Darwin and the Adventure – The Workshop

Monday, Sept. 21, was a big day as it was the workshop that we had been preparing for. The goal of the workshop as stated on The Beagle Project’s website was to

“… join scientists from South America, UK and USA to identify key opportunities for using sailing vessels for modern research with a focus on marine biology, the Barcode of Life and Earth monitoring. As part of the British Council-supported workshop, participants will embark on two short scientific voyages aboard the Brazilian tall ship Tocorimé into coastal waters to coincide with passes of the International Space Station, and local schoolchildren will experience a real-time Q&A session with astronauts aboard the station.”

The workshop participants came from Brazil, Venezuela, Chilé and Argentina. Representatives from other countries were invited too, but were unable to come and unable to find replacements on short notice. It was a great group and each person had a lot to offer.

Workshop delegates, standing left to right: Gini, Fabio, Dan, Simon, David, Karen, Markus, Leonardo; sitting left to right: me, Sandra, Patricia, Ciro, Juan, Eulogio, Adriana.
Workshop delegates, left to right standing - Gini, Fabio*, Dan, Simon, David, Karen, Markus*, Leonardo*; sitting - me, Sandra*, Patricia*, Ciro*, Juan*, Eulogio*, Adriana* (* denotes a South American representative)

The morning started with introductions Markus Lehmann and Michal Nesvara of the Tocorimé. Unfortunately, I had to miss Markus’ presentation because I needed to set up and test out equipment for linking up to astronaut Mike Barrett in the International Space Station (lame excuse I know ;p). I managed to catch most of Michal’s talk though and it was very fascinating and inspiring. He and some colleagues rebuilt Magellan’s Victoria and retraced his route around the world. If you can understand Czech you can read about it here, there are also some pictures of the boat. The video was great and there is a wonderful book about the expedition. Unfortunately it is in Czech and only a small number of copies came off the press. I hope he translates it though as I think it could sell more copies in English speaking countries as a fun travel narrative.

Afterward we went around the room and heard small presentations about everyone and what their research interests were. Lots of specialties and taxa were represented. Some were ecologists, some were purely taxonomists, some were both. Some did not do any molecular biology or DNA barcoding, some did mostly population genetics, some did a little of everything. Organizations, besides the universities where people worked, represented were NASA, Census of Marine Life and Consortium for the Barcoding of Life. It was a nice amalgamation where everyone had something unique to bring to table. Much of the discussion was focused on how sailing ships could be used in the research or educational programs, focused on the Tocorimé.

The outcomes of the meeting will hopefully be published in a peer-reviewed journal as an editorial or perspective. We agreed that a network of South American marine scientists was needed and they would seek funding and more collaborators to use the Tocorimé as a science and educational flagship. A theme along the lines of “biodiversity without borders” was chosen as a unifying research framework. The participants were very enthusiastic and are doing great research that really compliments each other. It will be exciting to see how it all will unfold in the coming months as we work out the details!

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