April 15, 2014


To fortify Ecuador’s bioeconomy, Rafael Correa takes ​​a scientific tour of the United States

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa (Ph.D. in Economics, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) ends the first week of his tour in the United States, accompanied by Ecuador’s Secretary of Higher Education, Science and Technology, René Ramírez, and the Manager of the Public Company Yachay, Héctor Rodríguez. On April 9, the president visited the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, and the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both recognized worldwide in the field of applied scientific research.


Perhaps most interesting was the visit of President Correa to the laboratories of Scott Strobel at Yale University. Since 2008, Strobel has been exploring the diversity and potential applications of endophytic organisms isolated from the Ecuadorian Amazon. At Yale, Strobel introduced President Correa’s speech entitle “Scientific and Technological Transformation of Ecuador” with the following words: “Students of the Catholic University of Ecuador and Yale fell in love with field research in biological sciences in Ecuador…”

The president stressed the value of the Yasuní National Park as a biodiversity hotspot for the world. He also highlighted the commitment of the Ecuadorian government with the implementation of a “knowledge economy,” primarily through an unprecedented investment in education, scientific research and technology. For example, Rafael Correa emphasized the government’s investment in public infrastructure (15% of GDP) and in higher education (2% of GDP) which today enables around 8,000 Ecuadorians to study at international universities to then return and strengthen the country’s education system.

Rafael Correa also emphasized asymmetries in cost-benefit distribution for regional development, specifically the cost of environmental pollution, climate change and the traditional patent system for Ecuador, as compared to the benefits related to the provision of ecosystem services from countries of the Amazon Basin, a region that regulates global water cycles and climate and is home to the highest concentration of biodiversity on the planet.

The only question asked of the President by Strobel referred to the end of the Yasuní-ITT initiative in 2013, which proposed to leave underground 20% of Ecuador’s oil reserves thereby preventing the transfer of 407 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, in exchange for international financial commitments in the range of US$4 billion.

There was not, however, a detailed explanation of how Ecuador’s public investments would result in a significant source of revenue for the economy, a crucial question considering that oil resources will not guarantee that revenue in the long term. In this regard, Ecuador should consider the dissimilar experiences of Colombia and Brazil in the area of discovery and use of biological resources. Based on this reflection Ecuador must effectively coordinate public investment in scientific research to generate products and services for the global market. Colombia and Brazil have differed in their strategies to explore the potential of their biological and genetic resources.

Colombia is betting on economic liberalization to commercialize its biodiversity and resources with an emphasis on the protection of intellectual property through patents. One example: the collaboration of IPOC with the SynBERC group in the United States. Brazil, on the other hand, currently reviews its hyperprotectionist approach that prioritizes access and research by Brazilian professionals, hindering international collaboration and the marketing of any technology developed. In this sense, Ecuador should seek its own mechanisms to encourage the active exchange of information, materials, techniques and technology while strengthening its educational and technological apparatus domestically.

In this context, given its small but extremely rich geography, Ecuador should explore the potential of open exchange mechanisms to avoid the tragedy of the commons –by predation and ignorance, and the tragedy of the anticommons –from alienation through patents.

For example, the traditional academic training at Ecuador’s Millennium Schools could be framed in a directed exploration of the biodiversity of Ecuador; the result of this work may be published in scientific journals. It would not be the first time that primary school children publish, and there is much to discover! Simultaneously, the open and active exchange of information, materials, techniques and technology with the world would enable DIYbio groups to explore those resources thus embodying the promise of cognitive democratization, as the computer revolution did in the decade of 1970s. The same means of exchange would facilitate the collaboration of Ecuadorians and foreigners interested in exploring the biodiversity of Ecuador as a source of solutions that range from pharmaceutical research to biofuels. The result would be a system of generating knowledge that enriches itself and the country in the long term, and that intelligently leverages the unique diversity of Ecuador.

This could not be more timely. South America is emerging as a world power in the field of research and development in biotechnology. Brazil uses biological production platforms for the large-scale synthesis of renewable diesel, and recently announced a collaboration with BASF focused on the development and optimization of industrial strains. With the purchase of Agradia, Monsanto announced its entry into the market of microbes for crop production, and recently with Novozymes formed the BioAg Alliance for the discovery, development and commercialization of the first commercial strains. These biotechnological initiatives are covered in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s report, 2014: “Access to Genetic Resources in Latin America and the Caribbean: Research, Commercialization and Indigenous Worldview.”

What remains to be resolved are the precise mechanisms through which the countries of the Amazon Basin, the most biologically diverse region on the planet, take advantage of these developments to build an economy for the 21st century which, beyond being purely extractive and devastating in the long run, rationally take advantage of the unique resources of the region to ensure an authentic and sustainable development for future generations.

Follow Juan Fernando Villa-Romero on his blog Librería Metagenómica.


April 8, 2014


Creating geological maps of Antarctica, water shortages in northern Chile, and using crustacean waste in Mexico.


An international study involving Argentine scientists studied the growth of more than 600,000 trees worldwide finding that most of them increase biomass accumulation with age and size. Argentina contributed to the study 7000 trees that had been monitored since 1991.

Argentina and Spain are working together to create new geological maps of Antarctica that are mobile-friendly. via USGS.

Argentina and Spain are working together to create geological maps of Antarctica. The ideas is to make them optimized for mobile phones.

An Argentine linguist analyzed the different forms of speech in telephone calls and how they define the identity of the caller and the youth group. He noted that the concept of “anti-courtesy” as being different from all others.


Chile’s Atacama desert region held a seminar entitled “Sustainability of Water Resources in the Productive Sector in the Atacama Region” to diagnose and identify the actors involved in water issues, conduct outreach activities and develop R&D to ensure efficient water use.


Brazilian scientists are performing research in Antarctica . The work is focused on plant communities and especially the Antarctic hair grass Deschampsia antartica, which is resistant to cold. Basic science generated from these studies can then be applied to the development of new products.


Researchers at the University of Sonora want to take advantage of crustacean waste in the food and pharmaceutical industries for the development of preservatives, texturizers or dietary supplements.

Mexico is promoteing renewable energy research with the launch of the Centers for Mexican Energy Innovation (CEMIE) which will consist of research and higher education institutes, businesses and local governments in the fields of solar, wind and geothermal power.

A team of Mexican and Japanese researchers have found four hantavirus variants in Mexican wild mice. Mexico’s UNAM issued a statement warning that more types and species of rodents that are viral reservoirs could be found.


