News: News Archives
Women Scientists Cite Benefits
of International Collaborations
Launched in 2001, the Women's International Science Collaboration, or WISC, program aims to increase the participation of women in international scientific research. The program is administered by AAAS and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and provides women scientists in the United States with funds for planning research projects with a collaborator from a partner country.
The 46 current awardees' research projects cover an extraordinary range of topics. For example, Felicity Arengo, Assistant Director of the Latin America Program at the Wildlife Conservation Society, will be starting up a project to track rare Andean flamingos in Argentina, with Sandra Caziani of the Universidad Nacional de Salta. The flamingos live on a high plateau in the Andes, called the Central Dry Puna. It is one of the driest places on Earth, according to Arengo.
U.S. researcher Lyn Gualtieri in the forest of Kamchatka.
Arengo wants to learn where the flamingos travel in the winter, and how they use the Puna's shallow lakes, which each have different temperatures, chemistries, and food supplies. This information will help them understand how best to preserve the flamingoes' habitat.
"You can't just conserve five or six lakes. You have to conserve a whole complex. The flamingos need a choice," Arengo said.
Studies of Yoruba; New Algae Species
Olanike Ola Orie, an Assistant Professor at Tulane University, will be working in Nigeria with Oladele Awobuluyi of Adekunle Ajasin University, designing a study of how children learn the Yoruba language.
While scientists have studied how children learn English and certain other languages, Orie believes hers will be the first to study a West African language such as Yoruba, which is spoken by over 30 million people. Her studies may help shed light on whether there are basic similarities among languages, which could indicate that evolution has "hard-wired" humans to use language.
A key requirement is that the applicants do not already have NSF funding. Their preparatory projects should then lead to full research proposals, to be submitted to the NSF or other funders.
That sounds fine to California Academy of Sciences Research Associate Sarah Spaulding, who will be traveling to an ancient Macedonian lake in search of new algae species that live nowhere else in the world.
Between five and eight million years old, Lake Ochrid is one of the oldest lakes on Earth. Many of the larger organisms there are unique to the lake, and Spaulding thinks the same will hold true for the microscopic algae species, called diatoms, as well.
She may also be able to tell if any species have gone extinct in recent decades, by comparing her findings with a museum collection of diatoms gathered from Lake Ochrid back in the 1930s and 40s. Organisms of all sizes make up the Earth's biodiversity, Spaulding said, but she thinks that species of the smallest organisms, like the diatoms, may be disappearing before we even know they exist.
Spaulding and her collaborator Svetislav Krstic of Saints Cyril and Methodius University, in Macedonia, had been hoping to find a way to work together, ever since they found out the other was interested in Lake Ochrid. The WISC program "just seemed like the ideal opportunity to work together and to stimulate a larger project. This feels like a really big thing," Spaulding said.
3 June 2002