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Faculty present keynotes and explore collaborations at international sustainability conference

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November 17, 2017

Four faculty and staff from University of Detroit Mercy presented keynote addresses at the international conference “Toward sustainable development”, hosted by the [Jesuit] University of Central America “José Simeón Cañas” (UCA) on October 5-6 in Antiguo Cuscatlán, El Salvador.

The goal for Detroit Mercy faculty and staff at the conference was two-fold: to share research expertise on water quality, quantitative ecology, and the U.S. teacher-scholar model; as well as to explore collaborative-research opportunities and research-mentoring innovations.

Dr. Victor Carmona, director of sustainability and associate professor of biology, led the Detroit Mercy delegation and presented research he conducts in Mexico’s western Sierra Madre, “Drones as a quantitative tool in the study and reforestation of fragmented tropical landscapes.”

Carmona has a long-standing relationship with the UCA in El Salvador, having taught an online course on ecology and evolutionary biology, as well as helping a biology student in his lab receive a prestigious Fulbright award to collaborate on an urban-river restoration project.

“Global engagement models have to evolve beyond academic tourism,” said Carmona.  “International experiences that use a collaborative approach are more likely to be mutually beneficial and more likely to advance social justice as the integrative study of both natural systems and human systems.”

Carmona sponsored ReBUILDetroit post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Adrian Vasquez to present his research in a keynote address, “Water mites, copepods and mosquitoes: Using molecular biology to understand natural sustainability” and explore collaborations with Salvadoran academics on the study of aquatic mites (a natural predator of mosquito larvae) in urban environments.

Using web-conferencing tools, Carmona also recruited Dr. Alexa Rihana-Abdallah, professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Dr. Leah Aggison, molecular biologist and student success specialist, to present keynote addresses on the “Environmental challenges in the 21st Century” and “Cultivating Research Mentorship as a Positive Feedback Loop,” respectively.

“One of our objectives is that these explorations seed projects that empower UCA undergraduates, faculty, and staff to enroll in our graduate STEAM programs,” said Carmona.  “Both U.S. and Salvadoran governments have well-established funding initiatives to sustainably fund academic exchanges, which ultimately advance Detroit Mercy’s undergraduate and graduate research programs as part of a global learning community.  There are many transformative opportunities for us to cultivate.”

Drs. Vasquez and Carmona with Rector of UCA, Fr. Andreu Oliva, S.J.

Drs. Vasquez and Carmona with Rector of UCA, Fr. Andreu Oliva, S.J.

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