Cátedra Europa Strengthens German-Colombian Relations
(10.04.19) North University (Uninorte) in Barranquilla held its 22nd Cátedra Europa event between 18 and 23 March. This year, Germany was the host country in light of the 250th birthday of Alexander von Humboldt, who was commemorated at the event. In the spirit of the interdisciplinary German scientist, the diverse programme consisted of symposia and activities in a wide variety of disciplines from science, culture, economy and the environment.
Daladier Molinares (Uninorte, International Cooperation Officer); Joachim Hahn (Uninorte, Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs); Dr. Adolfo Meisel (Uninorte, Rector); Kathrin Winkler (Head of DFG Latin America Office); Maxi Neidhardt (DFG Latin America Office, Programme Officer) and Jeannie Caicedo (Uninorte, Head of the Department of International Cooperation)
Over the course of the week, around 600 participants attended lectures at Uninorte including 120 guests invited from Germany. For this occasion, Dr. Kathrin Winkler, Head of the DFG Office Latin America in São Paulo, held two talks on possibilities for German-Colombian partnerships and presented the funding programmes of the DFG.
The host university has been cultivating close relations with Germany for years and has a total of 29 agreements with German universities and research institutions. In conversation with the DFG, Rector Dr. Adolfo Meisel emphasised that these contacts have made a considerable contribution towards consolidating basic research at Uninorte.
The representatives of the DFG also gained an insight into the joint projects of researchers from Uninorte and their cooperation partners from Germany; in particular, initiatives in the fields of botany and geosciences were presented. The Colombian university expressed interest in cooperating with the DFG with a view to strengthening existing, scientific contacts by developing strategies on a collaborative basis that will facilitate bilateral funding in future.
The recently authorised expedition of the German research vessel Meteor across the Caribbean Sea was also announced at Cátedra Europa – a symbol of successful German-Colombian cooperation in this area of science. For 26 days, a 25-strong research team on board the vessel measuring 100 metres in length, fitted with 20 laboratories and state-of-the-art technology, will sail along the Colombian coast.
The project seeks to closely examine the effect of the Río Magdalena on the Caribbean Sea. The river courses through a large part of the country and is the main source of fresh water in the region. "River sediments washed into the ocean can provide an insight into all changes caused by human impact in the catchment area over the last 200 years. Using the data collected, we are hoping to find evidence of things including accelerating deforestation, changes in agriculture and increasing contamination," explained Prof. Dr. Oscar Álvarez, researcher at Uninorte and project leader on the Colombian side.
Prof. Christian Winter from Kiel University is coordinating the project on the German side and sees an interdisciplinary approach as key to the complex subject area. "Besides the research vessel itself, the people involved will be the most important resources on board. Our group encompassing highly qualified and interested specialists from different disciplines will facilitate an in-depth analysis of the research object," said Winter.
The German and Colombian researchers come from different disciplines, including geology, marine sciences, engineering, oceanography, microbiology and geochemistry. The crew will also be made up of early career researchers, doctoral researchers and master's students.
On the German side, Kiel University, the Center for Marine Environmental Sciences (MARUM), the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research, the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology and the Senckenberg Research Institute are involved in the project; on the Colombian side, researchers from Universidad Nacional de Colombia and Universidad de Antioquia are taking part, in addition to Uninorte.
The scientific expedition funded by the DFG will be the first of its kind on the Colombian coast and is expected to take place between 2020 and 2021. "We are delighted that the resources and infrastructure of the research vessel Meteor will enable us to answer some of the questions that remain unsolved. Furthermore, the results of this expedition will certainly pose new questions which in turn could lead to new collaborative projects with Germany," said Álvarez.