April 2, 2014


Latin America faces climate change, scientists in Latin America find an asteroid with rings, and the first guide in Spanish on Antarctic birds is published.

Latin America

Smallholder Latin American farmers are hoping to mitigate climate change by combining advanced technologies with traditional methods. In Brazil, farmers are using traditional drip irrigation and fertilization techniques; Uruguay is monitoring its soil, climate and water; Bolivia is hoping to use irrigation water from snowmelt; and Haiti is looking at flood-resistant seeds. Most of those projects are being funded by the World Bank.

An international group has found an asteroid with rings using Chile’s La Silla Observatory. via ESO.

Many agricultural pest of economic importance are not detectable by scientists and decision makers from Latin American countries because they lack the technical ability to do so, say UK researchers. The scientists used a model to estimate how many pests could be detected with an investment in research and development similar to that of the United States and concluded that developing countries, on average, have 205 agricultural pests undetected due to lack of investment.


Argentine scientists wrote the first guide in Spanish on Antarctic birds in which four species were included that have never before been registered because they are difficult to observe.

An international team of scientists participated in the discovery of the first asteroid with rings. It was dubbed Chariklo and is located between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus.

Argentine scientists have launched a pilot system that intends on studying the evolution of Antarctic glaciers using sensors attached to satellites.

A project of the Universidad Nacional de Tucumán to create smart clothing took its first big step to find electrodes that, be incorporated into clothing, medical parameters used to register


UNAM scientists have found in Cozumel caves with an ‘extreme’ species of starfish, the only ones in the world able to live in anchialine caves. The species is named Copidaster cavernicola.


A large camera on a telescope in Chile has observed a frozen planet that redefines the boundary of our solar system. The planet was named “2012 VP113” and has a strange orbit suggesting it was dragged to its current position.

Plans for the Chilean science ministry have been put on hold.

Costa Rica

The Bull Shark Project being conducted by Costa Rican scientists looks at bull sharks inhabiting the archipelago.


March 27, 2014


Colombia wants to repatriate scientists, dengue mosquito-eating bats in Nicaragua, and ecological conflicts in Latin America.


Colombia’s science agency Colciencias has launched the “Time to Return ” program with the intention of repatriating Colombian scientists to promote high-level projects in science and technology in the country. LatinAmericanScience.org has covered this repatriation program.

Insectivorous bats in Nicaragua can be eating dengue-carrying mosquitoes. Via Wikipedia.


Nicaragua’s Bat Conservation Program has conducted research in a colony of bats inhabiting its Masaya volcano, finding that the bats feed on insects that include dengue-carrying mosquito.

Latin America

Over 300 ecological conflicts currently exist in Latin America, according to an interactive map published by the Environmental Justice Atlas. Most of these conflicts are due to mining and affect poor communities. This work was conducted by experts from different countries and coordinated by the Autonomous University of Barcelona.


Studies of neuronal reprogramming in order to treat diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis earned the Argentine researcher Andrés De la Rossa the Pfizer award. His study showed that reprogramming can be performed in vivo.


A multidisciplinary group of Mexican scientists developed nanotubes and nanospheres based on viral proteins. Using the protein VP6 of a rotavirus, the scientists were able to form nanotubes and coupled these to metal to give them new functions, such as biosensors or for use in the chemical industry.


From the observatory in Atacama desert astronomers have found signs of what could be the cosmic event of the year: a gas cloud being “swallowed” by a black hole. This event will occur in April and will be observed by telescopes around the world.


March 26, 2014


Can Colombia reverse the brain drain of its scientists?

Colombia launches ‘Time to Return’ stimulus program to attract its scientists working abroad. How many will heed the call?


In Colombia the lack of opportunities for scientists has been a fact for a long time. For almost a century, Colombian scientists seeking opportunities have traveled to other countries that allow them to develop their studies and make scientific advances—things their countries of origin have denied them.

It’s a story that repeats itself in most developing countries: scientists leave for developed countries where they can germinate ideas, propose solutions and make contributions to science. The leading reason for this brain drain? A lack of serious development in the scientific communities of these home countries. Many scientists feel concerned that there are no opportunities in their home countries and end up being part of a community that welcomes—with technological resources to develop their research—these scientists who are forced to adapt and live with a new culture and preserve nostalgia for their homeland.


Nearly 200 scientists can receive on average annual salary of US$43,000 to return to Colombia and work at public or private research institutions.


On March 18, Paula Marcela Arias, the general director of Colombia’s agency for science, technology and innovation Colciencias, published Resolution 00208 of 2014: known colloquially as “It’s time to come back.” The measure is a policy aimed at attracting the hundreds of Colombian scientists that are working in other countries, and allow these researchers–including doctors trained abroad—to return to Colombian universities, research centers, technology development centers and companies with postdoctoral positions. With an investment of US$8.6 million, nearly 200 scientists can receive on average annual salary of US$43,000 to return to Colombia and work at public or private research institutions.



The research policy in Colombia is changing and is approaching the world standard in research. Indeed, legislation has been linked to another state agency—INVIMA—which has proposed to monitor the Good Clinical Practices in pharmaceutical research in humans.

However, for many skeptics, the measure taken by the Colombian government to bolster domestic scientific activity is a policy that suffers from the same mechanisms that are susceptible to corrupt political interests. Another aspect being criticized refers to how insufficient the economic stimulus to attract scientists back to the country seems to be, since a comparable stimulus from the government of the United States pays a salary of $43,500 to a GS-7 scientist (recent graduate) and $85,500 annually for a GS-13 official, according to official NIH tables from 2011.

The nostalgia for one’s homeland may have an added value and many scientists may heed the call. What is quite certain is that there are still many steps on the way to a successful career in science in Colombia.


Enrique Angarita is an anesthesiologist in Medellin, Colombia. He is currently the coordinator of Colombia’s Anesthesiology Research Group, where he oversees various avenues of scientific research and advises on the training of new researchers. Follow him on Twitter at @enriqueangarita.


March 20, 2014


A 1,500 year old Antarctica moss is revived, a water-rich mineral found in Brazil, and saving one of Darwin’s finches from extinction.


An international team of scientists have found a mineral in Brazil’s Mato Grosso state that might shed light on the existence of large volumes of water trapped beneath the Earth’s surface. The mineral is named ringwoodite and is rich in water (1.5% weight).

Scientists are trying to save Darwin’s mangrove finch from extinction. Birgit Fessl via Charles Darwin Foundation.


