THE CHILE PROJECT: PATAGONIA ECOSYSTEMS
The vast landscape of fjords, glaciers, and ancient forests of southern Chile were one of the last places in the world to be explored and remain one of the most pristine on Earth. In this program, team members will take part in unique firsthand investigations of Patagonia’s diverse ecosystems, the species they support, the people who depend on them, and the conservation efforts in a region experiencing the pressures of rapid economic growth. We will immerse ourselves into the fascinating natural history and biogeography of Patagonia, where some species remain little changed since the breakup of Gondwana 200 million years ago.
We will gain personal familiarity with the ecological diversity of southern Chile, ranging from vast mountain ice fields to grassy steppes and diverse coastal temperate rainforests. Together we will explore national parks, privately owned protected areas, and unprotected wildlands in southern Chile to study the ecology, conservation, and management of ecosystems and threatened wildlife populations. Through extensive field studies, information exchanges with land managers, conservation practitioners, scientists, and local community members, we will examine on-site the intertwined scientific, cultural, and management dimensions—and the global economic forces—shaping conservation strategies in Chile today.
Team members will have opportunities for hands-on investigations of the ecology and conservation of southern Chile’s species and communities. Our first objective is to become fluent in the natural history of this region, its climate and geography, and to become intimately familiar with many of the species that live therein. We will travel across a transect of ecological systems ranging from coastal Valdivan rainforests, home of the ancient alerce trees, to the prehistoric monkey puzzle tree forests, alpine forests, tundra, and snowfields of the Andes, and the grasslands that lie in the rain shadow of the cordillera. As we become familiar with the inhabitants of these ecosystems, we will conduct ecological research.
We will also investigate the effectiveness of key conservation measures such as the establishment of national parks and private reserves, which seek to create sustainable livelihoods for local communities while protecting biodiversity through participation in ongoing conservation, restoration, and sustainable agriculture projects. Highlights will include extended field investigations in Parque Pumalín, one of the largest private nature reserves in the world, Sanctuario Cani, a small community run reserve, and Parque Nacional Chiloé, on the fabled Isla Grande. These are three remarkable natural laboratories with intact forest and wildlife communities. However, despite their protected status and almost impenetrable landscapes, daunting conservation challenges loom, ranging from unsustainable and unregulated resource use by local communities to ambitious multinational development plans including new roads, dams, and salmon farming.
WWU Accessibility Notice