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Dissemination

Biota goes to school

Conferences will take knowledge about biodiversity to high school students and teachers

“Biomes of Brazil,” an exhibit presented at the Rio+20 Conference in June, 2012; for the purpose of showing, in various cities, examples of biodiversity.

Giuseppe Bizzarri / Folhapress“Biomes of Brazil,” an exhibit presented at the Rio+20 Conference in June, 2012; for the purpose of showing, in various cities, examples of biodiversity.Giuseppe Bizzarri / Folhapress

Education will be the primary focus in 2013 of Biota-FAPESP, a biodiversity research program that was launched in 1999 in the state of São Paulo. At a meeting of the program’s leaders at FAPESP headquarters in late November 2012, an array of research activities and publishing events for this year was announced.  They included a series of free conferences designed especially for high school students and teachers.  Another exhibition of Brazilian biomes is also scheduled, along with preparation of educational and support material pertaining to biodiversity. “Ever since FAPESP renewed its support for the program in 2009, education has become the focal point of our strategic plan,” says Carlos Joly, professor at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) and Biota-FAPESP coordinator.

Biota-FAPESP (Research Program in Identification, Conservation, Recovery and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity in the State of São Paulo) involves approximately 1,200 professionals from a various fields, all of whom dedicate themselves to the study of taxonomy, landscape physiology, biome mapping, biochemical knowledge and the sustainable use of the biodiversity of the state of São Paulo. The research program received R$82 million from FAPESP during its first decade, promoted more than 100 research projects and contributed to the advancement of scientific knowledge by, for example, identifying 1,766 species (1,109 microorganisms, 564 invertebrates and 93 vertebrates), 640 natural products registered in a database, and the publication of more than 1,145 scientific papers, 20 books, two atlases, and various maps that have begun to steer public policy in the appropriate direction. The program also provided grants for 190 master’s degrees, 120 PhDs and 86 post-doctorates. São Paulo state legislation currently contains six government decrees and 13 resolutions that reference the program’s guidelines. The ten patents registered by researchers from BIOprospecTA, the Biota network for Bio-prospecting and Bio-trials, demonstrates that the program has also sought out partnerships in the manufacturing sector.

MCPIThere remained, however, a more intensive effort to disseminate knowledge – especially young students – that would now become the focus of the program. “The precariousness of how sciences are taught in Brazil concerns us, and since Biota-FAPESP is a solid research program, it would naturally play a role in helping educate our high school students,” says Professor Vanderlan Bolzani of the Araraquara Chemistry Institute at the Universidade Estadual Paulista (Unesp) and member of Biota-FAPESP coordinating team. “As scientists, we bear a great responsibility towards society and the nation, and I believe that our mission should be to motivate children and adolescents to view science, not as a mandatory part of their curriculum, but rather as a fascinating way to discover the world in which they live,” she adds.  Bolzani’s ideas grew out of her experience attending a series of conferences during the 2011 International Year of Chemistry, in partnership with Pesquisa FAPESP (see the special issue, The International Year of Chemistry – February, 2012).

Nine free conferences for teachers and students are scheduled for 2013, where the most current concepts and values about biodiversity will be presented in a way that can be understood by a diverse audience. Presentations will be recorded and the content will be made available through the Biota and FAPESP portals.  Another idea is to adapt an exhibit of biomes in Brazil that was on display at the Rio+20 Conference, to be viewed throughout the capital and interior cities of the state of São Paulo.

MCPIResearch proposals
At a meeting that announced the Biota-FAPESP strategies for 2013, a proposals for public bidding on research grants to be offered for the purpose of education and biodiversity was presented by Martha Marandino, professor at the School of Education at the University of São Paulo (USP) and Professor Érica Speglich of the State University of São Paulo (Unesp) at Rio Claro. The call for proposals should be announced early this year. The objective is to encourage educational projects designed to stimulate a dialog that draws on the Biota-FAPESP data base.

Two more calls for proposals are also expected to be announced, says Joly. One of these, a partnership with the Secretariat for the Environment for the state of São Paulo, should focus on priority areas of biodiversity conservation for the decades to come. “It was the secretariat’s requirement that state planning be carried out, bearing in mind the impact the growth of cities, of infrastructure networks – especially roads, pipelines, and transmission lines – and agribusiness would have on areas seen as a priority for conservation,” says Joly. The other call for proposals will be issued   through a partnership with a project financed by the Global Environmental Fund (GEF) to restore the biodiversity and carbon stock in the Paraíba do Sul River basin. “Ideally, we would like to reconnect the coastal highlands with those of the Mantiqueira, thereby re-establishing important biological corridors,” adds Joly. “This can be done in a way that also provides greater support to hillsides, reduces the risk of landslides, protects waterways and riverheads, increases the availability and improves the quality of water resources.”

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