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Pan-American Delegation Promotes Research in the Falkland Islands


Elephant seals at Fitzroy Farm, Horseshoe Bay in East Falkland are among the diverse species that make the Falkland Islands a natural laboratory for biological and ecological research. | Ray Arnaudo

The Falkland Islands and surrounding South Atlantic Ocean are teeming with fish, birds, and opportunities for scientific collaboration, according to a letter published this month in Science & Diplomacy, a quarterly publication from AAAS.

Ray Arnaudo, a senior scholar at the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy, and Lindsay Chura, a senior policy advisor at the British Embassy in Washington, write that a recent Pan-American science delegation to the Falkland Islands highlighted a variety of potential research projects in the environmental sciences within the region. Sitting at the edge of the Patagonian Shelf, in an area rich in marine resources, the Falklands are a unique natural laboratory in which to study sustainable fisheries, global climate change, coastal erosion, and plant and animal evolution.

The delegation was organized by the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI) and UK Science and Innovation Network at the invitation of the Falkland Islands government. Arnaudo and Chura, along with scientists from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Columbia, Brazil, and Chile, were among the presenters at the 17-24 January meeting in Stanley, the Falklands' capital. National Geographic journalist Andrew Howley and a Uruguayan film crew provided media coverage of the event.

"This Pan-American scientific mission demonstrated the power, potential, and far-reaching impact of science diplomacy," said Chura. "Scientific partnerships were successfully forged between delegates on an individual level as well as between institutions on a larger, broader scale."

Along with delivering scientific presentations, the delegates also participated in several public events and meetings with the Falklands business community. "I also had the opportunity to meet with the governing council of the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly," said Arnaudo, "who were actively engaged with the delegation in support of all the interest in the environment and science on the islands."

The meeting helped define ways that the Falkland Islands government can work with researchers to create policies that protect the region's tremendous biodiversity, he added.

Arnaudo has worked extensively in U.S. polar policy with the U.S. State Department for more than 30 years, serving as the State Department's Director of Oceans and Polar Affairs, the U.S. Commissioner to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and the chairman of the Arctic Council between 1998 and 2000. He also served on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Policy Planning Staff from 2009 to 2013.


King penguins at Volunteer Point on East Falkland. The Volunteer Point colony represents the northern edge of the species' range. | Ray Arnaudo

He was one of several attendees who participated in a popular series of public talks sponsored by the delegation, which were held at a Stanley café and attended by more than 100 people. Arnaudo previously served as head of the U.S. delegation to the Antarctic Treaty meetings, "so my talk was about the protection and management of the Antarctic, especially the impact of the Antarctic Treaty on environmental protection and fish resources," he explained. "We wanted to share the importance of environmental stewardship with the wider community."

"Ray brought vast knowledge and insight into environmental policy to this delegation. His international perspective greatly enriched our conversations throughout our time in the Falklands," Chura said.

Arnaudo, an avid birder, also joined other attendees in several field trips to nearby wildlife sites that offered scientists a chance to see the tremendous research possibilities offered in the South Atlantic region.