Learning in situ and being able to practice in a true natural laboratory is one of the main reasons why students from all over the world choose to study Marine Biology in Chile.
Our country has great advantages for scientific activities, one of which is our long coastline. “We have a coastline stretching some 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) in a straight line and our maritime territory covers a surface five times larger than our continental territory,” explained Dr. Marcelo Gutiérrez, Head of the Marine Biology Program at Universidad de Concepción. In addition to this, there is a large variety of ecosystems with unique characteristics found only in Chile. “These ecosystems stand out not only because of their beauty, but also because of their physical and biological characteristics that transform some marine areas into real natural laboratories. Chile has tropical, temperate, sub-Antarctic and Antarctic areas as well as a variety of islands, from cold Patagonian islands to the tropical island of Rapa Nui (Easter Island),” affirmed Dr. Pablo A. Oyarzún, Director of Marine Biology at Universidad Andrés Bello.
Because of our privileged natural wealth, many foreign scientists come to visit us to seek answers to the many questions about our planet. “Over the last decades we have come to realize that our world is changing and many of these changes originate in the sea. This is why we must study them in order for us to adapt. This is where marine biology plays a fundamental role in the development of societies,” remarked Dr. Pablo A. Oyarzún. From Chile we contribute by generating scientific knowledge that is used, for example, in marine conservation, fisheries management, biotechnology development and aquaculture.
Dr. Marcelo Gutiérrez comments that the study and research of ocean sciences in Chile has both a local and a global focus seeing that on the one hand, many of the problems and questions occur simultaneously in other parts of the world, while global trends like climate change have measurable effects on a local level. “This way, through contextualized case studies in different scenarios, we can contribute knowledge not only for our own marine ecosystems, but for other environments with similar characteristics, as well as studies that allow us to establish trends on a planetary level regarding the state of the oceans,” he says. He continues by saying that the revitalized outlook of a new generation of ocean science professionals and researchers is key. “In this context, Universidad de Concepción offers a major in Marine Biotechnology and Aquaculture Engineering which contributes to a solution to global problems by assuring the sustainability of activities undertaken by applying knowledge in marine biotechnology.”
Cutting edge research facilities
Some of the universities have research facilities and classrooms just steps away from the coastline. For example, the Oceanography Department at Universidad de Concepción has its Marine Biology Station located in Dichato (Bio Bío Region), where they conduct classes and laboratory activities. They also have the oceanographic research boat, Kay Kay II, which the students use throughout their years of study for fieldwork in order to familiarize themselves with specialized equipment, to gather samples and to work onboard a scientific vessel. This infrastructure is available for undergraduate and graduate thesis work so that students can observe and experiment in situ as well as in fully equipped laboratories.
Universidad Andrés Bello has a top-notch marine investigation center located in Quintay, Valparaíso Region. This research facility was built on the ruins of an old whaling yard from the 20th century. Currently, marine and aquaculture research is conducted at CIMARQ (Marine Research Center Quintay). “It is a strategic place for our students because this is where we have classes, internships and do thesis work. It is a fantastic place because professors and students can stay for days doing career-related activities. This is very important for the formation of our students,” the Universidad Andrés Bello professor comments.
All of the aforementioned have made it possible for Chile to rank as one of the greatest centers for the development of ocean sciences, once a regional recognition in South America that over time has extended across the world.
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