British researchers who found an Antarctic moss that lived 1,500 years ago have revived the organism.


Scientists from three recognized institutions have joined forces to save an endangered finch studied 180 years ago by Charles Darwin. The mangrove finch is found only in a small area of Galapagos Islands. Specialists incubated eggs collected from nests to try to reduce mortality which currently exceeds 95%.


The songs of canaries are the result of the interconnectedness of different parts of the brain, according to a study by Argentine scientists. These results will allow scientists to advance the study of mechanisms that control speech in humans.

Argentine scientists have developed the first yeast that is 100% of the Cuyo wine-producing region.


A Colombian scientist is looking at magnetic resonance images (MRI) for the diagnosis and study of Alzheimer’s disease. He is currently developing a tool to analyze and process images using mathematical techniques.


March 17, 2014


Lionfish kingdom

What to do about the invasive lionfish that are sweeping through the Caribbean

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Also published with more photos up on Medium.


Over the past 25 years, an outbreak of invasive lionfish has swept across the Caribbean, along the Gulf coast and even up into North America’s eastern seaboard. Faced with dwindling natural predators and bountiful prey, it is now widely believed that the lionfish epidemic has spread beyond the point where human intervention will have any significant effect, according to the International Coral Reef Initiative. Most likely introduced via aquarium discharge, whether intentionally or not, the lionfish have now taken over Caribbean waters.

“Their voracious appetite and the absence of natural predators have made them a threat to the ecological balance of the Caribbean reefs,” says Alexis Peña, a marine biologist with Panama’s National Authority of Aquatic Resources. His country has teamed up with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute to educate locals on the havoc the prickly fish are wreaking on the Caribbean. Peña’s team has also organized fishing tournaments in hopes that netting—and eating—lionfish will catch on.

In Costa Rica’s Caribbean fishery, officials have reported an 80 to 87 percent reduction in fishing yields that they attribute, at least in part, to lionfish. Native to the Indian and Pacific tropics, lionfish (Pterois volitans) are voracious predators, feeding on smaller fish, crabs, shrimp and lobsters. Equipped with long, spines that reach out in all directions, lionfish slowly cruise along coral reefs seemingly without fear of predators. The moray eels, sharks and grouper that are known to eat them all too often pass over lionfish for less prickly prey. To boot, the spines are venomous and cancause paralysis in humans in the worst cases.

Protecting these coastal ecosystems are important to countries like Panama and Costa Rica—a healthy fishery is not only important to locals as a food source but is also a draw for tourists interested in scuba diving and sport fishing.

So why can’t we just fish for them? Unfortunately it’s not that easy. When not out scouring the reef, lionfish live in caves and cracks out of reach of traditional fishing nets and while they are voracious and insatiable eaters, fishing with a hook-and-line tends to catch a lot of other reef predators too. Scientific submarine expeditions, like OceanGate and Nemo, have found Lionfish at depths of 70 meters and 300 meters respectively (230 and 1000 feet).

One of the most promising options lies in targeting individuals for removal by hand. But even spear fishing isn’t without its drawbacks:

  • Spear fishing is labor-intensive, requires training / certification and it is expensive to get divers in the water (boat, equipment, fuel);
  • Divers can only be underwater for a limited time and at limited depths;
  • Snorklers, can spend more time in the water but are limited to only shallow areas;
  • Populations of fish outside of divers’ reach — laterally outside of the patrolled area or at greater depth — can repopulate an area quickly;
  • The market for lionfish meat for human consumption is not strong enough to support a fishery.
  • Spear fishing while scuba diving is banned in places like the Bahamas.


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Learn as you go

While removing lionfish by hand off of select reefs may be a short-term strategy for high-value habitats, that methodology has no end-point if more lionfish invade. Female lionfish each lay 12,000 to 15,000 eggs at a time and can breed every four to five days, totaling more than two million eggs per year per sexually mature female. It’s no wonder they have spread like wildfire.

“Successful control of invasive lionfish requires adaptive management,” saysLad Atkins, director of special projects for the ocean conservation organization REEF. A buzzphrase in conservation circles, adaptive management is a systemic approach that continually learns from outcomes as policies are implemented.

This is the format of a new endeavor between Costa Rica and Mexico’s Regional Lionfish Committee for the Caribbean and the Commission of Natural Protected Areas of Mexico (CONANP). The initiative intends to monitor, prevent and control the spread of lionfish in their coastal waters. Instead of hosting spearfishing derbiestraining local sharks or promoting a market for lionfish meat as has been tried before, Costa Rican officials are hoping an ecosystem-based program will restore balance to the ecosystem.

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The USGS has been collecting lionfish sightings since 1992. http://nas.er.usgs.gov/taxgroup/fish/lionfishdistribution.aspx

Eating lionfish

One of the many prongs of attack for Costa Rican officials will be the continued promotion of a fishery and market for lionfish meat. Researchers from Oregon State University have data from computer models based on field experiments in the Bahamas that suggest that a 75% to 95% reduction in local lionfish will allow native fish populations to rebound.

This plan will require substantial human effort and local buy-in as well as incentives for fishermen in the form of a local or export market. Lionfish is consumed as a traditional delicacy in Japan where it is known as gashira or mino kasago. In the United States, somerestaurants are servingdomestically caught lionfish as part of a budding “invasivore” movement.

“It must be delicious,” says Tadashi Kimura, chief researcher of the Japan Wildlife Research Center in Tokyo. “But I do not recommend more countries eating the lionfish.” Kimura says the choice depends on personal taste and culture. Though Japan happens to eat lionfish, forcing another country to eat the fish may not be the best way to exploit this resource. In the end, Kimura says, monitoring the effects of lionfish on fisheries like the Caribbean’s is important for preventing future invasions that are bound to come.

“The challenge of lionfish in the Caribbean will provide us more important information for other countries [to] learn.”


Additional reporting by Aleszu Bajak.



March 13, 2014


Brazil’s World Cup recycling program, a new lizard found in Peru, and solving Guatemala’s problem with agricultural pests.


Brazil wants to stand out as a recycler during the World Cup this June. The country plans on employing 840 recycling workers to clean stadiums and festivities.

A study of 2,927 Brazilian adults maps sedentary lifestyle to socioeconomic status. “Our study is one of the first to present a description of sedentary time in a middle-income setting,” the authors write. One conclusion: “Men, younger adults, those with higher schooling and from the wealthiest socioeconomic groups had higher overall sedentary scores.”


Bolivian scientists are studying ‘anti-cancer’ properties of a tree called the achachairú.

