Two professors – who first met more than 20 years ago in Alaska – were reunited in May, further south in the much warmer location of Todos Santos.
Both researchers study mammals that live in the sea and how those animals are adapted to their environments: Shane Kanatous, associate professor in Colorado State University’s department of Biology, and Tania Zenteno-Savin, professor of environmental planning and conservation at Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste (CIBNOR) in La Paz, Baja California Sur, first met in Alaska during a Harbor seal research trip in Prince William Sound.
Now, 20 years later, they have connected again through the CSU Todos Santos Center. Kanatous was team-teaching a CSU field marine biology course with Graham Peers from the Department of Biology. Their students explored the marine environment and discovering ways to learn from and interact with residents whose families have been living in the area for generations. Zenteno-Savin served as a liaison who helped with outreach efforts.
“I was lucky enough to meet the people working at Todos Santos and (get) a feel for what CSU is aiming for in Todos Santos,” Zenteno-Savin said. Previous researchers in the region haven’t made long lasting local connections, she said. CSU’s continued presence in Todos Santos can provide the opportunity for established partnerships.
Zenteno-Savin, who is on sabbatical from CIBNOR, is helping out in the Kanatous Extreme Physiology Lab at CSU in Fort Collins, and feels the faculty and student exchange opportunities presented by the CSU Todos Santos Center are essential.
“The thing that attracted me the most to CSU from the get-go, is that people are talking about ‘How can we come down and help?’” Zenteno-Savin said. “We have also been finding that a lot of the issues that are important for Colorado are very important for Baja California Sur in terms of research, education, and environmental health.”
In May, Kanatous’ class visited schools to discuss marine science. Involvement from Zenteno-Savin, who has worked at CIBNOR for 16 years, was incredibly beneficial in making connections with the students as well with CSU students by offering a different cultural perspective, as she helped create a cultural bridge and translated the science aspects of the project, Kanatous said.
“I had the benefit of Tania as a colleague. If it was just us going in to local schools, it still doesn’t seem attainable because we are still ‘the U.S.’ We had Spanish speakers, but no one else fluent enough in science, Kanatous said, noting that science has a language of its own and Zenteneo-Savin was able to translate the science for local students.
The CSU group also visited with younger students and created fish prints as part of an art project. Zenteno-Savin’s presence was once again critical in connecting with local students. “You can see the students,” Kanatous said. “They react differently when Tania is present than when she is not.”
Zenteno-Savin was helping CSU connect with local researchers, as well. CIBNOR is a research partner of CSU and she is helping to connect CSU researchers with other researchers located in Baja California Sur.
The marine biology course is an annual focus for Kanatous, but he is exploring new research opportunities.
“With climate change, we are seeing the available fish changing, so local communities have to change their diets because the fish they are getting are different,” Kanatous said. How local residents replace the specific nutritional elements lost by the change of fish available in local waters is a question the CSU team would like to explore.
Beyond teaching his students about marine biology in a marine environment far from Fort Collins, allowing students to learn within a culture different from what they may have experienced has created the opportunity for dynamic learning experiences.
“I think it’s a game-changer, quite honestly, for students and for faculty. I think the Todos Santos Center could be a game-changer for Colorado State University if it continues to be set up the way it is,” he said. “The ability to understand and learn how to interact with different cultures are prime situations that Todos Santos offers.”
Q&A with Tania Zenteno-Savín
Job title and organization: Investigador Titular C, Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste (CIBNOR), S.C.
Community involvement: I have been involved in CIBNOR’s outreach program (Programa de Acercamiento de la Ciencia a la Educación, PACE) since its beginnings, over 10 years ago. Therefore, I was immediately drawn to the commitment that the people at CSU has been demonstrating towards the community at Todos Santos.
How long have you lived in Baja California Sur? About 35 years.
What would you want other people to know about your community? Baja California Sur provides a unique combination of marine and desert ecosystems, with astonishing views and, for the scientific community, a wide range of research topics. The people in this region are concerned about the ecosystems and natural resources, and are constantly looking for actions that provide sustainable alternatives for agriculture, tourism, livestock ranching, and overall everyday life.
How have you engaged with the CSU Todos Santos Center and staff to-date? I have on-going professional and personal collaborations with people at CSU and CSU-Todos Santos. I have been invited to join in some of CSU’s field courses at Todos Santos, particularly the Field Marine Biology class run by Drs. Kanatous and Peers, and I have participated in many of the outreach activities at CSU-Todos Santos with them as well as with Dr. Straatmann from CSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. I am currently doing a sabbatical year working with Dr. Kanatous and Dr. Straatmann at Fort Collins and Todos Santos. I am coordinating a monthly seminar series at CSU-Todos Santos, where local researchers talk to the community about their research.
What would you like people to know about CSU in Todos Santos? The presence of CSU at Todos Santos provides opportunities for interactions between researchers, teachers, students and the community at large that, throughout the exchange of multicultural experiences, will undoubtedly enhance the perception of the world for anyone and everyone involved.
Anything else you’d like to share? I want to thank the people, McKenzie, Amy, Danielle, Shane, Kim, Kate, Andrea, Claire, Tiana, Donna, Thom, Mark, Dan, Graham, Cody, Greg, and everyone else, I have met at CSU-Todos Santos and Fort Collins for keeping the needs of the Todos Santos community always at the forefront, for providing me with a wonderful working environment, for welcoming me into their academic family, and for being such amazing long-life friends.
About the CSU Todos Santos Center
The Colorado State University Todos Santos Center is the university’s first international location and is core to CSU’s mission of teaching, research, service, and outreach.
The Center provides opportunities for CSU students and Baja California Sur residents to collaborate with local partners and businesses to identify needs, conduct research, and produce impactful outcomes.
CSU’s vision in Todos Santos is to cultivate generations of global citizens and to be a part of creating thriving communities through collaboration, experience, and exchange of knowledge in areas such as agriculture, infectious disease, elementary education, environmental and social sustainability, wildlife ecology, veterinary medicine, and public health.