"Amá,Ké,Kachi,Ará (AKKA)" » San Juan, Puerto Rico
The purpose of the Ecology Chapter at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras is to promote ecology, conservation, education and a healthy environment through hands on experience targeting the general university community and pre-K schools (initially including those near the UPR-RP campus and later expanding to schools at other sites in the island). The Chapter will provide outreach activities such as lectures, field trips, workshops and opportunities for research experiences through volunteer work for undergraduate, elementary and high school students. Outreach activities to schools and communities will focus on this interdisciplinary approach through field trips and workshops. Members will benefit from academic lectures on graduate school, internships, volunteer work, careers in ecology and many other enrichment activities that undergraduate students can do while pursuing their bachelor's degree. The Chapter aims to convey that ecology is as an interdisciplinary subject that feeds on many areas of knowledge and not just biology (e.g. chemistry, physics, mathematics, social science, art, and economics). In that regard we see our Chapter and its focus area (ecology) as a link between students of various ethnic backgrounds and academic interests within the academic community, but this message needs to be transmitted more effectively. We see our SEEDS Chapter as an excellent tool to facilitate the formation of a new vision for Ecology in our institution and in our region.
UPR-Río Piedras is the recipient of the 2008 SEEDS CHAPTER OF THE YEAR AWARD!!!
The chapter's website is http://www.akkaseeds.org/page11.aspx
Plans for 2008-2009
- Knowing Our Environment-Field Trips with action (comments, cinemas, childrens)
- Community (GAIA)
- Communication Green-cinema
- Writing proposal for funding
Activities of 2007-2008
- SEEDS Activities (not including monthly meetings)
- Activity: AKKA Conferences- Ecouniversitarios
- Purpose: This activity was designed to reach out and promote the AKKA SEEDS Ecology Chapter at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Río Piedras campus. The activity included a talk by AKKA president, Manuel Sanfiorenzo de Orbeta, and AKKA adviser, Elvia Melendez-Ackerman. Sanfiorenzo talked about the SEEDS program, the past activities conducted by AKKA and the future direction we would like to see the chapter go. Meléndez talked about the research opportunities at the UPR for undergraduate students. In addition, she spoke about the opportunities to collaborate with graduate students, professors and professionals in the field of ecology. The attendance was superb!! We had undergraduate and graduate students, professors, university employees and deans from the Education, Social and Natural Science Departments as well as representatives from Architecture and Humanities. Participants: 60
- Activity: Puerto Rico Ecosystem Program- Introduction to cave ecosystems
- Purpose: The Chapter was invited by Dr. Concepción Rodríguez, advisor of the LIFE SEEDS chapter at the UPR, Bayamón campus, to give a talk to her introductory ecology course about the different cave ecosystems in Puerto Rico. The talk was given by two AKKA members, Manuel S. Sanfiorenzo De Orbeta and Julitza M. Nieves, both trained and certified cave explorers. They talked about the karts region in Puerto Rico, its distribution and relationship to water, the most common geological formations and the biodiversity found in cave ecosystems. A short film about a cave expedition was shown as a final and as introduction to the field trip that the group would make the next day.This field trip consisted of a visit to Cueva Ventana y Cueva Indio where all AKKA, LIFE and the Rodríguez ecology course students that participated, could apply the themes presented in the conference. This field trip was a unique experience for many students that had never been to a cave ecosystem. We conducted an exercise to promote critical thinking and the scientific method. The group was separated into five smaller groups and each one conducted observational inventory of the biodiversity found in Cueva Ventana and decided on possible questions based on their observations and knowledge. The participant students wrote a short report on the observations and questions generated in the field trip. Participants: 12 AKKA and 16 LIFE students.
- Activity: AKKA Conferences: Amoná, Natural Research Laboratory speaker, Dr. Frank Wadsworth, forester and naturalist of the US Forest Service since the 1940’s
- Purpose: Learn about the biodiversity and importance of Mona Island Reserve through Dr. Wadsworth’s experience. And also get to compare the actual ecologic situation of the Island with its situation 30 years ago. It was part of the Biolunch series of conferences, part of the Association of Graduate Biology Students. Participants: 28
- Activity: AKKA Conferences- San Patricio Forest, an important urban area
- Purpose: This activity was conducted in collaboration with CUBU, a community based organization, and the San Patricio Forest biologist. The purpose of this activity was to introduce elementary public school children to the importance of urban forest. A talk about the history of the forest and an interpretive walk were given by an AKKA member, Waldemar Alcobas and the resident biologist of the forest. Participants: 7 AKKA members, 1 CUBU member, 2 students and parents.
