by Ismael García Espinoza, MSc student in Geography, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Bogotá (Comments: Dunia H. Urrego)


It is an exciting —and strange— thing to arrive, for the first time, to a country knowing that it will be your home for longer than a month. It all gets even quirkier when you discover this new home is way colder than you thought, and pubs are always full of people who like warm beer a lot.

I had the opportunity of working as a visiting research student during a month within the Tropical Palaeoecology Group at the University of Exeter. My visit was supported through a collaboration between Prof. Dolors Armenteras of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Bogotá and Dr. Dunia H. Urrego of the University of Exeter, UK, and funded by the NERC-AHRC project BioResilience (http://sites.exeter.ac.uk/bioresilience/).

The experience included a rigorous and intense laboratory work in the facilities of the University, which are wonderfully equipped with high precision devices and highly qualified technicians. Also, I spent half a week in Italy, presenting the BioResilience project to the academic community at a Paleobiology and Conservation symposium. I tried to answer all the questions they asked, and I think I did a good job calming their curiosity about Colombia. At the same time, and somewhat unfairly, they could not agree with a single explanation about why Italians speak with their hands. I am still intrigued.

Photo 1. Sampling a sediment core from Pantano de Martos in the highlands

The constant academic and personal support provided by the BioResilience investigators, especially by Dunia H. Urrego and Juan Felipe Franco, as well as the technical assistance of Angela Elliot in the lab, made my first time in the United Kingdom a truly forming experience. Having the opportunity to work in an environment that strives to deliver high quality-science that also cares about the well-being of those who make it possible was inspiring. This experience at Exeter had sown seeds of motivation and determination to continue the hard work within a team capable of generating positive impacts well beyond those initially raised.

Exeter felt like home. I could have never imagined that such a small city would hold such a huge heart. The many accents I had to face and the cold and poor weather were all worth it. I was immersed in an atmosphere of knowledge that improved my technical skills and broadened my interests. And since getting back to Colombia, I always put vinegar on my chips!

¡Gracias, Exeter!

Collaboration with San Bartolomé School

San Bartolomé is the oldest school in Bogotá which laid the first stone to the later universities such as Universidad Nacional and Javeriana. Dr. Dunia Urrego suggested this school as a context for collaborative dialogue. This process began with a number of meetings with the Dean, Father Juan Manuel and the Director Wilson Alonso. 

The first meeting was based on a presentation of the project and previous projects I have done in order to illustrate examples for possible ideas of interest. There was a shared interest in collaborative practices in order to generate between spaces for reflection, creation and exchange. In the school, some teachers had made pilot programs experimenting with pedagogy using transversal programs trying to implement interdisciplinary projects, creative forms of engagement and experiential and multisensorial processes with nature. This ground was a “meeting point” from which a number of meetings took place in order to think collectively on ideas and structures that could be applied in the classroom and furthermore structures at the school. 


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Presentation, deep mapping

I was asked to present a “work in progress” intervention in the Social Sciences team meeting at the Instituto Humboldt. This presentation was included in the section“Knowledge systems”. 

For this presentation I followed a deep mapping strategy trying to generate further transversal narratives across concepts, questions, methods and encounters; ingredients that feed the following outcomes of this placement. The following paragraphs are the presentation  (in Spanish).

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Process from Instituto Humboldt

The project allowed me to be based at Instituto Humboldt in Bogotá while undertaking the three months placement. I  joined the work dynamic at the department of Social Sciences in the Instituto Humboldt with Dr. Olga Lucia Hernández Manrique on the lead in order to learn from their approach on interdisciplinarity as it is the core of their existence; projects, shared resources and the atmosphere of the teams in action encompass such approach.  

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Resilience workshop

This workshop was facilitated by Olga Lucia Hernandez and Seila Fernández Arconada with a number of previous discussions between Mónica Amador, Olga Lucia Hernández, Alejandra Osejo y Seila Fernández Arconada in order to accomplish the program of the day.

There was an intervention at the windows of the workshop room. Each window holds a concept that is over-layered with the forest behind. The difficulty of reading depending on the close focus; interferences are always present but even behind in this case (and others) the most important thing is what we are working for, the forest. This metaphor nevertheless is a glimpse to accompany the journey across concepts including multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, forest, resilience among other conceptual representations that bring all participants to the here-and-now and the aim of collaborating during this workshop and beyond.

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Meeting the research components

First virtual meetings are already taking place. The aim is to understand all components of the team looking for ways to integrate and generate spaces in between disciplines. 

How can an artist contribute in such a project? What has been tackled in the project so far? What do we mean by interdisciplinary collaboration? What are the research disciplinary components focusing on? 









Disciplinary strategies and objectives

Interdisciplinary process

Art as practice based research 




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Artist in residence, Seila Fernández Arconada

Seila Fernández Arconada will be undertaking an artist placement at the project BioResilience Colombia during a 3 months period between the 2nd of May and the 28th of July in 2019. This is part of the BioResilience’s project cross-component integration (socio-cultural/palaeoecology/forest ecology) and outreach work through joint funding from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC0 and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Here is an introduction to her work.

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