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Patagonia Extended Study

By Sustainability Office on January 31, 2017

In December, The Off Campus Study committee and Dean’s Advisory Council approved an extended study trip to Patagonia for January of 2018.

The 22-day trip, directed by Colgate Associate Professor of Biology, Eddie Watkins and Sustainability Director, John Pumilio, will give students the opportunity to learn about forest conservation efforts and visit “The Colgate Forest” – a reforestation plot established as part of Colgate’s carbon-offsetting agreement with Patagonia Sur.

The half-credit extended study program, in Chile’s Aysén Region of Patagonia, will be a part of an Environmental Studies class focusing on natural resource conservation.

“Conservation biology is complex and requires an understanding of theory and the development of practice,” Watkins stated. “Part of preparing students to think and develop ideas related to conservation is exposing them to the diversity of models that are employed.”

Watkins and Pumilio hope that this new program will allow students to do just that: understand conservation biology in theory and in practice.

In March of 2016, Pumilio and Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, Tim McCay,  visited the site to update Colgate about the ongoing reforestation and carbon sequestration project occurring there. After spending nine days on site, they further realized the value of this project to Colgate’s academic mission and that the region, forest, and offset project promise an experience rich in learning and research.

The Colgate Forest sequesters 5,000 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere annually, and plays an important role in helping Colgate to mitigate its impact on climate change and achieve carbon neutrality. Tim McCay (left), John Pumilio (right).

“Besides removing carbon from the atmosphere, the Patagonia Sur reforestation project is also restoring one of the most precious and endangered ecosystems on the planet, creating employment opportunities for local residents, and serving as a national and global model for other similar restoration projects. Above all, the project offers unlimited research potential for students and faculty in an area of the world where we’re just not doing a lot right now,” Pumilio stated.

While in Chile, students will be housed in comfortable staff lodging on the site, eat in a common kitchen, and travel around the area on horseback. Students will visit the Colgate Forest, conduct independent research projects and may help to plant trees as a part of reforestation efforts. Multi-day excursions to Lago Palena National Reserve and Lago Chican, and trips to the Village of Palena will expose students to the broader social context within Patagonian Chile.

The program and associated class will also provide a valuable avenue for academic enrichment.

“Few students are familiar with for-profit conservation models as that developed by Patagonia Sur. This opportunity will combine a semester-long seminar course with an extended study experience to Patagonia Sur,” Watkins stated.

Throughout the semester, students will explore various aspects of conservation biology including carbon sequestration techniques, ecosystem function, and biodiversity assessments.

“On the ground in Patagonia Sur, we will examine their conservation model first hand and study the Colgate Forest – a reforestation plot established as part of Colgate’s carbon-offsetting agreement with Patagonia Sur,” Watkins explained. “Students will be exposed to a wide array of conservation techniques and field ecology tools to measure technique effectiveness.”

Perhaps most importantly, this opportunity will provide students the opportunity to witness first-hand both the effects of and the solutions to climate change.

“Our world is changing and our students are going to be on the front lines to deal with this change,” said Watkins.

For more information about the program, please contact Pamela Gramlich at 315-228-6360.

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