UNT, in partnership with the Universidad de Magallanes, the Chilean Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity, and several U.S. and Chilean nonprofit organizations, has opened the world's first environmental philosophy, science and policy field station at the southern tip of Chile in the village of Puerto Williams.
The new research facility sits inside the UNESCO Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve, one of the world's last remaining pristine wilderness areas with mountains, glaciers and forests that offer a rich environment for ecological research and conservation activities.
"The goal is to have students doing research in Chile year-round so they can have a direct experience in crossing language barriers and working with students from other countries, scientists and the local society," says Christopher Anderson, an assistant research professor of biology at UNT and coordinator of the Sub-Antarctic Ecosystems and Biocultural Conservation research cluster and program. "Our mission is not just to do research, but to develop long-term, working relationships with local authorities and community members and to make the research socially relevant."
The research cluster has worked to integrate ecological and social aspects of research, education and conservation into a long-term research, education and conservation program. The cluster's unique integration of the sciences and ethics with an emphasis on ethno-ecology and environmental philosophy coincides with the focus of UNT's doctoral program for environmental ethics and philosophy.
Students, scientists, government and university officials, and visitors attended the inauguration, including:
The two-and-a-half story facility has a kitchen, library, classrooms, computer area and laboratory for processing and storing research samples and other field equipment. The station also provides office and lodging space for up to 15 students and researchers during courses and expeditions in the Cape Horn region. Previously, research activities were based at a Universidad de Magallanes-owned facility in Puerto Williams that housed six people.
The construction of the new field station was funded through a $15 million grant from the CONICYT, the Chilean equivalent of the U.S. National Science Foundation, as well as funds from UNT. The grant will help support research for the next 10 years.
Last year, UNT and the Universidad de Magallanes co-published a guidebook of the approximate 50 species of birds in Omora Ethnobotanical Park, including scientific and local knowledge of each species. Future projects include creating a similar guidebook for lichens, mosses and liverworts, known as the "Miniature Forests of Cape Horn," and translating philosophy texts from Spanish to English and English to Spanish.
Elizabeth Smith with UNT News Service can be reached at Elizabeth.firstname.lastname@example.org.