The Guatemalan government wants to solve its coffee fungus problem. Via WikiMedia.


In recent years, Guatemala’s National Council of Science and Technology has been looking for solutions of importance to farmers such as pests affecting coffee, corn and cardamom.


Scientists in Rosario, Argentina have already catalogued 80 species of fish inhabiting the Paraná River. Their research forms part of the “International Barcode of Life” project which aims to catalog all the animals, plants and fungi species by DNA barcoding and geographical location.

Two scientists at Argentina’s Maimonides University have successfully used stem cells isolated from the umbilical cord to regenerate bone and tissue in the treatment of cleft lip. They are now looking to expand the range of research by partnering with international institutions.

A sunken Spanish galleon from the eighteenth century which sank Jan. 10, 1765 has been found off the coast of Tierra del Fuego. Bullets and other important artifacts were found.


A new lizard (Potamites erythrocularis) has been found in Peru’s Cuzco region.


Chilean and French researchers have discovered on the island of Diego Almagro in Chilean Patagonia a series of 20 limestone caves complete with rock paintings. They believe the caves will provide clues about the separation of Earth’s continents.


March 11, 2014


The charcoal war

Deforestation and the illegal charcoal trade in the Dominican Republic



Also published with more photos up on Medium.

“Before, the sound of the river could be heard from the village. It sounded like a cannon shooting by the amount of water coming down from the hill. Today it is nothing more than a stream, where the water level does not even reach the knees of bathers. The cutting down of trees in the hills has dried the river.” My friend Quico told me this in 1999 on the banks of the Bahoruco river.

Wishing to find and follow this worrying situation, I had the opportunity to again visit the Bahoruco Sierra in 2001 with a group of experts from the Dominican Republic’s National Botanic Garden. This time we visited the Cachote community which has a community ecotourism project. Upon ascending the hill of Bahoruco, one enjoys spectacular views and feels the change in temperature. These mountains are deep green from the amount of trees that thrive there. A gradual change in vegetation is observed as we approach the cloud forests of the high mountains.

Unfortunately, I also noticed patches of deforestation in almost all the hills and ridges of the Sierra, even in the more sloping mountains where the rain had completely washed away deforested areas, leaving in plain sight rocky spots devoid of vegetation.

LatAmSci2014.photos Jake Kheel004

Deforestation, especially in the high mountains, has serious consequences: it causes soil erosion, which affects hydrological cycles and threatens the quality and availability of drinking water. It also causes longer periods of intense drought and has even been linked to rising levels of malaria incidence. Another effect is the destruction of the habitat of species endemic to the country and, more dangerously, makes the Dominican Republic more prone and vulnerable to natural disasters like those seen in Haiti.

Today, deforestation in the Sierra de Bahoruco and the Dominican border has reached alarming levels, threatening the national security of the Dominican Republic.

Much of the pressure comes from Haiti, where 98% of the country is already deforested and where charcoal from trees represents 60% of domestic energy production. According to the New York Times,

“the Dominican Republic long ago banned the production of charcoal to protect its forests and began subsidizing propane to wean its population from fuel wood. But that has not stopped desperate Haitians from risking their lives for more charcoal, which provides more than 60 percent of their nation’s energy.”

This has created an illegal market for coal that is dramatically accelerating deforestation in the Dominican Sierra.

LatAmSci2014.photos Jake Kheel003

Conservative estimates calculate the movement of 115 tons of charcoal per week from the Dominican Republic to Haiti. Dominican officials estimate that at least 10 trucks per week are crossing the border loaded with charcoal.

With few government resources to combat charcoal cartels and limited economic opportunities for Haitians at the border, the threat to Dominican forests is very real and serious.

A few years ago, I was talking to Tom Lovejoy, the world-renowned scientist and conservationist, who asked me about Dominican deforestation. Tom is part of a committee of the United States government and major multilateral institutions that are currently developing a strategy to combat deforestation in Haiti.

Haiti DR Border Color

“The Dominican Republic is the new frontier of Haitian deforestation,” he explained. The famous satellite image of the island of Hispaniola shows a marked line between the two countries—Haiti almost completely barren while across the border the Dominican Republic is lush with forests and green vegetation. Al Gore used this illustration in his famous film on climate change. Despite laws banning the production of charcoal along the international border, deforestation is already in full swing and heading towards the Dominican side of the island.

Combating deforestation will be a great challenge for the Dominican Republic and require more than agreements and memoranda but instead the implementation of economic alternatives and concrete examples of solutions. Several Dominican and international institutions are working on the border to fight poverty and create alternative sources of labor.

Already there are small examples of sustainable forest management, as is the case Cachote, where the local community promotes ecotourism as an alternative to the indiscriminate felling of forests. In addition, several local businesses and projects are promoting a new vision of development for the area, including responsible tourism as a source of economic development that protects natural resources.

To reverse the advance of Dominican deforestation takes action from the Dominican people to join forces with the people of Haiti and organize a grassroots movement in the Sierra de Bahoruco to create a firm and lasting commitment to this Caribbean forest.

LatAmSci2014.photos Jake Kheel012

Jake Kheel has been intimately involved in the area of environmental protection in the Dominican Republic for over fifteen years. Kheel has directed research and educational programs all around the country, including the Sierra de Bahoruco where he competed his master’s degree from Cornell University. It was also here that he developed a profound concern about the deforestation he was seeing along the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Kheel is currently the environmental director of the Puntacana group and the not-for-profit Puntacana Ecological Foundation. Both of the organizations he heads have won numerous awards and praise under his leadership. Kheel has an M.A. in environmental administration from Cornell University and an undergraduate degree in Spanish and Latin American Literature from Wesleyan University.


March 6, 2014


Heavy rains damaging Cuban tobacco crop, studying brewer’s yeast in Mexico, and the illegal wildlife trade in Peru.


“Tobacco needs sun during the day and cold at night,” says one Cuban farmer about the decrease in tobacco production the island has seen due to heavy rainfall. In 2013, the country pulled in almost US$450 million from the crop.

Heavy rains are damaging the Cuban tobacco crop. Guillaume Baviere via Flickr.


Mexican researchers have created a fungicide from the bacteria Bacillus subtilis to attack a mango plant pest. This biofungicide, called Fugifree AB, was recognized as one of the three most important biotechnological achievements of Latin America in 2012, according to the Organization of American States’ Instituto Interamericano de Cooperación para la Agricultura.

