INTERCAMBIO meeting: Challenges and opportunities for Atmosphere-Biosphere interactions research in Colombia

The first INTERnational Conference on AtMosphere-BIOsphere interactions (INTERCAMBIO) was held in Universidad de Antioquia and Universidad EAFIT in Medellín, Colombia from October 31st to November 2nd. This event aimed to promote scientific discussion and collaborative networking among global change researchers in Colombia, and foster their interactions with researchers from Purdue University and other international institutions.

Fullbrighter and Ph.D candidate in Biological Sciences, Alejandro Salazar, envisioned a space where scientists could network and explore research opportunities regarding responses and feedback of natural ecosystems to global changes in the tropics. Salazar joined efforts with his brother, Juan F. Salazar, Assistant professor in Universidad de Antioquia (UdeA), and along with the help of Alma Castro (International Cooperation Coordinator), and Marcela Wolff (Head of International Relations) from Universidad EAFIT, organized INTERCAMBIO.

Words from keynote speaker Dr. Jeffrey S. Dukes, Purdue Professor at the Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Department of Biological Sciences, and Director of Purdue Climate Change Research Center (PCCRC) at Universidad de Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia

"The community of researchers interested in participating in INTERCAMBIO kept growing not only in Colombia, but also in the US and UK," explains Salazar. Researchers from Purdue University, such as professors Jeffrey Dukes and Qianlai Zhuang (Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences), and Ph.D. students Maria del Rosario Uribe (Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences) and Alejandro Salazar were key members of the research community built around INTERCAMBIO. Our Purdue colleagues were joined by professors Juan F. Salazar, Juan C. Villegas, Ángela Rendón and Paola Arias (Universidad de Antioquia); Ivan Correa and Juan D. Restrepo (Universidad EAFIT); Daniel Ruiz-Carrascal (Universidad EIA); Kenneth Feeley (Florida International University); Lina Mercado and Stephen Sitch (University of Exeter); Álvaro Duque, Germán Poveda and Juan C. Pérez (Universidad Nacional de Colombia); Carlos Sierra (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry) and Adriana Sánchez (Universidad del Rosario).

"The first day of INTERCAMBIO consisted of a marathon of 10-min talks from all the researchers and this allowed us not only to do research diffusion, but also to meet each other," explains Salazar. A poster session was held during the second day, where students from Universidad de Antioquia and Purdue University presented their work and received feedback from fellow researchers. Later, professors and Ph.D. students participated in a closed-door discussion session about the challenges and opportunities to conduct research in the tropics, and more specifically in Colombia. The final goal was to discuss topics related with ecosystems responses to global change and their feedback to climate change. As an outcome of these discussion sessions, they expect to publish a manuscript that acts as a point of reference and exposes potential gaps for future research projects. They also hope to include a post-conflict scenario to the equation, to understand ecological and environmental consequences of conflict resolution. "We have learned from countries going through peace agreements that there is a rapid increase in deforestation rates after long-term social conflicts are resolved," explains Salazar, "this is because armed groups unintentionally protect natural zones that after the conflict are available for different uses.".

As a perfect way to close INTERCAMBIO, a panel discussion was hosted by Universidad EAFIT on the third and final day. This panel aimed to answer and discuss global change questions from a holistic and interdisciplinary perspective. In this context, panelists agreed that there is an urgency to conduct more research about atmosphere-biosphere interactions in Colombia and to effectively inform decision-makers about the importance of including climate change mitigation policies in their agendas.

The event was free and open to the public. The estimated assistance was around 90 people, mostly students from Universidad de Antioquia and Universidad EAFIT. "We expect to increase the number of people impacted by INTERCAMBIO through the video of the panel discussion, and with the review paper that will be submitted for publication next year," says Salazar.

Meanwhile, INTERCAMBIO researchers are enthusiastic about the idea of having a second version of the conference next year. "There was a lot of empathy between researchers and we are all excited about the possibility of INTERCAMBIO 2.0, potentially on November 2017," explains Salazar with great passion.

INTERCAMBIO was possible due to the joint funding of Universidad de Antioquia (School of Engineering), Universidad EAFIT, ICETEX, Purdue Climate Change Research Center (PCCRC), the Purdue Research Foundation (PRF), Ayudar Scholarship-University of Exeter, and Colombian Student Association at Purdue (CSAP), and Colombia-Purdue Institute (CPI).

Opening remarks by Alejandro Salazar, Purdue Ph.D. candidate at Universidad de Antioquia on October 31st 2016.

Most INTERCAMBIO participants met for the first time to have breakfast together at the Jardín Botánico de Medellín. This first event was sponsored by CSAP.

The group of climate change researchers at the Jardín Botánico de Medellín, where they had the opening event. From left to right: Jeff Dukes, Steven Stich, Maria del Rosario Uribe, Lina Mercado, Alejandro Salazar, Ángela Rendón, Juan F. Salazar, Alma Castro, Juan C. Villegas, Kenneth Feeley, Qianlai Zhuang and Daniel Ruiz-Carrascal.

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