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Lindsay Chura

Senior Policy Advisor in Science and Innovation

Part of Global Science and Innovation Network

23rd January 2015 Washington DC, USA

Falklands Symposium: Q&A with Professor Scott Baker (USA)

Following in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, the first ever Pan–American Science Delegation to the Falkland Islands is participating in a week-long mission to showcase the beauty of the UK South Atlantic Overseas Territories and immense opportunities for scientific research and collaboration in the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.

Scientists from the US, Canada, Chile, Brazil, Mexico and Columbia have the opportunity to form partnerships and collaborate with the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI) with the aim of establishing the Falklands and the wider South Atlantic as a place for groundbreaking scientific research.

Follow the delegation at #FalklandSci

This week we will be posting a short Q & A with the participants, discussing their research and what they learned from this unique, pristine environment.

scott bakerQ: The Falkland Islands are a largely un-researched, pristine environment for scientific exploration but also due to its remote location not much is known about life on the island. What did you expect the Falklands to be like in terms of culture and heritage? How is the reality different to your expectations?

Having lived in New Zealand for many years, I was not surprised to find a number of similarities with the colonial culture and heritage. But I have also been struck by important differences. New Zealand has not experienced an invasion or challenge to its sovereignty, while the Falkland Islands have not experienced the challenges of negotiating with a native culture.

Q: SAERI and the Falkland Islands Government highlight that environmental stewardship is vital to establishment of home for scientific expertise on the Islands as well as its long term sustainability. What have you observed in this regard on the Island?

I have been very impressed by the quality of the scientific expertise available with SAERI, Falklands Conservation and the Falkland Islands Government, particularly in regards to fisheries and the marine environment. The small size of the community seems to promote professional and personal interactions that might otherwise be stratified by bureaucracy.

Q: As a scientist and expert in your field, what are you hoping to get out of this delegation?

I was hoping for a greater understanding of the subantarctic marine environment and of the local cetacean fauna, in particular the Commerson’s and Peale’s dolphins.

Q: The UK places a great deal of value on excellence in Science and the importance of the internationalisation of Science. Do you have international collaborations in place with the UK? If so, please describe

Yes, I have a number of ongoing collaborations with UK scientists, including a former PhD student now postdoctoral fellow at St Andrew’s University, a former postdoctoral fellow now a staff scientist at BAS and a collaboration on genomic methods for surveys of fisheries markets with a professor at University of Salford

Q: Global environmental challenges require international cooperation to achieve effective solutions. SAERI is a world class research institute working in the South Atlantic. What ways do you see SAERI contributing now and in the future

SAERI is well placed to take advantage of the unique biodiversity of the sub-antarctic and the important changes likely to affect the region over the next few decades due both to direct human activity (e.g. fisheries and hydrocarbon development) and climate change.

Q: Describe what you do and how the Falklands Islands provide an environment for scientific study. What are the broader applications of your work?

I am interested in the population dynamics and conservation genetics of whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans). The Falkland Islands has a unique cetacean diversity, particularly the nearshore habitat of the Commerson’s and Peale’s dolphins, as well as the recent influx of sei whales. My interests would be in describing the population structure or stock identity of these species and in estimating diversity using genotype capture-recapture (i.e. DNA profiling for individual identification).

Q: This delegation was designed to bring together delegates from a diverse range of countries and academic backgrounds in order to build a network of people who know about and use the Island as a scientific resource. What role do you think this scientific delegation will play in creating links between countries and disciplines?

The delegation, together with SAERI and GFI, provided a tremendous range of expertise and generated an exciting range of ideas about collaborative projects. With some fortune, I think this initial network will expand through continued personal interactions and the exchange of students and postdoctoral fellows.

Scott Baker is Associate Director of the Marine Mammal Institute, Oregon State University and Adjunct Professor in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, New Zealand. He has been involved in research on whatles and dolphins for more than 30 years. Scott has acted as a delegate to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission since 1994, and is a member of the Cetacean Specialist Group of IUCN. He is currently editor-in-chief of the Journal of Heredity of the American Genetic Association.

1 comment on “Falklands Symposium: Q&A with Professor Scott Baker (USA)

  1. Creo fundamental que el archipiélago sea una gran reserva ecológico y de estudios de biodiversidad fauna y marina sobre el recalentamiento global hemisferio sur..

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About Lindsay Chura

Dr Lindsay Chura joined the British Embassy in Washington as a Senior Policy Advisor in Science and Innovation in September 2013 after completing her PhD as a Gates Cambridge Scholar…

Dr Lindsay Chura joined the British Embassy in Washington as a Senior Policy Advisor in Science and Innovation in September 2013 after completing her PhD as a Gates Cambridge Scholar at the University of Cambridge. Lindsay received her doctorate in Psychiatry for her research that applied neuroimaging techniques to investigate brain structure and function in children with autism she worked with across England. Prior to studying in the UK, Lindsay was a Fulbright Scholar at a clinic in Australia specialising in reproductive medicine. An alumna of Mount Holyoke College, Lindsay has published across a range of scientific domains, and has previously written for US News & World Report as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Mass Media Fellow. At the embassy, Lindsay manages the life science and climate portfolios, and is working to strengthen UK-US partnerships across academia, industry and the public sector. She enjoys engaging with schools and the wider community through science outreach activities.

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