Creating a Global Network for Freshwater: Phase I, Developing Websites to Share Fresh Water Databases between Research Institutions in Latin America and the U.S.A.

As part of a long-range plan to develop an active global network of institutions, organizations, and researchers working on issues related to fresh water, this project will develop a web-based platform designed to facilitate collaboration between Latin American and U.S. based groups and to increase access to environmental databases and existing documents housed in collaborating institutions. Freshwater research and management is currently hampered by several factors. These include: 1. The frequent lack of awareness of, access to, and publication of valuable local and regional scale studies and databases such as theses, dissertations, internal reports, and grey literature; 2. The reliance on theories mainly developed and tested in Northern Temperate Ecosystems; 3. The under representation of rural and Latin American institutions in global debates and conversations; 4. And the lack of connections and networks to facilitate exchange and collaboration. These factors result in a lack of locally contextualized global understanding, the frequent ‘re-creating of the wheel’, a disconnect between research and local context, and a tendency for researchers to be drawn away from the rural and Latin American institutions to larger urban or Northern institutions. At the same time, freshwater research is of increasing importance and must simultaneously take into account both a global perspective and local realities. Initially, a Colombian institution, the GAIA Research Group from the University of Antioquia (Medellín, Colombia), will develop a virtual platform to upload geo-referenced databases, documents, and other information regarding wetlands, lakes and rivers. This initial platform will increase access to detailed and often difficult to locate information regarding specific regions in Colombia and will provide an initial platform from which to recruit further participants in a global network. As the platform is being developed, additional institutions will be recruited to participate. During the first recruiting phase, efforts will focus on building collaborations with one or more community colleges located in the Great Lakes region of the United States as well as other institutions in both North and South America. As such, in this first phase, the network will allow for comparative analyses across regions, will encourage collaboration and exchange between associated researchers and students, and will serve as a test case for the development of a broader network. Over the longer term, the development of a global freshwater network will: increase access and sharing of databases and documents; provide a greater voice for often under- represented regions and groups whose work and context can shed important light on freshwater issues and theories; and encourage collaboration and exchange. Further, this network will help institutions with limited financial resources to be both active participants in global conversations and to attract and retain students and professors. As a result, this network will contribute significantly to the development of a more richly nuanced understanding of freshwater issues and greatly increase collaboration, cooperation, and exchange across regions.

Lead Investigator: 
Other Investigator(s): 
USA and Latin America, Global
Natural System: