alike had very little understanding of native species, especially aquatic biodiversity. Plus, most people highly valued nature, but mostly understood evident benefits of the national park to their quality of life, such as using it for recreation activities, and they were less aware of its intangible services.

One of the outcomes of this project has been to take those findings and place them into more apparent socio-cultural value, specifically working with an interdisciplinary team of natural scientists, communications professors and designers to not only identify the “hidden” biodiversity and services of places like Tierra del Fuego National Park, but also make them more evident to society. So, this joint project produced and financed 3 new signs for the park to highlight aquatic species (like tiny benthic macroinvertebrates or the endangered southern river otter) and also unknown ways that nature supports our well-being (like the fact that the national park protects the watersheds of Ushuaia’s 3 water sources). Click on these signs for more.



Patagonia Research Experiences for Students in Sustainability (Year 2)

Students from Northern Arizona University (NAU) and the National University of Tierra del Fuego (UNTDF) are working together on a collaborative project with ecologists, anthropologists and social scientists to better understand the social perceptions and ecological realities of the protected areas of southern Patagonia. This project, financed with support from the U.S. National Science Foundation, the U.S.-Argentine Fulbright Commission, the Argentine National Parks Administration and UNTDF, is one of the initiatives coordinated by OSARA to develop new and dynamic relationships in the realm of conservation, socio-ecological research and sustainability science. The students involved seek to not only master skills in the lab and gain knowledge about local biodiversity, but also seek to be trained in local environmental and cultural sensibility.

Specifically, the team involved in conducting a “social-ecological evaluation” of Tierra del Fuego National Park and its biodiversity seeks first to identify and compare ecological “realities” to human “perceptions”. The outcomes are expected to help illustrate a fundamental base of knowledge for scientists, decision-makers and locals. Such insights will then be used as a tool to optimize future efforts of ecological conservation, cultural preservation and overall recognition of well-being in respect to all inhabitants of the land and the land itself.

The student team was led by Leah Manak and Alana Weber, both Environmental Science and Spanish students at NAU). They and students from Biology at UNTDF implemented a ten-question survey of which they then asked a sample of over 500 participants (local and non-local) covering topics like: overall perceptions and knowledge of the benefits provided by the national park, the threats to the national park, the presence and disturbances of native and exotic animal species on the island of Tierra del Fuego, and finally the ethics and methods of lethal trapping as a form of introduced-species management.

According to Manak, “we had the privilege to work beside people from different educational and cultural backgrounds with abstract as well as controversial themes, and I’m truly impressed with how this team worked together to accomplish our goals. We were able to see Tierra del Fuego through a kaleidoscope of perceptions; each color constructed by the different worldviews of the people we interviewed.”

IMG_9564Likewise, “I was struck by how many tourists come to see the majestic beauty at the end of the world. The ability to work with and interview so many people from around the world was incredible. I have learned so much from my experience not only in my studies but in cultural and social aspects as well. This is only the beginning of a long cultural and scientific future ahead of me; and being apart of PRESS is such an amazing way to start my journey. I am forever appreciative,” said Weber.

The conclusions of this study will not only serve to enhance our understanding of the socio-ecological relationships in southern Patagonia, but also help prepare communication strategies for different stakeholder groups.

New Publication on the Social Dimensions of Invasive Species

cobi_left In the February edition of the journal Conservation Biology, Drs. Rodrigo Estevez, Christopher Anderson, Cristobal Pizarro and Mark Burgman published the review entitled Clarifying values, risk perceptions, and attitudes to resolve or avoid social conflicts in invasive species management.

