Very few centers worldwide have this holistic vision of how ecosystems work

Published on Wednesday, 16 December 2020

“With these development angles we will transform our marine research station into one that studies the impact of long-term variability and climate change on processes and interactions of the region's terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem.”

– says Samuel Hormazábal

Leader in Research

One of the main focuses of the Huinay Foundation's Science Center is research. POETA allows the monitoring of essential variables of climate, terrestrial, and aquatic ecosystems. "It is a scientific center with a holistic view of how ecosystems work, linking what happens in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. We aim to understand how climate variability and change affect interactions between ecosystems to forecast future changes. Very few centers worldwide have this holistic vision.

"Permanent observation is possible through different technologies, such as automatic monitoring stations, whether meteorological, tide gauge or fluviometric, some essential climate and ecosystem variables. Based on field sampling stations, another type of measurement allows collecting data from the ecosystems' relevant variables when automatic sensors are not available.

There is also distance study by monitoring different ecosystems' variables from space in low spatial resolution, with satellite data with hourly, daily, or weekly frequency and high spatial resolution. Relatively new technology for Chile, according to the center's director, Samuel Hormazábal. Employing drones equipped with hyperspectral cameras and other sensors can determine the organisms that generate harmful algae, such as the organisms' hyperspectral characteristics.

“With the record obtained with these cameras, we could detect the presence of harmful algae, determine their spatial distribution and follow up on red tide events, events that have economic and social impacts on Patagonia that are far-reaching.”

– says Samuel Hormazábal

Together with the monitoring of essential climate and ecosystem variables, it also examines the design and implementation of a diagnostic and prognostic system. The visual display system of georeferenced variables called "GEOOs" allows free and timely access to data and information for decision making.

“It is quite a challenge because we are talking about mounting automatic sensors with which we can retrieve real-time data in remote areas such as the glaciers at Huinay or lakes at high altitudes, and visualize in real-time the different variables we are measuring. For this, we incorporated a technology called Lora 1 and Lora Satellite, which allows us to have a connectivity of different sensors and assemble an information network in places where there is no electrical power or cellular signal.”

– says the center's director.

Researcher training

Within Huinay and the Comau Fjord natural laboratory, another study focus is on formation. Using the Huinay Summer School, a program involving 1 to 2 weeks of intensive theoretical-practical courses, thought within an international frame, initially linked to Latin American countries and eventually from other parts of the world. "What is good is that we can do this in Huinay and deliver hand-on experience, with our laboratories set up and all other scientific facilities available," explains Hormazábal, also director of the School of Marine Sciences, of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso.

These summer schools focus on three main areas. First, new researchers' training is oriented to graduate students who are advancing in a research career, whose training includes outstanding researchers from different parts of the world.  The second is to train young professionals who want to learn technical aspects of development or technological adaptations to improve their understanding of how ecosystems work. Lastly, in an extensive sense, it will be possible to acquire knowledge of popularization techniques and scientific illustration regarding scientific divulgers' formation.  Also, we seek to support creativity and artistic development, making sure our message creates conscience of Patagonia's fragility and outstanding biodiversity.

“Climate change is a process whose full effects arise in the medium and long term, but it is necessary to act immediately and simultaneously address the processes of mitigation and adaptation. Aware of this urgency, we believe that science, industry, society, and institutions will have to work together more. In this spirit, Enel Chile, founding partner of the Huinay Foundation with the PUCV, actively participates in the activities by investing in the management of the Foundation and scientific and formative development of POET.”

– comments the Manager of Sustainability and Community Relations of Enel Chile, Antonella Pellegrini.

Georeferenced information for everyone

Due to the need to have a system for observation of the Earth and the Ocean, the center implemented a system for the deployment of georeferenced variables, called Geoportal Observational GEOOs, based on a computer system that integrates georeferenced information from different portals and providers of scientific and technical data nationally and internationally, allowing access in a free and timely manner. This Observational Geoportal, which corresponds to a free interface, was officially launched on December 16, 2020.

“We hope that colleagues in Peru, Ecuador, or El Salvador will implement their observation systems based on this code. Globally, I have not found any collaborative platform development projects to deploy georeferenced data that aim to strengthen the planet's observation systems. This is a unique project worldwide.”

– Hormazábal points out.

There is excellent access to databases with information not displayed to the general public since it is intended for other purposes and experts generally access it easily. However, with GEOOs, it aims to bridge the gap in access to information for decision making. "By allowing free and timely access to oceanographic and meteorological information, among other georeferenced information, GEOOs breaks the asymmetry in access to information, providing equal opportunities to all sectors of society that require it," explains the center's director.

For Hormazábal, the new direction that the Foundation's research center has taken, with an integrated view of the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of Patagonia, the coastal marine protected area of multiple uses in the Comau Fjord, associated with the Foundation, and the incorporation of new technologies for monitoring in remote areas with limited connectivity, associated with the development of the POETA program, "allows us to contribute with a holistic vision to the management of the marine protected areas of the region, and to convert the research center into a reference in the monitoring and research of these areas in Patagonia.

The San Ignacio del Huinay Foundation works daily to defend and promote the value of the biogeographic heritage of the town of Huinay, to promote a marine protected area, to develop baseline scientific research, and to disseminate the knowledge generated through scientific publications, participation in congresses, book publishing and mass communication, among others.

To learn more about the work of the San Ignacio del Huinay Foundation, click here.