- Activity: AKKA Conferences- The Karts Region in an urban landscape
- Purpose: The Symposium for Urban Ecosystems sponsored by the San Patricio Forest invited AKKA to give a talk on the important characteristics of the karts region in urban landscapes. Participants: 4 AKKA, 10 general public attendees
- Activity: Puerto Rico Ecosystem Program- LIFE sponsored field trip to Guaniquilla, PR
- Purpose: TheLIFE SEEDS chapter invited AKKA SEEDS to participate on a field trip at Cabo Rojo, PR. First, the group visited the natural reserve of Guaniquilla, under the guide of the biologist representative of the Fideicomiso de Conservación, who offered information about the biodiversity of the reserve. Then, the group went to Buyé beach, where it subdivided into smaller groups. Each one had to select a topic to realize a short investigation in the area and analyzed the results for presentation. The study that the AKKA student did was an inventory of the tree species along the beach. The trip culminated with an observational walk from the Combate beach to the Cabo Rojo’s lighthouse. Participants: 3 AKKA and LIFE chapter
- Activity: Puerto Rico Ecosystem Program- What is speleology?
- Purpose: AKKA started de year 2008 with a speleological expedition at San German, PR. The group of graduate and undergraduate students, including AKKA members, was under the direction and guide of Elvin Binet, member of the Society of Speleological Studies of the North Inc., with the collaboration of Manuel Sanfiorenzo. First, camping was set as the vicinity of cave Flaca. Then the group subdivided into three so we could work on different tasks simultaneously. One group continued the road until the highest point of the mountain, where the cave is located, to take the coordinates using a GPS. A second group did the cartography of cave Cucaracha, while the third one did cave Flaca. This gave the opportunity of learning elemental concepts of cartography by using a tiltmeter and compass, how to draw a model of the circumference of a cave and take reference point utilizing a tape measure. The second day, the groups were exchanged and worked continued. Because cueva Flaca has an entrance with a vertical fall of 50 feet, the students used vertical equipment for caves being the first experience of its kind for many of them. In addition the group could appreciate the exquisite biodiversity of the area, home to many endemic species of Puerto Rico. The trip culminated with a revitalizing bath at the near river. This was an exorbitant start leaving the participants full of energy and motivation for the activities of the semester ahead of us. Participants: 17
- Activity: Puerto Rico Ecosystem Program- Wildlife Photography
- Purpose: Introduce student to the art of wildlife photography and how this can be used in education and conservation programs. Ivan Vicens, biologist in the US Forest Service and professional wildlife photographer, was the speaker of the conference. Participants: 13
- Activity: AKKA Conferences: Amoná, Natural Research Laboratory speaker, Dr. Miguel Antonio Garcia, director of the Wildlife Department of Natural Resources and the Environment
- Purpose: This activity was part of the conference series called Biolunch, part of the Association of Graduate Biology Students. Dr. García discussed some initiatives for the conservation of the wildlife in Mona Island. He talked about studies that are being conducted on Mona Island about the biodiversity of arthropods, the restoration of endangered species, focusing on marine turtles and Mona’s iguana, and the exotic invasive species, focusing on cats, goats and rats, monitoring movement, domestic habits and habitat usage. At last, he mentioned the future plans to increase the effort directed to conservation and to maximize initiatives of collaboration. Participants: 16
- Activity: Participation in the Biannual Orchid Census
- Purpose: Participate in the biannual census of orquid done at El Verde Field Station and familiarizes students with field experiments, data collection and group field work. Participants: 8
- Activity: Educational Documentary
Program- Production and photography workshop
- Purpose: This activity is the first of many workshop designed to empower students and community leaders in the art of digital documentary. We had the support of two leaders in the documentary and photography community in Puerto Rico, Karen Rossi and Oscar Guerrero. The basic process of creating a documentary was discussed as well as the important photography components in a documentary. Participants: 25
- Activity: Puerto Rico Ecosystem
Program- Bat distribution and diversity/human impact on cave biodiversity
- Purpose: On our February monthly meeting, the doctoral student Julissa Rojas Sandoval gave AKKA a talk about bats and human impact on caves. The talked was focused on the diversity of bats species on Puerto Rico, its distribution and habits, its ecological importance and how humans affect the cave biodiversity and precautions that need to be taken to minimize our impact when visiting caves. This useful information helped AKKA members to better understand cave ecosystems and better prepare for the cave field trip. The next day we visited cave Tres Niveles at Aguas Buenas, PR. Trough the path heading for the cave, the group discussed the biodiversity they observed. Once in the cave we did an interpretative walk guided by Manuel Sanfiorenzo and applying what Rojas had taught us. Participants: 20 (conference) and 10 (field trip)
- Activity: AKKA Conferences: Amoná,
Natural Research Laboratory speaker, Dr. Elvia Meléndez-Ackerman,
director of the Institute of Tropical Ecosystem Studies
- Purpose: This activity was part of the conference series called Biolunch, part of the Association of Graduate Biology Students. Dr. Meléndez talked about the vegetation research being conducted at Mona Island and the implications for land cover maps. In addition, she showed basic data for the insect project that is describing the composition of insect community in the Depression Forest. Participants: 15