Summary. Decision makers and researchers increasingly recognize the need to effectively confront the social dimensions and conflicts inherent to invasive species research and management. Yet, despite numerous contentious situations that have arisen, no systematic evaluation of the literature has examined the commonalities in the patterns and types of these emergent social issues. Using social and ecological keywords, we reviewed trends in the social dimensions of invasive species research and management and the sources and potential solutions to problems and conflicts that arise around invasive species. We integrated components of cognitive hierarchy theory and risk perceptions theory to provide a conceptual framework to identify, distinguish, and provide understanding of the driving factors underlying disputes associated with invasive species. In the ISI Web of Science database, 15,915 peer-reviewed publications on biological invasions were found; 124 included social dimensions of this phenomenon. Of these 124, 28 studies described specific contentious situations. Social approaches to biological invasions have emerged largely in the last decade and have focused on both environmental social sciences and resource management. Despite being distributed in a range of journals, these 124 articles were concentrated mostly in ecology and conservation-oriented outlets. The study found that conflicts surrounding invasive species arose based largely on differences in value systems and to a lesser extent stakeholder and decision maker’s risk perceptions. To confront or avoid such situations, the authors suggest integrating the plurality of environmental values into invasive species research and management via structured decision making techniques, which enhance effective risk communication that promotes trust and confidence between stakeholders and decision makers.

OSARA Facilitates Insertion of U.S. Students in Southern Patagonian Research Programs

2015-02-05 13.28.51With the support of U.S. National Science Foundation Grant (IIA 1261229) Patagonia Research Experiences for Students in Sustainability or “PRESS“, 5 undergraduate and graduate students from Northern Arizona University (NAU) arrived to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego to initiate their projects with Argentine mentors from a suite of partner institutions. In the coming years, the project will fund 7-8 students per year, and after the ending of the NSF funds the programs sustainability is ensured by being part of the Global Science and Engineering Program at NAU and internationalization efforts in Argentina. In 2015, OSARA is proud to coordinate the following projects.

Erik McCaughan, B.S. Biology, studying the trophic and population ecology of native southern river otters and invasive American mink under the guidance of Drs. Alejandro Valenzuela (Argentine National Parks Administration-APN and National University of Tierra del Fuego-UNTDF) and Laura Fasola (Austral Center for Scientific Research-CADIC). Tierra del Fuego & Santa Cruz Provinces, Argentina.

Faythe Duran, B.S. Biology, studying the soil conditions in a national observatory site for desertification under the guidance of Dr. Alicia Moretto (CADIC-UNTDF). Tierra del Fuego Province, Argentina.

Montana Johnson, B.S. Environmental Sciences, studying stream macroinvertebrate assemblages associated with different habitat types in Tierra del Fuego under the guidance of Dr. Christopher Anderson (CADIC-UNTDF).  Tierra del Fuego Province, Argentina.

Taylor Oster, B.S. Environmental Engineering and B.A. Spanish, studying indicators of trail sustainability in Glaciers and Tierra del Fuego National Parks under the guidance of Laura Malmierca (APN).  Tierra del Fuego & Santa Cruz Provinces, Argentina.

T.J. Schmidt, M.S. Climate Science & Solutions, studying the carbon footprint of the wool industry in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina under the guidance of Dr. Pablo Peri (National Institute of Agricultural Technology-INTA and National University of Southern Patagonia-UNPA). Santa Cruz Province, Argentina.

NSF and CONICET Support New Collaborative Project

Picture1Since 2012, Northern Arizona University and a suite of partners in southern Patagonia, coordinated by OSARA, have forged new and productive relationships in the area of conservation, socio-ecological research and sustainability science. The first fruit of this relationship was the NSF International Research Experience for Students grant, known as “PRESS“.

logoConicetNow, as these relationships have grown, a new proposal has been funded by both Argentina’s National Council for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICET) and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of international cooperation efforts. This new project, entitled Understanding biotic and institutional drivers that facilitate or constrain watershed restoration: a comparative study of two iconic landscapes from Patagonia and Grand Canyon will fund Drs. Christopher Anderson and Sebastian Ballari from Argentina to conduct work at NAU, while Dr. Erik Nielsen will come to collaborate in Tierra del Fuego.

Strengthening the Relationship between Science and Society

logo-cequaThe line of research of science and tourism, which is led by Ernesto Davis at the Center for Quaternary Studies (CEQUA) in Punta Arenas, Chile, has received significant new support from the Chilean Science and Technology Commission’s “Linking Science and Industry” (VCE) Program. In addition, the VCE Program highlighted Mr. Davis’ previous efforts as exemplary at the national level for the type of projects they seek to fund and institutionalize. The new grant will allow the previous experience working with the Australis Cruiseline to be used to expand training efforts throughout the region, as well as continue to strengthen citizen science training on board the boats. The ultimate goal is to formalize a strategy that integrates academics and tourism operators in a reciprocally beneficial relationship. Beyond just the traditional “outreach” model of training guides or preparing educational materials, this effort seeks to include the guides and the tourists themselves in the research, and show the value of this approach to companies.