An interdisciplinary group of Mexican scientists are working on brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) lookign for genes involved in cellular aging. They found two genetic regulators that influence cellular aging when under conditions of low nutrition.

Mexico has increased by 12% its budget for science and technology.


Colombian researchers in Medellin say the country is poised for hydroelectric, thermal and wind power projects to meet its energy needs.


Peru has over 400 flora and fauna species that are illegally sold on the black market.


Chilean geologists have found more than 20 new caves in southern Patagonia, one of which descends vertically for 200 meters.


February 27, 2014


Mexico’s Pyramid of the Sun could collapse, 169 new species found in the last four years in Brazil, and fossils tell of ancient climate in Paraguay.


The Pyramid of the Sun, located in Teotihuacan, Mexico, could collapse by the drying up of its south side, say researchers at UNAM. They put a muon detector in the pyramid and analyzed over three million data points to confirm the need of rehumidifying the south side to preserve the building.

Mexico’s Pyramid of the Sun could collapse, say scientists. via Wikimedia.

Mathematicians working at UNAM are using algorithms to improve traffic in Mexico City. The next step is to install more than three thousand ‘self-organizing’ traffic lights to expedite the movement of private vehicles and public transport.


Paleontologists from the National University of Asunción found five small rodents jaws dating back 10,000 years in the Riso cave at the confluence of various ecosystems in the Paraguayan Chaco. These fossils will allow scientists to study the feeding habits of these rodents and deduce the evolution of climate and vegetation in the area.


Argentine and Italian scientists have developed a map based on satellite data to determine the risk of hantavirus transmission, which causes hantavirus pulmonary syndrome and can end in death. The map is dynamic and currently the southern Andean region is at the largest risk.

High school students from San Juan have used old electronic parts to build a microscope with a USB port. The project was recognized by Argentina’s Ministry of Education.


Colombian scientists are studying biomass yield and production of essential oils of a medicinal plant known as “mountain oregano.” They’ve showed that applying nitrogen fertilizer can increase yields and are also oil production.

The creation of new materials to improve the efficiency of hydrogen fuel cells is the goal of researchers from the National University of Colombia. These studies seek to replace high cost platinum and aim at creating catalysts with lanthanum, calcium, iron and manganese.

A young Colombian researcher working with sustainable transport systems has been listed as one of the 100 most innovative scientists in the world. Javier Solano Martínez was recognized for his work in Germany on fuel cells in electric vehicles.


In the past four years 169 species were discovered in the Brazilian Amazon, as reported by the Emilio Goeldi Museum of Pará, Brazil.


Male túngaras frogs have a kind of song whose waves attract females to their ponds so they can mate. These waves are also detected by males of other species of frog and serve to assess competition in the pond. They also alert bats that feed on frogs to their position, according to a study by the Smithsonian Institute in the journal Science.


The University of Arizona reported that construction is about to begin on the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile. This telescope, the size of a basketball court, will be used to study distant planets, dark matter and black holes, among other things.

Latin America

Google launched a Latin America science fair which aims to capture the attention of adolescents between 13 and 18 years old. 2014′s Google science fair will celebrate students in Argentina , Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru for innovative projects in computer science.


February 19, 2014


The dengue detectives

Control teams, mosquitoes and climate change on the frontlines of Latin America’s dengue epidemic


Also published with more photos up on Medium.


Daddy, Mommy! No more larvae in the house. I want to live and not die of dengue,” pleads a banner hanging from a soccer goal before dozens of children in an al fresco gymnasium in northern Colombia. They smile and play, innocent to the fact that children are some of the hardest hit by this mosquito-borne disease that is sweeping through Latin America and has even reached the southern United States.

In 2013, children made up more than half of Colombia’s 110,000 reported cases of dengue and almost half of the 129 people that died from dengue were under the age of fourteen. (Most who die do so when dengue worsens and becomes dengue hemorrhagic fever or shock syndrome). In Latin America, dengue cases doubled in 2013 from the year before, totaling almost 2.3 million cases with more than 1,200 deaths, according to the PAHO. Public health officials are calling dengue a continent-wide epidemic.

Public health agencies throughout Latin America hope their dengue awareness message will hit home and force parents to change their sanitation habits. Eliminating standing pools of water is the paramount concern. Old cans, plastic jugs, used tires and other containers holding stagnant water are breeding grounds for Aedes aegypti, the mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus. Mosquito larvae have even been found in plastic bottle caps.

To combat the march of dengue—which has spread through Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama and Mexico—cities and towns across Latin America have set up mosquito spraying and community education efforts. But timing and effectiveness vary. Mosquito reduction strategies must be tailored neighborhood-by-neighborhood, city-by-city, country-by-country.



The dengue detectives

Standing around a cluttered room of a community clinic that was once meant to be a workout room, a Brazilian mosquito control team is in high spirits. Out of the dozen, a few are wearing camouflaged t-shirts with insignias sporting the slogan “War On Dengue.” With their help, the city of Sorocaba—an hour’s drive from São Paulo—has managed to keep dengue at bay ever since the disease became a problem for the country in the late 1990s. In 2010, while the entire country was hit with a wave of dengue that racked up close to one million cases, Sorocaba’s control team had managed to keep the number of cases to 365.

We were the only major city without an outbreak,” says Daniela Valentim, Sorocaba’s director of public health surveillance. “There was an expectation that we would. It never came.” Starting in 1999 before the waves of dengue hit southern Brazil, the city set up a proactive and preemptive plan that would combat dengue when it came.

It was about recognizing that dengue was a problem that affected everyone,” says Valentim. The health sector’s proactive stance was echoed by the community. Soon the transportation sector was doing its part to eliminate standing water at depots and busstops. “This maturity and cooperation was important to improving the way we face dengue,” Valentim explained. Sorocaba started investing in technology and manpower to track dengue cases and choke off the infected mosquitoes at their breeding grounds.


There’s no secret ingredient or magical potion–and no DDT–for controlling dengue-carrying mosquitoes


But rapid response helps. When a patient who is suspected of having dengue fever comes into a hospital or community clinic, blood is drawn and sent via motorcycle—called ‘motoboy’ in Brazil—to the state infectious disease laboratory downtown.

If dengue positive, the patient is notified and Sorocaba’s mosquito control team uses GIS mapping to pinpoint the confirmed case to the city block level and sets up a 200 meter perimeter. Then, within 48 hours, they dispatch to the flagged zone a mosquito eradication taskforce who have their own white vans emblazoned with a giant logo of a mosquito in crosshairs.

