WOW > Phoebe Gelbard! Off to Cape Horn with International Research Experiences for Students!

Biocitizen began in the forests of Cape Horn, when Kurt Heidinger, Francisca Massardo and Ricardo Rozzi developed Tracing Darwin’s Path, an interdisciplinary learning-adventure that immerses students in the biocultural history of that sublime portion of the earth. With others, they established the Omora Ethnobotanical Park as a Field Environmental Philosophy research and development “laboratory”. Their collaboration continues with the publication of Tracing Darwin’s Path in Cape Horn.

With deep gratitude and pride most humble, Biocitizen shares the news: two of its Our Place Summer School assistant directors, Phoebe Gelbard and Ursa Heidinger will study the biocultural history of Cape Horn with Francisca, Ricardo and their friends, community and universities. Both applied for and were accepted into the National Science Foundation IRES program:

“With a novel biocultural conservation approach integrating ecological sciences, arts and environmental philosophy, students will participate in theoretical and field-based research conducted in the southernmost temperate region of southwestern South America in UNESCO’s Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve (CHBR), Chile. This National Science Foundation (NSF) funded International Research Experience for Students (IRES) was awarded to the University of North Texas (UNT) Sub-Antarctic Biocultural Conservation Program (SCBP) to provide 6-week international research experiences in the Omora Ethnobotanical Park (OEP) and the CHBR for 18 students over three years.”

Biocitizen thanks Phoebe and Ursa for going for it! And expresses deep gratitude to the UNESCO CHBR, NSF, UNT, UMAG, SCBP and of course the Omora Ethnobotanical Park, where our school has roots.

Biocitizen “Our Place” summer program instructor Phoebe Gelbard, left, of Williamsburg examines the flora in the Westfield River middle gorge in Chesterfield with campers Luana Greenwald, center, 8, and August Hindle, 7, both of Northampton.

Phoebe’s reflections on receiving this honor:

Within every community, food and the culture that surrounds it is something that has the power to bring people together – but it can also divide us and separate us from the people who grow it and the places from which it is sourced. In Chile, both at present and historically, agriculture has been a critical source of livelihood; in 2018, nearly half (46%) of the food produced there was exported to over 190 countries around the world.

Over the course of the past few decades, salmon farming off the coast of southern Chile has come to the forefront as a pivotal environmental issue that is affecting the health of ecosystems and communities in the Patagonian region.

For this reason, I will be traveling to Cape Horn, Chile, in January of 2020 to study how the intersectionality of domestic and international social movements can be applied to addressing sustainability issues stemming from the Chilean salmon farming industry.

I am thrilled that I, along with Our Place NYC director and sister board member Ursa Heidinger, have been selected for the third cohort of the University of North Texas (UNT)’s “Sub-Antarctic Biocultural Conservation Program.” This fully-funded, six-week International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) is made possible through the National Science Foundation (NSF) and will provide us with the opportunity to conduct original research under the guidance of both U.S. and Chilean academic mentors.

For the past four years (and entering a fifth), I have taught field environmental philosophy here at Biocitizen. As an educator, I facilitate the establishment of connections between students’ experiences and observations that they make in the field, encouraging them to think critically and inquisitively. Through the “Sub-Antarctic Biocultural Conservation Program,” I will now have the opportunity to apply this learning to my own studies on an international experiential level.

I hope to use these past and future experiences, both academic and professional, to address issues from an environmental policy standpoint that encapsulates food systems development and community education so that I can reconnect individuals with where their food comes from and the impact that it has on other people and the planet.

Rather than seeing the natural world as simply a collection of resources from which we can continue to extract, we must work to coexist with the earth’s ecosystems and pay attention to what they can teach us. Only with the deepened understanding, compassionate communication, and innovation gained by pursuing this type of intersectional, cross-cultural education can I contribute to rebuilding the social and economic systems in ways that ensure equitable access to resources.


Have a wonderful experience with our Omora friends, Phoebe!!

walking with rainbows

Source: Biocitizen Inc., Westhampton, MA

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