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Sustainability program designed to save biodiversity

December 03, 2010

Mexico is one of the most biodiverse regions of our planet. In number of species, it currently ranks first in reptiles and amphibians, third in mammals, and fourth in plants.

To help protect this legacy, ecology experts from Mexico’s largest university met with ASU sustainability faculty and staff on Nov. 18-19 to collaboratively design a new international master’s degree in sustainability that will train the next generation of Mexican ecological practitioners and policymakers.

The two-day workshop is a key part of a collaboration between ASU’s School of Sustainability and the Institute of Ecology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (IE-UNAM), one of Latin America’s most prominent university systems. It was co-organized by School of Sustainability faculty members Hallie Eakin, who also manages the project, and Arnim Wiek, one of the project’s principal investigators.

The main objective of the workshop was to define the primary sustainability challenges that the new curriculum will address, identify top faculty and resources at each institution, and plot a practical strategy for moving the program forward. Creating this new degree is considered crucial to safeguarding Mexico’s rich but vulnerable ecological resources.

Through the program, ASU and IE-UNAM hope to build local Mexican capacity for essential planning and decision-making in the face of climate change. Students will attend classes at their home institution and at ASU, and receive hands-on training in a summer field school in Jalisco, Mexico. By completion of the master’s curriculum, they will have learned and developed the concepts, skills, and techniques to become leaders in sustainability planning and policy design.

Beyond the new degree, both sides are committed to developing a productive long-term collaboration in both research and education that will include exchange programs for ASU graduate students and collaborative research opportunities for ASU faculty. As part of their visit, IE-UNAM participants toured ASU’s Decision Theater, met with leaders of Decision Center for a Desert City, and learned about the Central Arizona—Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research project. A follow-up meeting and workshop for the group has been scheduled for February.

This international collaboration has been funded by a grant from the United States Agency for International Development—Training, Internships, Exchanges, and Scholarships through the program Higher Education for Development.

Media Contact:
Karen Leland,
Director, Communications and Marketing
(480) 965-0013