Science transcends borders, breaks down barriers, and provides new understanding regardless of language. This, anyway, is the ideal.
In reality however, it’s often the case that the pressures of funding, teaching, and fieldwork…or simply the fact that ecological work is often specific to a particular region of the world…means that we don’t have the time to look. At the same time, many American scientists don’t speak a second language, so reaching too far outside the English speaking world is difficult. Breaking through that barrier can be eye opening. Attending the Annual Conference of the Brazilian Ichthyological Society (XXII EBI 2017) in Porto Seguro, Bahia last week was eye opening in terms of the breadth of work being done that isn’t necessarily accessible in English. It also opened my eyes to a different reality in terms of the funding of scientific instrumentation and infrastructure, a reality that presents an opportunity for American and European researchers.
Attending the Annual Conference of the Brazilian Ichthyological Society (XXII EBI 2017) in Porto Seguro, Bahia last week was eye opening in terms of the breadth of work being done that isn’t necessarily accessible in English. It also opened my eyes to a different reality in terms of the funding of scientific instrumentation and infrastructure, a reality that presents an opportunity for American and European researchers.
Porto Seguro is on the Atlantic Coast of the Brazilian State of Bahia, in Brazil’s Northeast region. Porto Seguro, meaning safe harbor, got its name from the fact that it is the location that Portuguese explorers first made landfall in Brazil in 1500. The city is dominated by local tourism, with beachgoers from all over Brazil. The neighboring towns each have their own feel. Arrial d’Ajuda to the south is a haven of great food, winding streets, and a subculture of artists and musicians that is very welcoming of alternative lifestyles and hippie culture. Talamanca, further south is known for world class beaches, solitude and as a vacation spot for celebrities; most recently, according to the locals, Leonardo DiCaprio.
The conference itself was held at the Federal University of Southern Bahia (UFSB), a mostly open air campus complex about 10 minutes outside of Porto Seguro. The conference attracts fisheries related researchers and students from all over the world, and also from eight other countries, with one speaker coming from as far away as Switzerland. Several English speaking reseachers were invited to speak, including Dr. Kirk Winemiller (Texas A&M), Dr. Benjamin Walther (Texas A&M, Corpus Christie) and Timothy Jardin (U. Saskatchewan).
The number of undergraduate students is impressive for a national conference, with multiple days of afternoon poster sessions and many speaking spots given to undergraduate researchers. This is due, in part, to a commitment by the Brazilian government to fund undergraduate researchers with schorarships and stipends. The quality of the undergraduate research was extremely variable but the simple commitment to get undergraduates directly involved in research and subsequently presenting to a national audience is noteworthy.
With so many universities in the United States pushing to increase STEM involvement and undergraduate research, providing more opportunities to present undergraduate research may be one way to provide outlets and networking opportunities that keep these students involved in science.
Dr. Cristiano Queiroz de Albuquerque, a professor at the University of Rio Grande (FURG), organized the first ever symposium on otolith (fish ear bone) research in Brazil. Otoliths provide a wealth of detailed life-history data and the field is advancing quickly. Advancements in microchemical techniques for determining natal location, movement patterns, and spatially and temporally explicit environmental conditions across life stages in particular are growing areas of interest in both fresh and salt water systems. Benjamin Walther presented an excellent overview of advancements in the use of magnesium isotopes to track exposure to hypoxia in fish by exploiting the unique redox equilibrium of magnesium. As climate change and anthropogenic impacts increase, the number and severity of hypoxic zones this is a clever way to uncover temporally explicit exposure to hypoxia in individuals.