Discovering “Hidden” Underwater Life

S4030912.JPGTwo graduate students at the Omora Park have received funding from the Chilean National Environment Commission to support their research on the “hidden” underwater diversity of subantarctic stream and marine ecosystems. However, Jaime Ojeda (M.S. Conservation, University of Magallanes) and Tamara Contador (Ph.D. Biology, University of North Texas) will not only do their research, but also conduct workshops with pre-school and elementary school children, teachers, and tourism operators from Puerto Williams and Punta Arenas. The workshops will aim to not only discover but also value the importance of the hidden biodiversity of freshwater and marine invertebrates that inhabit the aquatic systems of the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve.

UMAG Student Wins National Award for Thesis

Intendenta con musgos y niños.jpgOSARA is proud to report that Yanet Medina, masters of science student at the Omora Park-University of Magallanes, has won second place in the national competition to select the nation’s best theses and dissertations in the area of tourism. The $1,000 award was given to Ms. Medina by the regional secretary of the Chilean Tourism Ministry and recognizes her work in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve to consolidate “tourism with a hand lens” via her thesis entitled: “Miniature Forest Garden of Cape Horn: Tourism with a Hand Lens as a Tool for Conservation, Education and Scientific Tourism in the Chilean Sub-Antarctic Ecoregion”.

UNT and OSARA Receive National Science Foundation Grant

chile - omora park 240.jpgThe University of North Texas and the Omora Sub-Antarctic Research Alliance have received a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct international research experiences for US students in the Chilean sub-antarctic region. The grant is also supported by the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity’s Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research Network, which includes sites at the Omora Ethnobotanical Park (Cape Horn), Senda Darwin Biological Station (Chiloé) and Fray Jorge Experimental Site (Coquimbo). The Chilean LTSER Network extends across a latitudinal gradient from the subantarctic archipelago to the temperate rainforests and the arid desert regions of Chile and provides a platform for students to not only visit diverse ecosystems, but also interact with Chilean and Argentine mentors, learn how to combine social and ecological studies to create biocultural conservation and research, and study together with students from Chile and Latin America. For more information, go to the project website.

Earth Day Becomes “Earth Month” in Cape Horn

1.jpgTo celebrate “Earth Day,” Ximena Arango and Rodrigo Molina, local coordinators of the Omora Program in Puerto Williams, organized a month-long series of activities including guided visits to the Omora Park, “ecological walks,” a pet sterilization campaign, collection of trash along the coast, a movie series for children, a photography competition and a special ceremony for the 22nd of April. To date, more than 200 people from diverse institutions, such as the Chilean Navy, the ladies’ auxiliary, Scouts, school children and other residents have participated.

Read more at Radio Polar about the Omora Park’s efforts to help control the feral dog and cat population on Navarino Island.

New Fulbrighter for Cape Horn

jhkennedy pine creek pa.JPGDr. Jim Kennedy, OSARA Advisor and Member of the Governing Board of the UNT-UMAG Sub-Antarctic Conservation Program, recently received a Fulbright Senior Specialist Award to work at the Unversidad de Magallanes this fall semester. During his stay Dr. Kennedy will help teach the Sub-Antarctic Ecology Course in the UMAG’s Masters of Science Program and also help prepare the dual masters degree that will be offered by the University of North Texas and the University of Magallanes. With this honor, the researchers associated with the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve have now received a total of four Fulbright awards.

Tracing Darwin’s Path: Dec. ’08-Jan. ’09

Emilys.JPGIt didn’t actually hit me until I got off the airplane in Punta Arenas. Everything had gone so quickly – finals, Christmas, and suddenly I was in southern Chile, tracing Darwin’s path. I had first heard about Omora Ethnobotanical Park from Dr. Kurt Heidinger, a former professor of mine who had taught the first class in the Tracing Darwin’s Path series. Although it took three years, I finally secured funding through a grant offered by the Environmental Research Institute at Vassar College, where I go to school. After all I had heard about Omora and the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve, I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to experience it.

And what an experience it was. As an Environmental Studies major at Vassar, I often discuss with my classmates what wilderness means, what nature means, and how we as humans can make sense of it all. Growing up in Connecticut, I spent a lot of time in second-growth forests. At Vassar, I’ve spent time researching an urban stream that runs through our campus. Suddenly I was hiking up to Los Dientes, following the Río Róbalo, learning what a steam is actually supposed to look like and how it’s actually supposed to function. It may not be completely “pristine,” but it was the closest I’ve ever gotten to it.