Those three-man teams ring doorbells, peek over fences and talk to the residents about moquito breeding habitats and sanitary practices. They ask how many bathrooms there are in the house and how often they’re used. They point to buckets and discarded cups. On the second visit and with the residents’ permission, they spray houses, patios and backyards.

Climate change and dengue

Exacerbating the spread of mosquitoes is something more difficult to control than eliminating standing pools of water and educating communities—a warming climate. Rising temperatures and heavier rainfall are creating conditions more hospitable to the mosquito and this has public health officials in Latin America worried. With climate change, their jobs may get a whole lot harder.

Researchers studying dengue in Mexico have projected an increase of up to 40% in dengue incidence due to climate change. Writing in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, they used statistical models to trace historical weather patterns against dengue reports and extrapolate that dengue rates could be exacerbated by temperatures above 18°C and below 32°C and by rainfall of up to 550 mm (21.6 inches).


“Female mosquitoes bite more frequently when it’s hotter”


Not only are hotter and wetter climatic conditions more hospitable to mosquitoes looking for breeding sites, it also affects their physiology. Female mosquitoes bite more frequently when it’s hotter, explains Mary Wilson, an infectious disease researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health. Warmer temperatures also speed up the incubation period for the dengue virus inside the mosquito, she says. Typically after the insect is infected, the virus has to move within the mosquito and reach the mouthparts before it can be transmitted to another person.

This is highly dependent on temperature,” Wilson explains. “When the temperature is about 30°C, this takes almost two weeks to occur. If temperatures are around 35°C, it occurs in a week.” Which means more transmission and more infection.

Equally worrisome perhaps is how well adapted the dengue-carrying mosquito is to cities, which in Latin America are feverishly expanding. “It’s the perfect urban mosquito,” points out Wilson. “Other mosquitoes would just as likely bite a horse. This one really likes humans.”

The spread of mosquitoes and dengue will no doubt be aggravated by Latin America’s rapid urbanization and poor housing quality. Without access to running water, people start using storage containers and tanks which creates more breeding habitats for mosquitoes, explains Berlin Londono, a post-doctoral researcher studying viruses like dengue at Lousiana State University. Londono points out that though control measures have worked in in certain places in Latin America, some of the most affected areas have a shortage of resources for insecticide treatment and other basic control measures.

In her native Colombia, 90% of the population lives in places susceptible to dengue. A comprehensive mosquito control effort is near impossible. Her country faces a huge challenge in protecting its citizens—including schoolchildren—from an insidious disease. But, says Londono, “we have to remember that the epidemic is not restricted to Colombia, it has spread throughout Central and South America.” The public health response must be just as extensive.

People don’t perceive the size of this problem,” says Antonio Pannunzio, the mayor of Sorocaba, Brazil. “We’re only going to take on dengue by working before Aedes aegypti starts spreading.”

Also published over at Medium.


February 18, 2014


Darwin’s Argentine beetle, GM mosquitoes released in Panama to combat dengue, and diabetes in Mexicans.


A team of Argentine scientists has made the cover of the latest issue of the journal Cell. The authors were able to identify the reasons why some tumors are refractory to therapy and described a mechanism to block cell proliferation.

Charles Darwin landed in 1832 in Bahía Blanca, Argentina where he collected several specimens including a beetle, Darwinilus sedarisi, which was recently found at the University of Tennessee. Credit via Wikipedia.

Charles Darwin landed in 1832 in Bahía Blanca, Argentina where he collected several specimens. Among them was a brightly colored beetle, Darwinilus sedarisi, which became part of the Museum of Natural History in London but was lost long ago. The beetle was found in the U.S. recently in a sample on loan to the University of Tennessee.


Between March and August 2014, nearly six million genetically modified mosquitoes will be released in Panama to fight its dengue epidemic. It is hoped that transgenic males will mate with wild females, rendering the larvae sterile and thus reducing the population.


Mexicans living in the United States are seeing a deterioration in their health, reports El Universal. A changing diet makes them more prone to diabetes and other diseases. The children of these immigrants start to gain weight after two years


BioCubaFarma, a state-owned biotechnology company in Cuba, signed an agreement with French companies for the development, production and sale of a vaccine against hepatitis B called ABX203. This will be tested in clinical trials in Bangladesh and then in Europe.

A Costa Rican scientist is studying extinct volcanoes to find the causes of earthquakes occurring on the Atlantic coast of the United States. His work is centered on the volcano Mole Hill that was showed that this 150 million is younger than previously thought years.


February 11, 2014


How can we prevent cultural heritage loss in Latin America?

Despite five hundred years of perseverance, Latin America’s cultural heritage is being eroded and modern medicine stands to lose, too.


Imagine you found your dream job; you have all the qualifications, you have prepared for this opportunity all your life and it is finally here, knocking at your door. You get the call from the hiring manager to give you the good news, you have been selected, they are excited for what you have to contribute to the company and you can start as soon as possible. “There is only one thing”, the hiring manager says, “We would suggest you dress up a little bit more ‘formal’ when you have to interact with clients”. By “formal” he means, you have to renounce your cultural heritage because you belong to an indigenous group in Ecuador and your look is too ‘ethnic’ for business.

This is a reality in many countries in Latin America, even in those that, like Ecuador, have a constitution that recognizes the nation as pluricultural and multiethnic.  These are countries that have the potential to obtain economic growth through scientific discoveries that utilize the traditional knowledge of indigenous groups, and yet struggle to respect and accept their rich indigenous heritage. In a global society that highly values scientific advancement, what is the role that scientists play in developing a technology-based economic model in multicultural nations like those in Latin America?

Since the arrival of colonizers to America, the wealth of traditional knowledge has been recognized but not credited.1 The condescending attitude from “conquerors” has permeated through centuries in the Americas and has transformed the way nations see themselves, and only in recent years have indigenous peoples reclaimed their rightful place in history. For example, efforts to preserve indigenous cultures in Ecuador have transformed school curricula with the incorporation of native languages for the tsachilas, chichi, and kichwas. However, bilingual education is only available in elementary and middle school, so indigenous children are forced to continue through high school and college in institutions unprepared to adequately serve a diversity of cultures due to the lack of culturally contextualized curricula.2 And though some effort to preserve indigenous culture is better than none, there is much that still needs to be addressed for a satisfactory integration of the indigenous cultures in their home countries.

