Research Opportunities at the New Cape Horn Sub-Antarctic Science Centre – 27/01/17
Presented by Dr. Shaun Russell, Director of Treborth Botanical Garden, Bangor University
Dr. Russell has been party to numerous research trips in and around Chile, South America, as Adjunct Professor of Natural Resources Management, Universidad de Magallenes, Punta Arenas, Chile. In his seminar he share some insight into the development of scientific research and conservation in Chile.
Details of the Newton Fund [Source: Luke Fears]
Many of these endeavours have been funded by the ‘Newton Fund’, a UK governmental fund for developmental and conservation research projects in multiple ‘developing’ countries, including Chile.
For the past 15 years, Dr. Russell has been conducting research and training centred Puerto Williams, and Cape Horn in Chile.
High levels of biodiversity are present throughout Southern Chile and its islands, including a wide variety of birds (such as condors, parrots, the Steamer Duck (Tachyeres species), owls, and one of the world’s largest woodpeckers, the Magellanic Woodpecker (Campephilus magellanicus)).
Magellanic Woodpecker (Campephilus magellanicus) [Source: Luke Fears]
Lichens are found distributed country-wide, and Chile is a global biodiversity hotspot for mosses, hornworts and liverworts.
Distribution of plant types over Chile by altitude [Source: Luke Fears]
Chile also has low levels of pollution, as observed by having the lowest nitrate content in precipitation in the world.
Average nitrate in precipitation levels for various countries. [Source: Luke Fears]
Numerous research materials have been published, including relevant publications for locals. Dr. Russell and his associates also provide environmental-consciousness and sustainability training to locals and tour guides.
Dr. Russel made note of locals from Chile and the Galapagos Islands visiting each other’s respective areas to compare how sustainable tourism and business has been undertaken in both areas.
Example of published material based on research data gathered from Natural Resources Management Studies [Source: Luke Fears]
Dr. Russell and his associates successfully designed and applied for much of southern Chile to become a UNESCO biosphere reserve, the ‘Little Forest Biosphere Reserve’ which was later expanded to include submarine mountains to the south east as yet untouched by the fishing industry.
This was also a first for the country, as it was the first protected area in Chile to not already be made up of or contain National Parks.
Map of the Little Forest Biosphere Reserve [Source: Luke Fears]
The Chilean President, Michelle Bachelet, is intensely interested into the endeavours of THE Natural Resource Management Team, and as part of a ‘Special Plan for Development of the Extreme Zones’ has provided £10 million (equivalent in pesos) for a new New Cape Horn Sub-Antarctic Science Centre.
Proposed design of the New Cape Horn Sub-Antarctic Science Centre [Source: Luke Fears]
It is hoped that after the development of this centre, and another research station on the Islas Diego Ramirez, an island south east to Cape Horn, a chain of research centres (including Puerto Williams centre) shall be formed to help monitor and research biological activity throughout the south of Chile.
Although I knew little of biodiversity and research in Chile specifically, I was impressed at the progress which Dr. Russell and his colleagues have made in researching the biodiversity of Chile and successfully implementing strategies to educate locals as of how to sustainably conduct business.
Furthermore, I was impressed at how open and accepting of biodiversity and sustainability measures and research Chile’s president was, and believe her to be an example of how to conduct funding for research and taking sustainability measures to developing countries.
I also appreciated how successful Dr. Russell and his colleagues were in securing the permission for and successfully setting up a UNESCO reserve across a great portion of Southern Chile, and expanding it into the ocean before fishing practices had had a significant detrimental effect.
Thoughts on how this affected my career choices:
This seminar peaked my interest in the legal aspect of conserving biodiversity, and of reserve design. I would not be opposed to involving these matters in my career choices in the future should they turn up, but that depends on the opportunities which cross my path.
This seminar also helped reinforce my interest in pursuing biological/ zoological research as a career, by demonstrating interesting data collection methods, and the real-world utilization of such data.