ISA Faculty Spotlight: John Bruno

The Institute for the Study of the Americas (ISA) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge of the Latin American experience in the Western Hemisphere. We were pleased to sit down with ISA faculty member and marine ecologist John Bruno, who researches marine biodiversity and macroecology, coral reef ecology and conservation, and the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems. Professor Bruno recently received a National Science Foundation grant to study how temperature affects marine food webs in the Galápagos Islands.

Prof. John Bruno

Q: Prof. Bruno, thank you for joining us. Can you tell us more about the application process for a National Science Foundation grant? 

A: First, we spent a few years collecting pilot data, basically proving what we proposed would actually work. Then we we wrote the proposal; 15 pages single-spaced for the main project description plus a dozen or so ancillary documents including a very detailed budget, and a data management plant. After submission you wait six months for the reviews and decision. The first time it wasn’t funded and we were asked to make a number of changes. We did and luckily – a mere five years after conception – the project was funded.

Q: Five years, wow! Congratulations again! Tell us about the work you will do and what outcomes you anticipate finding. 

A: The goal of the project is to understand how temperature affects marine food webs. Most marine animals are ecotherms, meaning their body temperature matches the temperature of seawater. The Galápagos are unique in that there is a very strong temperature gradient across the islands. This enables us to conduct experiments, measuring how temperature affects, for examples, the rate at which sea urchins eat algae and thus how much algae is left standing on the seafloor.

View from the Galápagos Islands; photo courtesy of John Bruno

Q: How does this relate to research you have conducted before?

The role of temperature has been a theme in my lab for a long time. Sometimes we perform experiments in aquariums in the lab. We also use satellite data on ocean temperature combined with ecological data to try to figure out how temperature is affecting the way marine ecosystems work. Its important to test the outcomes of that work out in the real world, but you can’t really experimentally warm up part of the ocean. So this is a really exciting opportunity to take the next step in this work.

Q: We think it’s exciting too! What do you hope others can take away from this project?

A: We think the work could totally change the way marine ecologists think about these kinds of ecosystems.  The long-standing paradigm is that the amount of seaweed attached rocks on the sea floor or phytoplankton in the water column is controlled by nutrient availability. Currents periodically bring cold nutrient-rich water up from the deep and when that happens you see big blooms of algae in the ocean. Our work will test an alternative explanation for this phenomena: we think the colder water is greatly slowing down the metabolism and grazing rate of herbivores, which stop eating the algae.

Photo courtesy of John Bruno

But the big takeaway will be how ocean warming will affect the marine plants and animals in this system.  The Galápagos are projected to warm much faster than most regions and we currently have little understanding of how climate change will impact this unique ecosystem.

Q: We look forward to learning more. What is it like to be in the Galápagos?

A: Well, its a crazy place to work. Even though its on the equator, the water gets very cold in July and August. And it looks nothing like the tropical environments I’m used to working on in the Belize. In the Galápagos there are penguins, orcas, and sea lions! So it feels a lot more like northern California.

We’d love to be around that kind of wildlife! Thank you again for joining us, we look forward to seeing the results!

Mexico Study Tour Helps NC Public School Teachers Bring Global Dimension to Classroom

Thank you to our friends at UNC Global. To see the original article, click here

Mexico Study Tour participant Carrie McMillan of Durham Public Schools talks with students at Escuela Mátires de Chicago, a public school in Progreso, Mexico.

In the three years since a group of teachers traveled to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to learn about a different education system and broaden their perspectives, they and their K-12 students are still reaping the benefits.

Betty Brandt Rouse, an English as a second language (ESL) teacher at Creekside Elementary School in Durham, recently reflected on a Mexico Study Tour she and fellow teachers took in 2014. “We were able to [talk] with teachers in Mexico and learn a lot about how their school system differs from our school system,” she said, “and to get to actually see it and be there hands-on. It was a really powerful experience.”

Rouse was one of eight North Carolina public school teachers who participated in the Mexico Study Tour organized by the Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, a collaboration between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Institute for the Study of the Americas and Duke University Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

Participants attended a series of pre-trip workshops to prepare them for the experience. Once in Mexico, they spent nine days meeting with Mexican educators, visiting schools and historic sites, and engaging in multicultural experiences such as homestays and cooking classes.