Traditional knowledge, i.e., the use of plants or animals for medicine, has been documented extensively but has been considered in the minds of outsiders as a static entity awaiting discovery. Traditional knowledge is in reality highly diverse and place specific, which denote its dynamic nature.3  Even though there is abundant information on specific communities, the information that exists for many groups is to a great extent fragmented and the quality of information about biodiversity is poorly understood. 4  In contrast to the relative wealth of research about traditional knowledge itself, the mechanisms used for the cultural transmission of such knowledge are actually under-documented.4  Several factors may influence the transmission of knowledge, including age, gender, the community itself, kinship, market integration, and so forth, although the degree to which each factor affects the transmission of knowledge varies.

Photo: Ken Bosma via Flickr


For the most part, traditional knowledge in indigenous communities is first acquired within the family circle during childhood, and then transformed due to interactions in adulthood. In general, the community as a group has greater knowledge of species richness than individual experts. However, the role of experts in the community is multifaceted and their disappearance in the next decades could lead to transformations in the patterns of knowledge transmission.3 The relationship between the knowledge itself and the means of transmission, distribution, and preservation is evident; one cannot exist without the other. Nevertheless, multiethnic societies still do not know the cultures within their borders; i.e., almost half of the ethnic groups in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia are unrepresented in anthropological studies.4 If efforts to preserve and utilize traditional knowledge ignore the many factors of the culture-nature relationship, they are bound to fail. Societies have to recognize indigenous communities as active subjects in the process of sustaining their culture and facilitate adequate resources to their survival.


How do you integrate indigenous cultures into their home countries?


Indigenous communities who interact with outsiders best illustrate the dynamic nature of their knowledge. For example, basic health care services such as contraceptives, vaccinations, painkillers, and antibiotics coexist with indigenous healers, midwives and bone setters in several communities.3 The intercultural exchanges that occur in these settings contribute to the wealth of community knowledge as the external knowledge is incorporated to the community culture.5 These interactions diversify the possibilities of finding a cure and optimize access to health. However, depending on the circumstances, one medical system may be more appropriate than the other and knowing when to use one or the other can make the difference between life and death. These medical systems should not be considered mutually exclusive but rather complimentary. The intermedical character of health care in these communities helps us to better understand how to go from a communal body of therapeutic knowledge derived from an insightful culture-nature relationship to the study of traditional knowledge with scientific methods. 5

The application of traditional knowledge in the area of human health has received increased interest in the last years. Therefore, a brief comparison of the approaches used in biomedicine and traditional medicine is necessary. Most diseases are multifactorial: more than one part in the organism is not functioning properly. Biomedicine favors approaches based on molecular pharmacology to develop therapeutic agents and relies on drugs that are highly-specific to known targets. In comparison, traditional pharmacopeias apply concepts of polypharmacology and rely on synergistic interactions of non-specific chemical compounds found in medicinal mixtures that modulate multiple proteins instead of single targets in drug-target interactions. 6 For example, a well-known mixture of plants that demonstrates synergy is Ayahuasca, in which inhibitors of monoamine oxidase-A, i.e., beta-carbolines, present in one plant render tryptamines from another plant orally available by preventing their degradation.7


Ayahuasca is proof that biomedicine and traditional knowledge can coexist.


In Peru, Ayahuasca along with conventional psychology has been successfully incorporated into an alternative detoxification program for cocaine addiction.8 This program is proof that biomedicine and traditional knowledge can coexist.

Both medical systems have their shortcomings. Biomedicine usually relies on combination therapy to attain interactions of specific drugs with the multiple targets affected in the disease state. Side effects of unexpected drug-drug interactions may be in some cases lethal. In comparison, a major bottleneck in traditional medicine is the description of the molecular mechanisms of all bioavailable compounds that can be absorbed into the site of action.6 Both medical systems very often lack adequate guidelines to advance from studies in the laboratory to clinical trials. In this regard, recently developed system-based approaches describe drug action in the context of the whole system (i.e., cell, organ, body) and may help the transition from the laboratory to the clinic.

These approaches have been successfully applied to biomedicine9,10 and traditional Chinese medicine.11,12  For example, network pharmacology explains the pharmacological effect of several weakly active compounds on a network of receptors without the presence of a major player; this multi-target effect may be a predominant synergistic mechanism in botanical drugs.12 Biological networks may be described using mathematical models,10 and these models can elucidate the complexity of combination therapy (from conventional or traditional medicine) because they allow quantifying the drug effect on the body, and therefore, can generate measurable evidence to explain what was previously known only from anecdotal use. These newly emerging methods still need to be further explored and many challenges lay ahead, considering that cellular networks are dynamic.13 It is imperative for nations to invest in research that takes advantage of the combination of traditional knowledge and emerging technologies as part of a comprehensive knowledge-based economic model.

Several factors need to be considered to develop a comprehensive knowledge-based economic model. Local legislation and international agreements must be in place. Academic programs that integrate the old and new technologies need to be established, i.e., applied anthropology, ethnobiology, ethnomedicine, ethnopharmacology, etc. An emphasis on science programs directed by scientists and not business managers is required.  Incentive mechanisms for the industry and the private sector to develop are needed. Strategies to attain effective and flexible access to information that recognize the rights of indigenous communities without resulting in stagnation of scientific development are mandatory. The role of scientists from a broad range of fields is essential and evident. Collaborative and cooperative efforts are fundamental to undertake this epic task.

Multicultural nations may miss out on the formidable opportunity to develop an economic model based on traditional and novel technologies; however, if we fail to realize that the full integration of indigenous peoples into the fabric of our nations is long overdue. The indigenous communities in Latin America persevered through five hundred years of resistance by relying on cooperative efforts to preserve their identities. Our societies must overcome the race issues that quietly dictate our social interactions to be truly worthy of benefiting from the collective work of all the members of our nations. Legislations may protect the indigenous communities in paper but unless this is put into practice we will not come full circle.


1.            Conner CD. A people’s history of science. Miners, midwives, and “low mechanicks”. New York: Nations Book; 2005.

2.            Espinosa MA. Tradiciones subsisten a la modernidad. El Comercio2013.http://www.elcomercio.com/pais/Tsachilas-comunidades-indigenas-tradiciones-costumbres-modernidad-SantoDomingo-mestizaje_0_1010298961.html

3.            Mathez-Stiefel S-L, Vandebroek I. Distribution and transmission of medicinal plant knowledge in the andean highlands: a case study from peru and bolivia. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM. 2012;2012:959285.

4.            Cámara-Leret R, Paniagua-Zambrana N, Balslev H, Macía M. Ethnobotanical knowledge is vastly under-documented in northwestern South america. PloS one. 2014;9(1).

