Tourists will contribute to scientific research in Chile’s parks

New tours being launched by the Research Center for Ecosystems of Patagonia will offer visitors a chance to work alongside scientists to gather important information about the southern region’s nature reserves.

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Chile’s Patagonia has always drawn in countless travelers with its awe-inspiring landscapes. Some are hungry for an adventurous trek through one of the region’s many national parks or for a cruise through its gigantic fjords.

Now, for people who love both nature and the sciences, the Research Center for Ecosystems of Patagonia (CIEP) is offering something different. Participants on the tours will visit some of the region’s most remote locations and have the chance to take part in activities that include recording dolphins talking with one other, studying glacier movement patterns or developing sailing skills in the north of Patagonia.

“The idea is to promote scientific knowledge, create local capacities to explore this virgin territory and invite tourism operators to improve their knowledge about Aysén,” Mauricio Osorio, the outreach manager for the project said in an email. The center does multidisciplinary research in Patagonia – including studies of meteorological and climatic conditions. The tourism project is being implemented with the support of the Chilean Economic Development Agency (CORFO).

From December, the center is launching seven pilot projects – including trips to the isolated Wager Island and Steffen Fjords to study archeology and history of the area as well as a trip to the northern Patagonia ice field within the boundaries of the Laguna San Rafael National Park to study glaciers and geology.

Osorio said the center expects to attract people who want to take part in a scientific project or simply follow the field work and learn about scientific investigations. He is also expecting to attract people who enjoy volunteering and do not mind paying to take part in research. The initial seven projects already have the infrastructure in place to sustain a long-term research process and accept volunteers, he said.

“In each of the projects we have begun scientific research and are looking for ways to bridge science with the community and tourists,” Osorio said. The center aims to have between 15 and 20 routes by 2012 and future projects will include condor watching near the city of Coyhaique in the Aysén region.

This post is also available in Spanish