The 10th version of the course Ecology and Diversity of Marine Microorganisms (ECODIM) will take place January 8-27, 2018 at the Marine Biology Station of the University of Concepción (UdeC) in Dichato. This course has been taught since 2001 as part of the Austral Summer Institute (ASI) with the participation of more than 100 students from 14 countries, mainly from Latin America, and more than 50 teachers and speakers.
ECODIM is a prestigious course: in 2015, Fundación Ciencia Joven (young science foundation), in cooperation with UNESCO, awarded it the first prize in the category Higher Education of the annual awards Innovation in Scientific Education.
This highly practical course focuses on marine microbiology and is designed for postgraduate and advanced undergraduate students. During the three weeks of ECODIM, students have the opportunity to go on board the research vessel Kay Kay II in order to collect samples, observe the sea and carry out experiments on the diversity and biogeochemical role of microorganisms inhabiting the waters and marine sediments off the Chilean coast.
ECODIM will once more be financed by the Agouron Institute, a private philanthropic institution based in California that supports advanced research and scientific courses around the world, particularly on microbial oceanography in Chile. Additionally, ECODIM will be supported by the UdeC Office of Postgraduate Education together with other institutions.
Rodrigo de la Iglesia, associate professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, is one of the scientists teaching this course. “The main purpose of ECODlM is to give undergraduate and postgraduate students working on marine microbial ecology an opportunity to come into contact with high-level international researchers who also work in that area. Students in our region don’t necessarily have the chance to enjoy such experiences. ECODIM is also a good opportunity for students to start creating collaborative networks both among themselves and with the professors that participate in the course,” he said.
Belén Franco, UdeC marine biologist, went through this experience in 2016. She emphasized that it greatly helped her to advance in her professional career. “This course is an excellent opportunity to gain first-level scientific experience in marine microbiology. In ECODIM we shared experiences and both theoretical and practical knowledge with researchers and students from different universities around the world, which improved our performance in research, teamwork and scientific communication among peers.”
Sonia Yáñez, a doctoral student who also participated in 2016, appreciates the fact that ECODIM makes it possible to meet specialists from other countries and to strengthen collaborative work. As a result of her participation in this training program, Sonia went to Denmark for an internship that allowed her to advance on her thesis. "In ECODIM I acquired a lot of knowledge about the ecology of microorganisms, which I have been applying during my studies as a doctoral student; I also learned about teamwork, even about the culture of other countries. Furthermore, during this course I established contact with Dr. Ronnie Glud, a Danish professor who works at the Department of Biology at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU), in Odense. This contact allowed me to do a doctoral internship at his laboratory, and today that work is covered in a chapter of my doctoral thesis."
Only 15 students per year are accepted in this course, whose directors are Kurt Hanselmann, from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, Rodrigo de la Iglesia, from Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, and Osvaldo Ulloa, from UdeC. ECODIM also holds a one-day open symposium at UdeC’s main Campus. In 2018, its main topic will be "Marine Symbiosis".