5.            Soldati G, Paulino de Albuquerque U. Ethnobotany in Intermedical Spaces: The Case of the Fulni-ô Indians (Northeastern Brazil). Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM. 2012;2012:648469.

6.            Gertsch J. Botanical drugs, synergy, and network pharmacology: forth and back to intelligent mixtures. Planta medica. 2011;77(11):1086-1098.

7.            McKenna D. Clinical investigations of the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca: rationale and regulatory challenges. Pharmacology & therapeutics. 2004;102(2):111-129.

8.            Peru seeks tribal cure for addiction: BBC Radio 4′s Crossing Continents; 2003.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/crossing_continents/3243277.stm

9.            Davies GR, Hope W, Khoo S. Opinion: the pharmacometrics of infectious disease. CPT: pharmacometrics & systems pharmacology. 2013;2:e70.

10.          Engin H, Gursoy A, Nussinov R, Keskin O. Network-Based Strategies Can Help Mono- and Poly-pharmacology Drug Discovery: A Systems Biology View. Current pharmaceutical design. 2013.

11.          Liu H, Wang J, Zhou W, Wang Y, Yang L. Systems approaches and polypharmacology for drug discovery from herbal medicines: an example using licorice. Journal of ethnopharmacology. 2013;146(3):773-793.

12.          Liu J, Pei M, Zheng C, et al. A systems-pharmacology analysis of herbal medicines used in health improvement treatment: predicting potential new drugs and targets. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM. 2013;2013:938764.

13.          Xie L, Xie L, Kinnings S, Bourne P. Novel computational approaches to polypharmacology as a means to define responses to individual drugs. Annu Rev Pharmacol. 2012;52:361-379.





Retreating glaciers in Colombia, the possible Aztec origin of the Voynich manuscript, and a 65 million year old plesiosaur found in Chile.


A Bolivian company is offering a certified chia seed for farmers interested in moving into the expanding international chia market.

The “Voynich manuscript” is an ancient book written in a language not yet deciphered that could have Aztec origins. Credit via Wikipedia.


Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to statistics from the Pan American Health Organization.


Scientists at Argentina’s National University of Rosario have developed a warning system for severe storms. The system consists of cloud and lightning detectors to protect large cities and crowded tourist areas.

Argentine and American scientists are studying Antarctic ice retreat and consequent biological, geological and oceanic changes.

Argentine studies are looking at liver fibrosis. The researchers believe that in the early stages of the disease there is inhibition of protein production that could slow the disease.


An analysis of the amount of carbon emitted from the Amazon basin in an extremely dry year and one with high rainfall showed that in the first case substantial amounts of carbon is released into the atmosphere, while in the wet year the balance was neutral. These results show some effects of climate change.


The properties of iodine for the treatment of breast and prostate cancer is being studied at UNAM. Analysis of clinical trials and animal experiments showed that iodine stops the growth of tumors.

The “Voynich manuscript” is an ancient book written in a language not yet deciphered that could have Aztec origins. Botanists at the University of Delaware published an article where they claim to have found similarities between plants illustrated in the manuscript and some old botanical books from Mexico.

Panamanian and Mexican scientists analyzed the pollen present in the honey produced in Yucatan and found traces of pollen from genetically modified soybeans. The authors fear that these products, if they are destined for export, may suffer price reductions or be blocked.


Colombian and Swiss scientists discover a glacial lagoon created by the retreat of the Santa Isabel glacier in the Los Nevados National Park at 4,900 meters above sea level in Colombia.


Skeletal remains of a 65 million-year-old long-necked plesiosaur were discovered in southern Chile. The Aristonectes quiriquinesis was a great size with a neck 3.5 meter-long neck and lived in the seas of the southern hemisphere 65 million years ago.

To promote the dissemination of science the work of scientists who study the melting glaciers of the Strait of Magellan was filmed. The resulting documentary will be shown on television.


Students and scientists are studying the influenza virus and Newcastle disease in Antarctic birds with the goal of early detection, as these birds are reservoirs for pathogens.


February 4, 2014


Mexico’s coffee feels the heat, Colombia to open its first aviary, and a Puerto Rican scientist finds capybara fossils.


Colombia plans on opening its first aviary off the Caribbean coast of the city of Cartagena and will harbor around 1,850 species.

Colombia plans on opening a 1,850 species aviary off the coast of Cartagena. Credit: julian londono via Flickr.


Climate change is affecting coffee production in Mexico’s Chiapas region. More moisture means more coffee rust, a fungus that is currently spreading through South and Central America.


A Puerto Rican researcher has found fossils from an ancient capybara that sheds light on when and how these rodents made it to the Caribbean.


Argentine researchers have patented software that teaches the guarani indigenous language. An estimated 5 million people speak the language in Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Uruguay.


A new species of sea anemone has been found living in a previously undocumented ecosystem: inside the continental ice sheet.


Soy producers in Brazil have agreed to extend the moratorium on deforestation for another year.


Scientists in Uruguay want to study marijuana and create a national bank of strains. The plant was recently legalized in that country.


Chile has loosening restrictions for foreigners who want to do science in that country.



January 30, 2014


A scientific study of Patagonia’s Beagle Channel, deforestation in the Gran Chaco, and a ‘planetarium on wheels’ in Mexico.


Scientists from Chile will be traveling to the southernmost part of Patagonia to study the continental tip that Darwin rounded on his voyage on the Beagle. The scientific expedition will study things like biodiversity, effects of climate change and anthropology of the local indigenous tribes.

Scientists from Chile will be traveling to the southernmost part of Patagonia to study things like biodiversity, effects of climate change and anthropology of the local indigenous tribes. Credit: Wikipedia.

Critics are worried that Chile’s new energy minister will usher back energy projects that will degrade the environment like the Patagonian hydroelectric project HidroAysen.


Climate change is making life worse for Magellanic penguins in Argentina, where chick mortality is increasing with heat and rainfall.

The Gran Chaco, a semi-arid savanna region that spreads across Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay, has lost over 2,000 square miles due to deforestation in 2013. That’s an area the size of the state of Delaware. Farming and cattle ranching are two chief reasons for the loss.


A new species of river dolphin was discovered in the Araguaia river in Brazil. It’s the first new dolphin discovered in almost 100 years and brings the total to 5 species of  river dolphins.


A ‘planetarium on wheels’ is traveling around Mexico, raising awareness and teaching children about astronomy.