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“The key role of marine algae”: prominent New Zealand researcher gives a talk to UACh students

In collaboration with PhD. Claudio González-Wevar, principal investigator of the Millennium Biodiversity Institute of Antarctic and Subantarctic Ecosystems (BASE), PhD. Hamish Spencer came to Valdivia to address the students of the Faculty of Sciences of the Austral University of Chile (UACh).

PhD. Hamish Spencer and PhD. Claudio González-Wevar, at the UACh Faculty of Sciences. Photo: BASE Millennium I./ J. Cova

“The key role of marine algae as a raft”, was the keynote talk given by PhD. Hamish Spencer, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Zoology at the University of Otago, New Zealand. PhD. Spencer’s participation at the Universidad Austral de Chile (UACh) is part of a Fondecyt Regular 1210787 collaborative project, and during his visit, he exchanged reflections with the students of the UACh Faculty of Sciences in Valdivia.

The talk, coordinated by the principal investigator of the BASE Millennium Institute, also UACh, Centro Fondap IDEAL and LAGEMAS, PhD. Claudio González-Wevar, focused on the ability of algae to form large floating structures in the ocean in the form of ” rafts”, fulfilling the task of providing habitat, shelter and food resources for various marine organisms such as crustaceans, mollusks, echinoderms, fish, seabirds and even mammals.

“It was good to know that there are other people who are interested in using genetic tools to try to understand what is happening to many species, in particular the raft function of algae in the Southern Ocean,” said PhD. Hamish Spencer. He also stressed the importance of linking research from different countries, specifically between Chile and New Zealand: “I really like the work we have been doing, as we have a set of different species and we are getting a very clear picture of them”, he pointed.

PhD. Spencer is Professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Otago, New Zealand. Photo: BASE Millennium I. / J. Cova

Similarly, PhD. Claudio González-Wevar valued the collaboration and joint work that has existed with PhD. Hamish Spencer, and highlighted the relevance of carrying out this type of instances. “The talks are very important to attract potential thesis students and show the community what we do”, he said.

Finally, PhD. Hamish Spencer expressed his fascination for the interest of Chilean students in this type of research, and invited future scientists to “enter into new challenges and explore the world of scientific research in places that get out of their comfort zone.”


By: Jemima Cova and Constanza Barrientos

Photographs: BASE Millennium I./ J. Cova

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