- Activity: AKKA Conferences: Amoná,
Natural Research Laboratory speaker, Julissa Rojas Sandoval M.S,
University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras, Biology Department
- Purpose: This activity was part of the conference series called Biolunch, part of the Association of Graduate Biology Students. Julissa is a doctoral student looking at the reproductive biology and population dynamics of Harrisia portoricensis. This was a very special seminar because she has been working with the AKKA SEEDS Ecology Chapter since its formation and thanks to the 2007 Special Projects Grant she was able to establish her permanent plots. Her data is unique and is showing interesting aspects of cacti reproduction. Participants: 16
- Activity: AKKA Conferences: Amoná,
Natural Research Laboratory speaker, Hana López, biologist of the
Wildlife Department of Natural Resources and the Environment,
- Purpose: This activity was part of the conference series called Biolunch, part of the Association of Graduate Biology Students. Hana presented basic results found for research conducted with exotic species at Mona island. She showed the importance of studying exotic species and the effects it has on insular biota. Participants: 16
- Activity: Educational Documentary
Program- Film, Humans and Cave Systems
- Purpose: Angel Santiago and Manuel Sanfiorenzo had the initiative to create a short documentary to submit to the EcoFilms Award of the ESA student section. They involved Catherine Vargas and Colibrí Sanfiorenzo in collaboration with cave biologist and cave security personal we filmed Cueva Escalera and submitted a 7 minute documentary about the use of caves by humans. (see dvd in the mail). Participants: 4 AKKA members, 1 Co-advisor, 1 Cave ecologist and 1 cave security
- Activity: Community Participation
Program- Un Verde Nativo
- Purpose: Plant a series of trees as an effort of campus reforestation. Also, show kids the importance of trees at the same time they have fun doing a characterization walk, planting trees and making observations. It was celebrated to commemorate the Earth Day. Participants: 17 AKKA, 3 elementary schools (60 students + 4 teachers), spectators and environmental senate of the UPR-RP
- AKKA Monthly Meetings
- Date: August
- Purpose: Greet the new 2007-2008 AKKA organization committee. Finalize the official papers to become a UPR student organization. Attendance: 8
- Date: September
- Purpose: Greet new members recruited at the “Ecouniversitario” activity. Talk about the proposals that have been submitted by AKKA and the potential for future funding from the University and external institutions. Attendance: 21
- Date: October
- Purpose: Discuss potential research experiences for undergraduate students. Attendance: 12
- Date: November
- Purpose: Finish organizing the San Patricio activities that would be conducted at the end of the week and the following week. Attendance: 11
- Date: December
- Purpose: Introduction to educational scientific documentaries through the showing and discussion of small short films. Attendance: 13
- Date: December
- Purpose: Organize the next semester activities and coordinate responsibilities. Attendance: 4
- Date: January 18th, 2008
- Purpose: Introduce new and existing members to the past activities and future activities designed for the second semester. Attendance: 13
- Date: February
- Purpose: Discuss deadlines for summer research experiences and past experiences by members. In addition, herd from Brenda Castro and her experience in the Santa Barbara SEEDS field trip. Attendance: 13
- Date: March 14th
- Purpose: Discuss the chapter participation on the Student EcoFilm Award Festival. Attendance: 16
- Goals achieved for 2007-2008:
- Complete process of incorporation of SEEDS as a UPR-Rio Piedras student association with official status.
- Working ecological and environmental themes with CUBU (Unitarian Committee for an Urban Forest), a local community group that aims to improve green areas next to their housing project (Manuel A. Pérez).
- Networking activities with other student organizations on Campus (SEA: ECO-Environmental Society; SEPA: Pro-Environment Student Association).
- Visits to important ecological sites as a tool to motivate student membership.
- Continue to participate on various scientific investigations (Orchid Census, Mona)
- SEEDS CHAPTER OF THE YEAR!
- Elvia Meléndez-Ackerman
- Ricardo Morales De Jesús
"Introducing SEEDS students to field work in Mona Island Reserve, a biodiversity wonderland" Special Project
Exotic species are the second most important cause of biodiversity loss in world ecosystems. The main goal of this activity is to provide students from the AKKA and LIFE SEEDS Ecology Chapters with a field research experience complimented with educational activities as a way to introduce students to ecological research related to the effect of exotic species on local biodiversity. Students will help establish long-term monitoring plots to assess the effects of different management strategies for an aggressive exotic grass on the regeneration of dry forest plant communities in Mona Island Reserve, Puerto Rico. Visiting and resident scientists at Mona Island will complement the fieldwork experience with educational activities such as a workshop on plant identification techniques and short talks. Project activities and results will be disseminated through the webswite of the Center for Applied Tropical Ecology and Conservation of the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras. As part of the project we will perform student follow-ups to determine the success of this project at engaging students in subsequent research activities. The proposed activities will benefit students from two SEED Chapters from the University of Puerto Rico System and will provide a platform for interaction between two societies, which share the mission to advance ecological research in Puerto Rico.