The Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity (IEB) was founded in 2006 as a centre of excellence for scientific research, bringing together professors and students from the Universidad de Chile’s Plant Systematics and Ecology Laboratory (part of the Faculty of Science) and the country’s leading researchers in ecology. Founded under the auspices of the Millennium Science Initiative (MSI) – run by the Ministry of the Economy – the IEB has since 2008 also been receiving Financiamiento Basal funding from the National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT).
Today, the IEB operates as a decentralised network of researchers from six Chilean universities and two private academic foundations, working in partnership with scientists from other national and international institutions, each world leader in ecology and environmental sciences. One of the IEB’s priorities has been training of scientists by means of special support for postgraduate programmes at regional universities, and this has been an important factor for the Universidad de La Serena and the Universidad de Magallanes in gaining accreditation for their programmes.
Over this period we have strengthened our relationships with the public and private sectors, with the intention of providing science-based support for the public and for sustainable development in Chile. As a result of this, and in partnership with the Universidad de Magallanes, the IEB led the planning and set up of the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve (CHBR). In the private sector, the IEB’s most successful alliance has been with a group of twenty wineries who together export 60% of the total wine produced in Chile, and with whom we have worked to establish a conservation agreement to protect 25,000 hectares of native vegetation found in and around their vineyards. In other industries, our scientists have been involved in conservation plans for a natural heritage site covering 31,000 hectares in the north of the country, and have taken part in ecological restoration programmes alongside several companies from the mining industry. A unique programme focusing on the biodiversity of the Magallanes Region of Chile was launched in conjunction with local tourism operators, and subsequently extended south to the island of Chiloé and as far north as the Coquimbo Region.
The IEB’s science communication team has brought our work to numerous audiences from Coquimbo to Magallanes, including school children, teachers, the agricultural labour force and the general public. It has also produced a range of scientific outreach publications, including a number of texts about ecology that have been distributed by the Ministry of Education to schools the length of the country.
Over the past decade, the IEB has striven to improve and increase the facilities available to support research, contributing to the expansion of the Senda Darwin field station on the island of Chiloé, and constructing and equipping new field stations in the Omora Park on Navarino Island and in the Fray Jorge National Park. These biological stations, with their accommodation and work facilities for researchers and students, serve as bases for the Chilean Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research (LTSER) Network, founded by the IEB and formally linked to the International Long-term Ecological Research Network (I-LTER).
Over the past 10 years, the IEB has been making a real contribution to human well-being and to the protection of ecosystems, through collaborative scientific research, and communication and transfer of this research to the public and private sectors, and to local communities.