Tracing Darwin’s Path put my entire college education into context. The biocultural conservation paradigm articulated many of the things I intuitively felt about environmentalism, especially the idea of reciprocity and respect toward both the land and other human beings. The idea of “changing lenses” was also a very powerful one for me. Sitting at our campsite along the Róbalo, with the sharp-toothed peaks of Los Dientes in the background, I discovered my own environmental ethics. I finally had time to read, to experience, and to think for myself; this particular moment was extremely empowering.

The experiences we shared in the course were unique and absolutely incredible. I am so grateful that I was able to participate in this course, which combined science and philosophical thought in a way that was both relevant and inspiring. It allowed me to view landscapes large and small in a completely different way. As I return to my urban watershed and my suburban home, I continue to think about we interact with our ecosystems, both symbolically and physically – and in that way, I suppose, I am still very much a student of the program.

There is much more to say, but very few words in which to express it.

Much love,

Emily Vail
Vassar College 2009

Tracing Darwin’s Path: Field Course December 08

Picture 746.jpg As I checked in and received my tickets, I said good bye to my father and made my way to the gate. I met up with the students from UNT and could see that everyone was excited. We all were a little stressed from all the last minute packing. It all hit us as the airport clerks called out the group numbers for boarding, we were now going to Chile and embarking on this special opportunity. For some it would be their fourth or fifth time out of the country, for others it would be their first. However, I knew that this trip would be very meaningful and much could be learned from such a unique endeavor. We took off around 9:00 pm and got comfortable for our sleep – or for some, for our late night catch-up on course readings. On the plane ride, I had some time to reflect on why I came on the trip. To myself, I knew that I was interested in biological and cultural conservation and understood the relationship between the land and people; however, I never was aware of any program that existed to preserve both aspects until several months before. I wanted to come on this trip to learn more about this idea and meet the people that strive for it. I also came to get away from “modern” life and immerse myself in nature in a very raw and open way. The degree of connection that I was going to feel was something not expected. The plane flew seamlessly into the dark night, headed for Santiago, Chile.

After several stops, one in Santiago and one in Puerto Montt, we finally arrived in Punta Arenas and were accompanied to the Hain Hotel. Everyone was tired from all the flying, but a ceremonial dinner was planned, and we had one hour to get ready for it. The dinner was tasty, and we were told class would begin the following day. None of the students really had an idea of what “class” would actually be. I myself was excited to find out what exactly we would be learning.

Over the course of the next few days, some of the experiences we shared included penguin watching, visiting the cemetery near downtown Punta Arenas, sampling various points of Las Minas for stream visual assessing, and hiking up to a waterfall in the Magallanes Forest Reserve. Hiking to the top of the Magallanes Reserve was a very deep experience for me. I hiked up slowly and began to take notice of all the things around. As I observed the abundance of flora around myself, I began to feel drawn to all that was around me. As a biology student, I could not help but marvel at the complexity and intricateness of the plants as they clung onto the sides of the steep slopes. But this wonder then permeated not only the plants, but then to the water around it, the rocks below it, the sun above it. I thought back to my studies and how I learned from a biology book on how the sun provides energy for the plants and how the water provides nutrients for the plants. I also learned how plants respire oxygen and how humans, like myself, breath in this oxygen for metabolic processes. But this was different, I was breathing in this oxygen. And in a sense, everything else was too, breathing together as one. I logically understood the connectivity of nature through my biological studies, but I believe that hike illuminated the realization of this connectivity to me through experience. The whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts. I couldn’t help but smile; it was only day two of the trip, and we had two and half weeks left. Some of the required readings for the class dealt with this sort of experience: two that stuck out of my mind were the Zen readings and the Sea of Cortez by Steinbeck. I could not help but reread Sea of Cortez.

“And it is a strange thing that most of the feeling we call religious, most of the mystical out crying which is one of the most prized and used and desired reactions of our species, is really the understanding and the attempt to say that man is related to the whole thing, related inextricably to all reality, known and unknowable . . .It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.”

But in this case for me, it was the river instead of the tide pool.

The picture I posted is the sunset beyond the Dientes de Navarino Mountains in the Omora Park. There was much more I experienced on the trip that I would like to share, but I do not want to take up too much space on the Osara journal website. But I know there is much more to experience in Chile because I kissed the foot of the Patagon of the Magellan Statue in Punta Arenas. I am very grateful for the experience we all shared and long to see all of you friends again in the future.

[B]Ryan “Lenga” Sturrock
University of North Texas

UMAG-Omora Student Wins Rufford Grant

DSC01594-1.JPGCristóbal Pizarro, a master’s of conservation student at the Omora Park-University of Magallanes, has been chosen to receive a Rufford Grant For Nature Conservation from the Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation (United Kingdom). Pizarro’s project is based around the consolidation of the Omora Park’s bird observatory to include marine species as part of long-term global change monitoring. The award of £5,700 is part of the foundation’s efforts to support small conservation programs and pilot projects around the world. This latest award in recognition of Mr. Pizarro’s efforts is in addition to receiving the prize for the best poster at the Chilean Ornithology Congress in August and being the recipient of a scholarship from the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity.

