New book on the Robalo River watershed – culture and biodiversity

Libro tomas low res.jpgIn January, José Tomás Ibarra (Omora Project Coordinator) and Ximena Arango (UMAG Local Coordinator and IEB Outreach Assistant) launched the new book entitled Habitats and Inhabitants of the Robalo Watershed with a public presentation in the town library. The book was published in association with Omora, UMAG, the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity and Fauna Australis and financed by the project “Views from today and yesterday of the Robalo Watershed” with the support of the Chilean National Environment Commission.

The project explores the different “tracks” left behind by the different cultures that have inhabited the watershed that houses the Omora Park and provides drinking water to Puerto Williams. Going from the Yaghans and the first English missionary colonists up to the present day, the book links both cultural and biological diversity and is the final product of a parallel course that was taught in the local elementary school by Ximena and Omora volunteer Melisa Gañan.

For more information visit:

Cape Horn Research Center – Coming Soon!

100_1446.jpgWe are very proud to announce that this year our consortium was able to obtain the funding to implement much needed infrastructure in the CHBR. After years of work on this initiative by dedicated individuals, the IEB was able to take the lead in association with UNT and UMAG to obtain a highly prestigious grant, known as Fondos Basales, that together with contributions from the Center for Environmental Philosophy (CEP), UMAG, UNT and OSARA will provide $300,000 dollars to build a guest house-laboratory at the Omora Park.

This is undoubtedly a major step to ensure the long-term sustainability of our program in Cape Horn. The project will include “bioclimatic” design techniques and efficient energy use, hopefully becoming a model for sustainable construction in the region.

End-of-Year Message from the President

Dear Friends,

The past year has been a busy and productive one in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve (CHBR). So, in addition to wishing everyone a Happy New Year, I would like to take a moment, during this season of reflection, to review some of these achievements and offer my sincere thanks to each of you for taking part in our initiative. Your contributions of time, money and effort enable us to continue exploring the biocultural treasures of the Cape Horn Archipelago.

The year started off with a bang in January. Dr. Kurt Heidinger (former OSARA education coordinator) led an intrepid group of 10 students from the University of North Texas (UNT) on the first “field philosophy” course conducted at the Omora Park . The success of Kurt’s program has begotten two more courses in the Tracing Darwin’s Path series for 2008. Dr. Jim Kennedy (OSARA Advisor) was also visiting the Omora Park from UNT in January for a pilot study that has now developed into an aquatic biodiversity assessment of the Robalo Watershed, supported by the Hispanic Global Initiative. This funding will allow students and scientists from UNT and the University of Magallanes (UMAG) to work on this little understood aspect of subantarctic ecology. To coalesce all these activities, UNT has now created a Chile Program Office, directed by Dr. Ricardo Rozzi (OSARA advisor), which works directly with OSARA to plan and execute these Chile-US programs.

Also in the area of education, in March the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity (IEB), UNT, and UMAG organized the first Latin American graduate-level course and workshop on biocultural conservation and environmental ethics, gathering top students from Chile, Argentina, Peru, Columbia, Mexico, Germany and the US, as well as world experts in ecology, philosophy and public policy from the U.S., Chile, Argentina and Europe. This innovative course and workshop, financed by the Chilean government and the U.S. National Science Foundation, reinforced the leadership role of Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve scientists and academics as pioneers in this new transdisciplinary field and strengthened their call that indeed conservation and human social wellbeing are intrinsically linked!

It is no surprise, then, that the research conducted in the CHBR has received extensive coverage in general media and scientific publications. National and regional documentaries of work in the Omora Park have been filmed for television. Dr. Francisca Massardo and her work with the “miniature forests of Cape Horn” (mosses, lichens and liverworts) was highlighted in Chile’s leading women’s magazine, and the park’s “Tourism with a Hand Lens” (to explore these miniature forests) has been recognized by President Bachelet and is being featured in numerous popular press outlets as an important innovation in what OSARA Director Andrew Holton has dubbed “conscious” tourism.

