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Researching marine science and dance techniques in Colombia

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Marine science relationships between young scientists from the UK and Colombia have been developed and strengthened at a recent British Council funded workshop. The workshop, which was held in Santa Marta, Colombia, was attended by around 40 scientists from over 30 organisations across the two countries.

I took the opportunity to represent Cefas, and it was great to meet colleagues from our equivalent organisation in Colombia – INVEMAR (Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras) – and to hear about their work. Over three days, we discussed the research that we do as individuals and as organisations, the scientific priorities for the different countries, and found common ground on projects where we can work together in the future.

Workshop attendees at INVEMAR’s new laboratory
Workshop attendees at INVEMAR’s new laboratory

Organised by James Mair at Heriot-Watt University, and Edgardo Londoño-Cruz at the Universidad del Valle, the workshop was developed under the British Council Researcher Links programme. This programme:

provides opportunities for early career researchers from the UK and partner countries to interact, learn from each other and explore opportunities for building long-lasting research collaborations

Being held at the coast in the beautiful surroundings of Santa Marta, it was not difficult to get enthused and excited about collaborating on projects and sharing ideas to help solve the big future challenges within marine science. Working groups were established in areas of common ground including climate change, biodiversity, taxonomy, renewable energy and marine biotechnology. Sitting in the shade, surrounded by the hotel’s wildlife, proposals were written, and we made particular progress on projects in ocean acidification and mangrove ecology.

Since returning home, these ideas are being developed to target funding opportunities, and we all hope that the collaborations will continue. Indeed, visits to the UK in 2015 by some of the Colombians present are already being organised, to further share ideas and to see some of the UK’s ocean acidification facilities.

While in Colombia, we were looked after very well by the British Council who organised a guided tour of Santa Marta, and treated us to a performance of traditional music and dance by the local university dance group. We all thoroughly enjoyed witnessing the enthusiasm of the gyrating dancers in their leopard-print shorts, and were wholeheartedly relieved that they didn’t expect us to join in. We were also able to visit the new laboratories at INVEMAR, see their collections of marine specimens, and the different facilities including the chemistry, plankton and mangrove labs.

Colombian dancing at the university
Colombian dancing at the university

The workshop was a wonderful opportunity to visit a fascinating country, and it was a real treat to spend just a few days with enthusiastic scientists from both the UK and Colombia. The week was made particularly memorable by experiencing a small amount of Colombian culture; the local dancing, the food and drink.

Event organisation by the British Council team was excellent, only pipped to the post by the airline which caused great panic at the beach by announcing the early departure of our flight home. Just typical, when you want to stay longer.

You can read more about the Research Links programme and future workshops on the British Council's website.

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