Dr. Rozzi Wins “Sustainable Living Award”

ricardo y letrero.JPGOn November 28th, Dr. Ricardo Rozzi was recognized by the Fundación Casa de la Paz (Peace House Foundation) with its Premio Convivencia Sustentable (Sustainable Living Award) in the category of educator, during a ceremony at the United Nations headquarters in Santiago, Chile. In conferring the award, the organization highlighted Dr. Rozzi’s achievements in formal and informal education and leading the creation of the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve. UMAG master’s student Cristóbal Pizarro noted that “Dr. Rozzi as an ecologist, philosopher and musician has helped us to see our own interdisciplinarity, which can be a tool for education and conservation, discovering that each of us is more than a biologist or researcher, but also a friend and brother or photographer, poet or musician. According to Dr. Sergio Guevara, president of the Ibero-american Network of Biosphere Reserves, Ricardo is “one of the few people in the world who has maintained a tight link between research and education.” Congratulations Ricardo!

Bi-National Bird Banding Workshop

image2-php.jpgAs announced previously, the Chilean Network of Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research Sites hosted a two day workshop in Ushuaia, Argentina on bird banding and monitoring to expand the Omora Park’s 8 year program to both sides of the Beagle Channel. More than 35 individuals from divers backgrounds, including the Austral Center for Research (CADIC), the provincial government for natural resources, administrators of the national parks systems and local tourism operators. This activity is one in a set of activities that began in 2003 with the goal of linking researchers from the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve with adjacent Argentine colleagues.

Radio Magallanes
Radio Polar

Minister of National Lands Visits Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve

image-php.jpgThe Minister of National Lands Romy Schmidt recently visited the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve as part of an initiative to return ancestral property to the Yahgan Community in the area of Wulaia Bay on Navarino Island. During her visit from from 20-21 October, Minister Schmidt also visited the Omora Park, where she re-confirmed her committment to the University of Magallanes and the Omora Foundation’s efforts to use this site as a natural laboratory and “outdoor classroom” that also is a priority conservation site identified by the Chilean National Environment Commission. The minister’s activities were guided in the field by Dr. Andrés Mansilla (director of research and postgraduate programs at the UMAG), Rodrigo Medina (station manager of the Omora Park), and Ximena Arango (local education coordinator of the Omora Park).

See local press articles:

Radio Magallanes
Radio Polar

First Prize in Chilean Ornithology Congress

DSC01594-1.JPGUniversity of Magallanes master’s student Cristóbal Pizarro recently won first prize for best poster at the IX Chilean Ornithology Congress (26-28 August 2008) in El Tabo, Chile. The work, authored by Pizarro and his advisors Drs. Christopher Anderson and Ricardo Rozzi, was based on his thesis project, entitled Seasonality and habitat use by avifauna in coastal zones of the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve. In addition, this project has been financed by a scholarship from the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity, and in 2007 OSARA obtained the donation of binoculars for this thesis through the American Birding Association program Birder’s Exchange (BeX).

Tracing Darwin’s Path at Ecological Society of America

Kelli at ESA.jpgOSARA Program Assistant Kelli Moses presented the Tracing Darwin’s Path course series during the poster session at the 93rd Annual Ecological Society of America Meeting, held in Milwaukee, WI from 3-8 August 2008. In addition, Drs. Ricardo Rozzi, Gene Hargrove and Juan Armesto organized a special session on “Field environmental ethics: Integrating ecology and philosophy for biocultural conservation in southern South America.” In fact, the theme of this year’s event, which is annually attended by approximately 5,000 scientists, educators and policy makers, was “Enhancing Ecological Thought by Linking Research and Education,” yet again reconfirming the course that the researchers have charted for the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve Initiative.

Best Student Poster in International Congress on Ethnobiology

UNT student Catalina Hungerford and Dr. Ricardo Rozzi recently received the award for “best student poster” at the 11th International Congress of Ethnobiology, held from 25 to 30 June 2008 in Cuzco, Peru. The poster, entitled Biological and cultural diversity in the forests of southern Chile: Biocultural verses in Pablo Neruda and Lorenzo Aillapan’s love poetry, is one more example of the biocultural research and conservation initiatives being pioneered in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve. In addition, Ximena Arango and Tomas Ibarra traveled to Cuzco to present their work on the implementation of a charismatic flagship species and the cultural landscape of Cape Horn, respectively.