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  February 3, 2003

New Partnership To Address Coastal
Management Issues In Mexico
By David Bauman

Scientists from UConn and the Universidad Aut—noma de Baja California (UABC) have been selected to participate in the first round of higher education partnerships under a new U.S.-Mexico program.

The program was launched last summer by U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox to promote private sector growth in Mexico.

Matching Grant
The two universities will share a $600,000 matching grant in a three-year collaboration to improve education in marine sciences and coastal management at the post-secondary and K-12 levels, through student and faculty training and exchange. The match will be provided by the two participating universities.

Additionally, scientists from UConn's departments of marine sciences and civil and environmental engineering, together with colleagues from the National Undersea Research Center and Connecticut Sea Grant program located at the Avery Point campus, will conduct environmental research projects with their Mexican counterparts at UABC. The research will focus on the Tijuana-Ensenada Corridor, which lies just south of San Diego, along the coast of Mexico's Baja California peninsula.

The grant, to be distributed through the Training, Internships, Exchanges and Scholarships program developed by the U.S. Agency for International Development as a component of the larger presidential Partnership for Prosperity program, is designed to promote collaboration to find mutual solutions to common problems between the two countries.

Research and Policy-Making
The UConn/UABC proposal, one of just 18 proposals chosen out of 350 submitted in 2002, was praised for its goal of combining scientific research with policy-making and economic solutions to address ecological problems.

"Developing human resources in coastal management and marine sciences education to find permanent solutions to the environmental problems in the Tijuana-Ensenada Corridor placed your proposal among the most outstanding of those submitted," wrote Jeffrey Davidow, former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, one of the proposal evaluators.

The UConn-UABC proposal responds to a growing crisis in the Tijuana-Ensenada Corridor, says Boris Bravo-Ureta, executive director of UConn's Office of International Affairs and professor of agricultural economics, who was the principal architect of the partnership.

Planned Growth
The government of Mexico has launched an ambitious development project, La Escalera Nautica, or Nautical Staircase, which by 2014 envisions creating a chain of 27 tourist harbors at 60 mile-intervals along the coast of the Baja California peninsula, once one of the most pristine natural environments in the world.

The idea behind Escalera Nautica is to help save the region's fragile environment through planned growth, explains Bravo-Ureta.

The Tijuana-Ensenada Corridor is located in the first "step" of the staircase, he notes. The rapid growth of tourism, aquaculture, and manufacturing has placed the region under severe environmental stress, polluting coastal waters, depleting fish stocks, and forcing peasant farmers off the land.

Nonetheless, the livelihood of the population of this coastal region increasingly depends on these new industries, which can either develop in mutually sustaining and beneficial ways or contribute to the decline of the region and its economy, he adds.

Meeting the Challenge
To help meet this challenge, Bravo-Ureta says the UConn/UABC project will:

  • Bring three Mexican students to UConn to earn master's degrees in marine science and another four graduate students for special one-semester courses that include joint research to strengthen graduate training in marine sciences at UABC.

  • Provide 11 exchange visits by UABC faculty to Connecticut to work with UConn colleagues on research projects and upgrade technical capabilities in such areas as environmental and coastal process monitoring, biodiversity, and living and non-living marine resource assessments. Ten exchange visits to UABC by UConn faculty are also planned, during which they will provide lectures, follow-up technical training and collaborate on research projects.

  • Create a program under the auspices of Project Oceanology, a private, non-profit Avery Point-based partner in the UConn/UABC proposal, to integrate marine science into the curriculum of K-12 students in Baja California and Connecticut through two summer workshops for 40 teachers, one in Mexico and the other at Avery Point.

  • Conduct two workshops designed to introduce the Sea Grant university concept and explore its application to UABC. Sea Grant is a partnership between the U.S. government and a select group of universities to foster wise use and conservation of marine and coastal resources.

Notes Bravo-Ureta, "The opportunity to create a partnership between UConn and UABC and develop a multidisciplinary team to take on the challenge of coastal management is very exciting and will be a significant addition to the educational and research components of both universities in the environmental field."

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