PS 82-96 - Ecotourism with a Hand Lens: A sub-Antarctic approach to implement Earth stewardship

Friday, August 12, 2011
Exhibit Hall 3, Austin Convention Center
Kelli P. Moses1, Yanet Medina2, Francisca Massardo3, Lily R. Lewis4, Bernard Goffinet4 and Ricardo Rozzi5, (1)Sub-Antarctic Biocultural Conservation Program, University of North Texas, Denton, TX, (2)Conservación y Manejo de Recursos Naturales en Ambientes SubaUniversidad de Magallanes, Universidad de Magallanes Programa de Conservación Biocultural Subantártica - Parque Etnobotánico Omora, Punta Arenas, Chile, (3)Universidad de Magallanes (UMAG), Punta Arenas, Chile, (4)University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, (5)Sub-Antarctic Biocultural Conservation Program, IEB-UMAG-UNT

In 2011, the ESA called for Earth Stewardship to address global-scale challenges endangering Earth’s life-support systems and human well-being by (1) clarifying the multidisciplinary research needs to understand and influence the path of global change at multiple scales; (2) communicating to a diverse and broad audience the underpinnings of Earth stewardship; (3) developing practical strategies for sustainability.  To address these challenges, through a partnership coordinated by the University of North Texas in the U.S., and the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity and the University of Magallanes in Chile, we developed an ecotourism program that integrates ecological sciences, environmental ethics and arts at the Omora Ethnobotanical Park (OEP) in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve (CHBR).  We developed this ecotourism program with a methodology we call Field Environmental Philosophy  (FEP) that is structured in an interrelated 4-step cycle: i) interdisciplinary ecological and ethical research; ii) composition of metaphors, and communication through narratives; iii) designing ecologically- and ethically-oriented guided field experiences; iv) implementation of interpretative spaces for in situ conservation. In our case, we integrated ecological and philosophical research into biocultural education and conservation to implement a novel form of scientific tourism to appreciate the non-vascular flora of CHBR: Ecotourism with a hand-lens.  


OEP researchers and students applied the FEP methodology to: (1) discover that >5% of the world’s non-vascular plant species are found in the sub-Antarctic Magellanic ecoregion, including the CHBR; (2) compose the metaphor “The Miniature Forests of Cape Horn,” communicating these findings to the general public; (3)  create “Ecotourism with a Hand Lens in the Miniature Forests of Cape Horn” as an activity to appreciate the floristic diversity; (4) implement an interpretive trail as a site for visitors to appreciate, in situ, the beauty,  diversity, and ecosystem services provided by these “miniature forests.” In this study, we evaluated the impact of this activity by reviewing newspaper articles and other media about ecotourism with a hand-lens from 2000-2010, and developed training materials that guide its implementation. The first mention of Ecotourism with a hand-lens in the newspaper was in 2003, and reached >100 citations by 2008.  Beyond OEP, this activity has been adopted by regional tourism operators and at other locations. This serves as an efficacy indicator of the FEP methodology to integrate sciences and ethics into conservation, and provides a regional approach to Earth Stewardship by highlighting flora unique to the sub-Antarctic ecoregion, while generating low-impact, high-income ecotourism activity. 

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Banner photo by Flickr user greg westfall.