Cultural experiences, marine biology combine at Todos Santos


Two professors – who first met over 20 years ago in Alaska – were reunited in May, further south in the much warmer spot of Todos Santos.

The two researchers are studying the mammals that live in the sea and how these animals are adapted to their environment: Shane Kanatous, associate professor in the department of biology at Colorado State University, and Tania Zenteno-Savin, professor of planning and conservation of the he environment at the Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste (CIBNOR) in La Paz, Baja California Sur, first encountered in Alaska during a harbor seal research trip in Prince William Sound.

Today, 20 years later, they have connected again through the CSU Todos Santos Center. Kanatous was team-teaching a CSU field marine biology course with Graham Peers from the Department of Biology. Their students explored the marine environment and discovered ways to learn and interact with residents whose families have lived in the area for generations. Zenteno-Savin served as a liaison which aided in the awareness efforts.

“I had the chance to meet the people working at Todos Santos and (get) a feel for what CSU is aiming for in Todos Santos,” Zenteno-Savin said. Former researchers in the region have not made lasting local ties, she said. CSU’s continued presence in Todos Santos may provide the opportunity for partnerships.

Zenteno-Savin, who is on sabbatical from CIBNOR, assists CSU’s Kanatous Extreme Physiology Lab in Fort Collins, and believes the faculty and student exchange opportunities presented by the CSU Todos Santos Center are essential. .

“The thing that attracted me the most about CSU right off the bat was people talking about ‘How can we come and help?’ Zenteno-Savin said. “We also found that many issues that are important to Colorado are very important to Baja California Sur in terms of research, education, and environmental health.”

Marine biology students perform fieldwork in Todos Santos.

In May, Kanatous’ class visited schools to discuss marine science. The involvement of Zenteno-Savin, who has worked at CIBNOR for 16 years, has been incredibly beneficial in connecting with students as well as CSU students by providing a different cultural perspective, as it has helped to create a cultural bridge and translated the scientific aspects of the project, Kanatous said.

“I had the advantage of Tania as a colleague. If it was just us going to local schools, it still doesn’t seem feasible because we are still “the United States”. his own and Zenteneo-Savin was able to translate science for local students.

The CSU group also visited younger students and created fish prints as part of an art project. Zenteno-Savin’s presence was once again essential in establishing links with local students. “You can see the students,” Kanatous said. “They react differently when Tania is present than when she is not.”

Zenteno-Savin was also helping CSU connect with local researchers. CIBNOR is a research partner of CSU and helps connect CSU researchers with other researchers located in Baja California Sur.

The marine biology course is an annual goal for Kanatous, but it explores new research opportunities.

“With climate change we are seeing the available fish change, so local communities have to change their diets because the fish they are getting is different,” Kanatous said. How local residents replace specific nutrients lost by changing fish available in local waters is a question the CSU team would like to explore.

Beyond teaching its students marine biology in a marine environment far from Fort Collins, allowing students to learn within a culture different from what they may have experienced has created the opportunity for experiences. dynamic learning.

“I think this is a game changer, quite frankly, for the students and for the faculty. I think the Todos Santos Center could be a game-changer for Colorado State University if it continues to be established as it is, ”he said. “The ability to understand and learn to interact with different cultures are privileged situations offered by Todos Santos. “

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