Internationally, the BBC program Serious Oceans chose the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve and its scientists as the setting and protagonists for this year’s show, and our research on invasive species was highlighted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Winston-Salem Journal and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Meanwhile, an article recently published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, a leading ecology journal, is provoking discussion among conservation planners about the right “lenses” to use when viewing and prioritizing biodiversity conservation outside of the traditional areas where scientists have focused such as the tropics and temperate zones.

We are also very proud to announce that this year our consortium was able to obtain the funding to implement much needed infrastructure in the CHBR. After years of work on this initiative by dedicated individuals, the IEB was able to take the lead in association with UNT and UMAG to obtain a highly prestigious grant, known as Fondos Basales, that together with contributions from the Center for Environmental Philosophy (CEP), UMAG, UNT and OSARA will provide $300,000 dollars to build a guest house-laboratory at the Omora Park . This is undoubtedly a major step to ensure the long-term sustainability of our program in Cape Horn . The project will include “bioclimatic” design techniques and efficient energy use, hopefully becoming a model for sustainable construction in the region.

Of course, the life force of our operation is its people (see attached photos). Numerous volunteers, students and researchers working in the CHBR this past year developed important projects on a wide range of topics, including volunteers assessing the autecology of the fi­o-fio, graduate students studying aquatic insects and scientists investigating the association of flies that disperse the spores of mosses (which actually smell like animal dung!), just to name a few. We were also very fortunate this year that Dr. Gene Hargrove accepted our invitation to become a member of OSARA’s board of directors, bringing with him 30 years of valuable non-profit experience as the president of the CEP and unquestionable academic leadership in his field.

As part of our mission to “translate” these findings to a wider audience, particularly in North America , OSARA reorganized its website this year as well. Thanks to the work of Michelle Moorman and Geoff Fellows, you can now go to and find an online atlas of the CHBR, an audio tour of the Omora Park (produced by OSARA Friend Roger Emanuels), an informational blog, a guide to the aquatic biodiversity of Cape Horn, photographs, and a preliminary digital library of scientific articles from the area.

Finally to finish out the year, just last week OSARA was able to obtain the donation of binoculars, a spotting scope and backpacks from the American Birding Association on behalf of the UMAG master’s program. This donation will now be used by the students who are conducting their theses on the role of sea birds as vectors that link marine and terrestrial ecosystems in the CHBR.

The best way to keep up-to-date on these and more happenings in Cape Horn is by visiting the online Cape Horn Journal, which is continuously updated with discoveries, events, student diaries and initiatives being carried out by OSARA and its partners. Recently, volunteer Bryan Ruegg edited his video clips of the Omora Park to view online from the Journal. So, take a look at his link to see some of the people and places of this special part of the world.

As 2007 closes, it is satisfying to reflect on the fact that OSARA has now been in existence for 3 years. Remaining true to our dream and mission, we have set goals that we are systematically attaining in partnership with our friends and colleagues in Chile and the United States . All who have contributed should be proud of these advances, but obviously much remains to be done. Your continued support will help us carry on promoting research, education and conservation in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve. To renew your commitment today, please consider one of the following levels of support:

Friends of OSARA Society

* Contributor: $25-100
* Sponsor: $100-500
* Benefactor: $500-1,000
* Patron: $1,000-5,000

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Christopher B. Anderson
OSARA President

Cape Horn Field Station – closer to a reality

Since 2004, OSARA together with the University of North Texas and the Omora Park have been searching for the appropriate way to achieve the construction of a field station in Cape Horn. Various people have been involved in this effort, whose complexity has required a slow, but steady march to arrive our goal.

We are, therefore, pleased to announce that in October, OSARA joined a coalition of organizations to create the Cape Horn Field Station. The new cosortium is lead in Chile by the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity together with the University of Magallanes and the Omora Park and coordinated in the United States by the Univeristy of North Texas with the participation of various other universities and the Center for Environmental Philosophy.

This new team is now applying for funds from the Chilean government that will supplment the IEB’s current budget by $1 million dollars US per year for 10 years. The IEB has in the past two years taken a leadership role in managing the Omora Park as a long-term ecological research site, and these new new funds specifically will be used for infrastructure in the IEB’s three LTER sites, which also include Fray Jorge National Park (semi-arid ecoregion) and Senda Darwin Biological Station (Valdivian rainforest ecoregion).

