Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile: Ecologist from IEB receives international award for his research in the Atacama Desert

Claudio Latorre, paleoecologist and researcher at the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity and tenured professor at the Catholic University , has been submerged in the Atacama desert for more than two decades, time that has allowed him to explore this ecosystem in depth and even understand how the climate, vegetation and water cycles during the last 50 thousand years, in one of the most arid territories in the world.

For these and other contributions to research in desert areas, the Doctor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology was recently distinguished with the “Farouk El-Baz” Prize awarded each year by the Geological Society of America (Geological Society of the United States of America (geosociety .org) .Thanks to this, Latorre becomes the first Latin American to receive this award, named after the Egyptian-American scientist from the APOLO program, responsible for studying the geology of the moon and the most suitable sites for landing the space mission.

“This Saturday I found out that I had been nominated and also the winner of this award, which is like the ‘Nobel for the Desert’, which was very exciting. This distinction has also been awarded to two of my mentors, Julio Betancourt and Jay Quade, who have been tremendously important in my training. For all these reasons, the announcement of this award given by the United States Ecology Society and the Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology Section is very gratifying news ”, said the researcher from the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity.

“This Saturday I found out that I had been nominated and also the winner of this award, which is like the ‘Nobel for the Desert’, which was very exciting. This distinction has also been awarded to two of my mentors, Julio Betancourt and Jay Quade, who have been tremendously important in my training ”- Claudio Latorre, award-winning UC academic

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It was Julio Betancourt himself who nominated the UC scientist for this award, through a letter highlighting his extensive career and contribution to the understanding of the climatological, ecological, hydrological, and geomorphological and cultural changes in the desert of Atacama. The two met in 1995, when Latorre moved to the University of Arizona to do a master’s degree, a period in which he also shared with the geochemist Jay Quade, where he studied Pliocene rocks, fossil teeth and other elements, in order to understand how they are expanded C4 plants for the first time in America. After that, and starting with his doctorate, the IEB scientist began his exploration of the desert and its many secrets.

For his part, Claudio Latorre also values ​​the distinction as a recognition of the science that Chile is developing, and of the work that from its beginnings has been supported by the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity: “Since my training period, my research has been supported and financed by national funds and in particular by the IEB, a center that has given priority to this line of work, promoting its continuity. For this reason, the distinction is also a recognition of the Institute, thanks to which many young people have also participated in research during their professional training ”.

“One of the points that I highlight the most is the interdisciplinarity of the studies, a factor that has allowed me to work with researchers not only from other natural sciences but also those who are in archeology, anthropology, or even in areas related to rock art” – Claudio Latorre, UC academic

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In this context, the paleoecologist also notices the contributions that his work and career have generated in the study of arid zones, including multiple views. “One of the points that I highlight the most is the interdisciplinary nature of the studies, a factor that has allowed me to work with researchers not only from other natural sciences but also those who are in archeology, anthropology, or even in areas related to rock art. Other works have also made it possible to address political aspects such as water management. All this reveals how science has been so important in understanding the nature of water in the north, where it comes from, and how it has varied, among other factors.

Claudio Latorre’s work is also notable for his numerous studies with different paleoecological archives, such as paleomadrigueras: fragments of the past made up of bones, plant material, insects and feces accumulated by rodents, enclosed in a solid crystalline matrix of urine from the same mice. , preserved for thousands of years in rock shelters and caves.

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Regarding his career, the work of Claudio Latorre also stands out for his numerous studies with different paleoecological archives, such as paleomadrigueras: fragments of the past composed of bones, plant material, insects and feces accumulated by rodents, enclosed in a solid crystalline matrix of urine from the same mice, preserved for thousands of years in rock shelters and caves. These biological records constitute a fundamental record to understand the evolution of life and the transformations in the Atacama Desert.



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