Linking Alaska and Tierra del Fuego

foto con osos polaresWith the support of a CONICET grant to Dr. Christopher Anderson, concrete strides are being made to strengthen research between Tierra del Fuego and Alaska. From November 2014-February 2015, distinguished scientist Dr. Merav Ben-David from the University of Wyoming conducted a sabbatical at the Austral Center for Scientific Research (CADIC) in association with the Argentine National Parks Administration (APN). Dr. Ben-David is a recognized expert in wildlife biology and management, particular in polar and sub-polar biomes in North America, where she works with species like otters, mink, beaver and polar bears, among others.

During her time in Tierra del Fuego, she offered two workshops for local researchers and students, regarding non-invasive methods of estimating animal populations and using stable isotopes in ecological research. She also conducted extensive field work with Dr. Alejandro Valenzuela in Tierra del Fuego and Glaciers National Parks to get to know the situation of the endangered southern river otter (Lontra provocax) and the invasive American mink (Neovison vison). With Dr. Andrea Raya-Rey she also participated in studies on Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus). Finally, in association with the Center for Quaternary Studies (CEQUA) in Punta Arenas, Chile, she is advising a scientific tourism project on the cruise ships of the Australis company, assisting in the integration of citizen science methods to this initiative.

Based on these efforts to re-enforce relationships between the polar and sup-polar regions of North and South America, new projects are being developed. In June 2015, Dr. Valenzuela of the APN will travel to Alaska to participate in coastal otter monitoring programs, and plans are being made to present new training grants for Argentine and U.S. students to work in both Patagonia and North America on similar issues related to wildlife and conservation issues.

New Fulbrighter for Tierra del Fuego

Fulbright logoYet again, OSARA has helped facilitate a successful Fulbright application to work in Patagonia. This time, Dr. Erik Nielsen from Northern Arizona University (NAU) will recieve the award to conduct a sabbatical from January till May 2016. During that time he will offer two courses at the National University of Tierra del Fuego. One will be on social dimensions of conservation and the other about interdisciplinary teaching practices for university professors. In addition, he will conduct research in association with the Austral Center for Scientific Research concerning the social and institutional aspects of conservation, including control of invasive beavers and restoration of native forests.

New Publication on Restoration in Tierra del Fuego

cover_erA recent publication in the journal Ecological Restoration, led by Fulbrighter and NatGeo Young Explorer Jonathan Henn, finds that survival of transplated lenga (Nothofagus pumilio) seedlings in abandoned beaver meadows depends largely on the abiotic conditions of microhabitats within the meadow and the invasion of herbaceous (often exotic) plants. The research, coordinated under the guidance of Dr. Guillermo Martinez Pastur (ECO-Link Senior Personnel) and Dr. Christopher Anderson (ECO-Link PI), is the first pilot effort in Tierra del Fuego to conduct active forest restoration, which is one of the goals of the binational agreement between Chile and Argentina regarding the management of the invasive beaver.

Unifying Patagonia

logoCENPATFrom 30 June to 5 July, more than 20 students from Argentina, Chile and Paraguay came to the National Patagonia Center (CENPAT) in Puerto Madryn to participate in the graduate course entitled “Humans Dimensions of Conservation,” coordinated by Dr. Alexandra Sapoznikow. Invited lecturers included social and natural scientists. Guest professor Dr. Christopher Anderson stated “this course in Puerto Madryn is the ‘sister’ course to one we offer in Ushuaia on ‘socio-ecology’. With Alexa we have decided to offer each every other year and re-enforce one another, rather than compete, as a way to united our efforts from southern and northern Patagonia.” In 2015, the next version of this series will be offered in Ushuaia, associated with the Argentine Marine Sciences Congress, under the motto “integrating forms of knowledge.”