Emily Chávez, outreach program coordinator for the consortium, designed and led the study tour with assistance from the site coordinator, Mariana Domínguez.

A teacher at Escuela Mátires de Chicago in Progreso, Mexico, works with a group of primary school students.

“I wanted the teachers to better understand their role as North Carolina teachers within a global context—and to understand that our lives and our privileges in the U.S. are inevitably intertwined with the people of Latin America and Mexico in particular,” explained Chávez. “I wanted the teachers to have a variety of experiences that got them thinking about the role of history, the role of political power, who shapes education, and what it means and what it takes to retain Maya culture and language within and outside Maya communities.”

One aspect of the program was creating new curriculum to implement in the classroom. Nicole Emmert, teacher librarian and school testing coordinator at Oak Lane Elementary School in Hurdle Mills, incorporated aspects of Maya culture and art into library studies. She’s installed art from around the world and has created exploratory centers and clubs based on the culture and ideas of other countries.

“I have maps and globes everywhere in the library for students to study and explore,” Emmert said. “They are more interested in other countries and ways of life now. Students are less intimidated about the idea of travel.”

Rouse brought back artifacts from her time in Mexico that she incorporates into her lessons—instruments, Maya toys and games, indigenous clothing, money and children’s books written in Mayan and English.

“The big point of the unit was students being able to tell how their lives are similar and different from kids’ lives in Mexico,” Rouse said. “One part was about sports, and one was including Maya literature…we took [that] compare-and-contrast and turned that into a literacy unit.”

North Carolina K-12 educators participating in the Mexico Study Tour await instruction at Instituto Mexico, a private school in Mérida, Mexico.

By adding these multicultural components to her lessons, through pictures and other objects, and drawing on her experiences abroad, Rouse is better able to connect to students in her ESL classes. Rouse has traveled to several of the places her students are from, including Mexico, Guatemala and parts of Africa. Experiencing different cultures has helped her become more accepting of difference, particularly in the classroom.

“Being able to get out of your little bubble and being able to be in and see another place and another perspective is very beneficial for teachers,” Rouse said. “The more you understand parts of the world, the more you realize how many different ways there are to do something, and the fewer assumptions you have for each of your students…You begin to see that there is a different story behind each person.”

Emmert agrees that these life lessons were an invaluable part of the Mexico Study Tour experience.

“I’m more laid back now, and I know that teaching life and social skills is just as important—if not more so, actually—as teaching curriculum,” Emmert said. “I’ve learned to take time to listen and learn from everyone you meet.”

“The Mexico Study Tour is one way the Consortium has worked with the K-12 community to strengthen and add depth to the way North Carolinians learn and teach about Latin America and Latin American communities,” explained Beatriz Riefkohl Muñiz, executive director of the Institute for the Study of the Americas. “The combination of UNC and Duke’s scholarly expertise in the region and the immersive nature of the visit makes the tour a particularly effective learning tool for educators.

The Mexico Study Tour was made possible with funding from the U.S. Department of Education Title VI program for National Resource Centers.

2017 Yucatec Maya Institute Photo Gallery

Modern Yucatec Maya is a modern language spoken by people living in the Yucatán Peninsula and northern Belize. Sponsored by the UNC-Duke Consortium, the Yucatec Maya Summer Institute offers beginning, intermediate and advanced level instruction of modern Yucatec Maya. The courses are open to students, faculty, and the public.

The Maya Summer Institute offers an intensive language learning environment that provides a solid foundation in Yucatec Maya combined with a field-based, experiential program. From beginning to advanced classes, students participate in meaningful engagement with Yucatec Maya communities through a combination of classroom and field activities. Students visit a range of important historic and cultural locations. Trips to archeological and colonial sites as well as other contemporary Mayan villages are led by Maya scholars, who will introduce them to the cultural importance of each site. Mérida, the beautiful capital of the state of Yucatán, offers both modern and historic aspects of city life. Izamal was an important site of pre-Columbian civilization. Today, Maya is the first language in the homes of the majority of the people of Izamal. Valladolid is home to an innovative Maya culture and language program that promotes intercultural learning and trains a new generation of Maya-speaking students. Xocen, situated 12 kilometers southeast of Valladolid, is located in the milpa area of the Mexican state of Yucatán. It is an ancient town that played a key role in the Caste War, a 50-yeat revolt of native Maya people against the political and economic forces controlling the region.