OSARA is priviledged to be invited to participate in this initiative. In this way, our small effort is being re-enforced by a strong collaboration with organizations that provide at the same time a foundation, and also a projection for our joint projects.

Thanks to those who have helped with their donation of time, effort and money to help coalese this consotrium. We will be reporting on the progress of this initiative as time goes on.

Tracing Darwin’s Path – Nature writing at the Beagle Channel

In December 2006 – January 2007, OSARA education coordinator Dr. Kurt Heidinger taught the first nature writing study abroad program at the Omora Ethnobotanical Park. The field course, organized by OSARA for the Department of Philosophy at the University of North Texas, included a multidisciplinary group of undergraduate students from Chile and the United States interested in “experience-based” learning and bridging the humanities and the sciences.

For pictures of this adventure, check out:

OSARA launches digital atlas of the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve

Geoff Fellows, Michelle Moorman and various others have been working over the last year to make information about the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve available online. OSARA is now pleased to present the CHBR Digital Atlas:

We hope this format helps expose students, researchers and the general public to the information being generated by the scientific and conservation activities taking place in the Chilean subantarctic archipelago.

International Course on “Conservation and Society”

Biodiversity loss and other forms of environmental degradation stem from cultural and social causes that must be combined with scientific perspectives to achieve effective conservation and more sustainable land use practices. Leading social and environmental scientists now promote the development of interdisciplinary approaches addressing complex eco-social problems. Interdisciplinary fields such as ecological economics and restoration ecology have generated concepts such as “ecosystem goods and services” and “ecosystem health and rehabilitation,” stimulating scientific research, policy development, and conservation strategies.

The March 2007 workshop seeks to promote a similar type of interface between the ecological sciences and environmental ethics. Such interface is particularly needed for helping policy makers and the public understand how scientific knowledge relates to ethical and societal values.

This workshop consists of ten days of research and collaboration in two locations: 1) on Chiloé Island, southern Chile (42°S), March 15-18, 2007, and 2) on a vessel and at Puerto Natales (52°S) visiting salient examples of forest ecosystems, March 19-24, 2007. Part one of the workshop on Chiloé will consist of 60-100 participants; part two of the workshop will consist of 25-30 participants.

The workshop will bring together leading environmental scientists and environmental ethicists from the US, Chile, and other Latin American countries. This workshop will focus on the challenges faced by the increasingly threatened frontier ecosystems in temperate, southern South America. The ecological and social setting of these ecosystems raise critical issues about the complexity of social-ecological systems as well as ethical obligations of local, regional, and global society towards remaining frontier ecosystems. Key foreign collaborators for this workshop are Dr. Mary Kalin of the Chilean Millennium Institute for Ecology and Biodiversity (IEB), and Dr. Juan Armesto of the Catholic University of Chile.

The aims of the workshop are to 1) generate a workable scientific and societal definition of “ecological frontier,” and 2) clarify the question of how this definition can help inform conservation strategies, policy making, and land use options in the frontier ecosystems of southwestern Chile and other regions.

The Importance of Wetlands in Magallanes, Chile

For World Wetlands Day (2 February), we published a series of op-eds and articles in the regional newspaper of Magallanes (La Prensa Austral).

For those who read Spanish, you can see them at:

18 de Febrero: LPA

2 de Febrero: LPA

Omora Sub-Antarctic Research Alliance
5328 Hyada Blvd NE
Tacoma, WA 98422

OSARA Advisor Dr. Ricardo Rozzi named by the city of Padua, Italy as “Illustrious Citizen in the World”

As the descendant of emigrants from the Veneto Region of Italy, the city of Padua recently named Dr. Ricardo Rozzi one of its “Illustrious World Citizens,” conferring him with a “gold medal” for his achievements in science and conservation.

Among other achievements, the award highlights Dr. Rozzi’s contributions via the Omora Ethnobotanical Park to conservation and sustainable development in the Cape Horn region of southern Chile.