We hope you will enjoy photos from the 25th Yucatec Maya Institute below. Many thanks to Director Hannah Palmer for sharing!

 

Minority Languages, Major Opportunities. Collaborative Research, Community Engagement and Innovative Educational Tools (COLING)

The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in coordination with the Americas Research Network (ARENET) is participating in a Language Revitalization Project based at the University of Warsaw in Poland. UNC-CH units that have supported this initiative include the Institute for the Study of the Americas and the Departments of History, Romance Languages, and Linguistics. Thirteen institutions from seven countries are part of this project, which is funded by the European Commission for Research and Innovation. The four-year project will promote staff exchanges (for established scholars, research administrators, indigenous scholars, and graduate students) among all participating institutions, curriculum development, and innovative seminars on living languages and cultural content. ARENET will coordinate meetings and workshops for project participants during years 2 and 3 of the project. The proposal was developed through collaborative exchanges of texts among the Co-PIs during January-March 2017, and the principal thematic components deal with language revitalization in the Americas and Europe as well as trans-Atlantic historical movements and cultural resilience. The COLING project has an important digital component that relates well to digital humanities initiatives at UNC-CH through the College of Arts and Sciences and University Libraries.

Director Louis A. Pérez Jr.’s “On Becoming Cuban” featured in The New York Times Books list

Director Louis A. Pérez Jr.’s “On Becoming Cuban” featured in The New York Times Books list. Read it now. 

Guanajuato alum Ana Dougherty receives 2017 Princeton in Latin America Fellowship

Read it now!

We are pleased to share APPLES Global Course Guanajuato alum Ana Dougherty received the 2017 Princeton in Latin America Fellowship. Read more from our friends at UNC Global.

Brendan Jamal Thornton (Religious Studies) earns Barbara T. Christian Literary Award

Brendan Jamal Thornton (Religious Studies) earned the Barbara T. Christian Literary Award presented by the Caribbean Studies Association to the best book in the Humanities in 2017 for his book Negotiating Respect: Pentecostalism, Masculinity, and the Politics of Spiritual Authority in the Dominican Republic (Gainesville: Florida University Press, 2016).

Yucatec Maya students make connections

The Level 2 students of the Yucatec Maya  Institute deepened their knowledge of the continuity between ancient and contemporary Maya culture last week through an excursion to the archeological sites of Uxmal and Mayapán.  They were joined by a group of students studying Education and Migration under Dr. Patricia Baquedano-López of the University of California at Berkeley. The trip was enriched by the contributions of archeologist Felipe Chan Chi, whose family has lived alongside the Uxmal site for generations and who offered privileged insight into the purpose, function, and symbolism of the historic structures, and by Dr. Juan Castillo Cocom, who made a surprise appearance at Mayapan to explain how oral accounts of ancient events serve competing power interests today. The day’s activities fostered unique conversations about the conditions under which the Yucatec Maya language has developed and continues to flourish.

Patricia A. McAnany (Anthropology) receives grant from Department of State

Patricia A. McAnany (Anthropology) received a grant from the Department of State, “Maya from the Margins: Archives and Experiences of History, Identity, and Migration,” administered by the American Alliance for Museums.  Delivered the V. Gordon Childe Lecture at University College London in May 2017.

Jacqueline Hagan (Sociology) elected Chair of International Migration Section and awarded 2016 Outstanding Book Award

Jacqueline Hagan (Sociology) was elected Chair of International Migration Section of American Sociological Association.  She was recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Book Award from the Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility Section of the American Sociological Association for the book, Skills of the “Unskilled:” Work and Mobility among Mexican Migrant (Oakland: University of California Press, 2015).  She was appointed as Scholar in Residence at Fudan University, Shanghai, during the summer of 2017