For more information:

Cape Horn in National Geographic News

Unique Mosses Spur Conservation, Ecotourism in Chile
John Roach
for National Geographic News

November 14, 2006

A biosphere reserve on the southern tip of South America owes its existence, in part, to the diversity of mosses found there.

The Cape Horn Archipelago, a chain of wind-battered islands in the southernmost reaches of Chile, contains only a few tree species but a bounty of rare and unique mosses, according to William Buck, the curator of bryophytes at the New York Botanical Garden (map of Chile).

Bryophytes are a group of nonflowering plants that include mosses, liverworts, and hornworts.
Buck has traveled to the Cape Horn Archipelago each of the past four years to catalog the region’s mosses.

Inclement weather, rough seas, and a decades-long border dispute with neighboring Argentina have kept the archipelago pristine and unexplored. Many of the islands have never been studied, Buck says.

To date, he and his colleagues have documented numerous mosses previously unknown in the archipelago and several others that are new to science.
“I’m personally just interested in what mosses are there and how they are related to one another,” Buck said.

According to Buck, mosses are amazing plants because they can almost completely shrivel to nothing and enter suspended animation—in which all their vital functions cease—for years. Then, with a few drops of water, they can spring back to life.

Protected Area

But the findings, Buck adds, have aided local conservation efforts to bring greater environmental protections to the region and are helping to create a niche form of ecotourism.
“Like the Amazon is important for global diversity of primates and birds, [Cape Horn] is important for the diversity of bryophytes,” said Christopher Anderson, a postdoctoral research fellow with the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity in Santiago, Chile.

In 2005, the United Nations Education, Science, and Culture Organization (UNESCO) approved a Chilean government application to declare the Cape Horn Archipelago a biosphere reserve.
The designation promotes sustainable development, conservation, and research of the approximately 12-million-acre (4.9-million-hectare) region.

Anderson, who is also a research associate with the University of Magallanes Omora Ethnobotanical Park, a public-private operation in the Cape Horn Archipelago, says the bryophyte research was instrumental in the establishment of the reserve.

“It put into the value the southern region of Chile compared to other places with higher diversity of larger, more easily recognizable taxa,” he said.

Unique Mosses

According to the New York Botanical Garden’s Buck, the geography of South America, which narrows to a point as it extends toward the South Pole, likely explains the bounty of mosses.
“A lot of things have real narrow distributions, partly because there’s no more land to be distributed on,” he said. “You also get a lot of fairly rare things down there.”
Anderson explains that while the diversity of most plants and animals decreases as latitude increases, the trend reverses for the bryophytes.

He said between 5 and 7 percent of the world’s mosses and liverworts are found in the Cape Horn Archipelago.

In the island chain, as in most parts of the world, mosses prevent erosion and maintain forest humidity, among other ecological services. The plants soak up water during rainstorms, which prevents excessive runoff, and then slowly release the water for several days after the storm.
“That keeps humidity in the forest fairly constant,” Buck said.

Tourism with a Hand Lens

Scientists and conservationists are now working with the Chilean government to put the Cape Horn Archipelago’s bryophytes in the spotlight of ecotourism.

The Magallanes and Chilean Antarctic Regional Government recently funded a series of guide books on the region, including the Miniature Forests of Cape Horn, which describes the mosses.
Now local guides in Puerto Williams, the capital city of the region, are being taught how to identify the mosses and liverworts, with the idea that they will take tourists to visit the “miniature forests,” Anderson says.

The concept, coined “tourism with a hand lens,” is already established at the Omora Ethnobotanical Park, Buck notes.

When visitors arrive at the park, they are given handheld magnifying glasses. “When they put it up to their eyes, they see a whole new world,” Buck said. “It’s the equivalent to using a telescope to look at the stars.”

Welcome to the Osara Journal

We hope that this interactive format will enable a fluid and fruitful communication between OSARA and those interested in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve. In addition, this site will enable frequent updates from students and investigators working in the Chilean subantarctic archipelago in order to both keep in touch with their loved ones at home and also spread the word about the work and activities taking place in the extreme southern tip of the Americas.

All the best- Chris