In the race to address climate change and sustainability, Loyola Marymount University may be educating a new breed of Salvadoran scientists to help El Salvador address the effects of and solutions to these global issues.
This past fall, Biology Professor Victor Carmona, Ph.D., and Civil Engineering Professor Jeremy Pal, Ph.D., were invited to lead a climate change forum at the annual engineering and architecture conference at the University of Central America (UCA), the Jesuit university in El Salvador.
“Central America is particularly vulnerable to climate change,” said Pal. Using model projections during the forum, Pal explained that Central America is a climate change hot spot, projected to get hotter and drier, which will impact water resources and agriculture.
Carmona’s main point of emphasis was on the “important role of science in society, and how teacher-scholarship can help in understanding the local effects of climate change in El Salvador.” For Carmona, this was a particularly important point to make, as the country has only one biology department across its 33 universities and research mentoring for undergraduates is not standard practice.
This was the second year Carmona was invited to the Central American country to speak about climate change. He was a keynote speaker at the country’s First National Conference on Climate Change in 2014, where eight LMU undergraduates from his research lab also presented Spanish-language posters.
Carmona and Pal’s participation in the conference, along with parallel talks with the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador, were steps toward creating a partnership between LMU and UCA that would provide advanced degrees and research experience to Salvadorans; while at the same time offering LMU students an invaluable global enrichment opportunity.
Six LMU undergraduates also made the trip, and presented their research in poster sessions. They came to understand through questions and discussion the Salvadoran belief that the importance of science is in its direct application toward improving the community. For their part, Salvadoran students were surprised to learn that LMU undergraduates were not only doing research but also using highly sophisticated labs and equipment – neither possible at their universities.
Also on the trip was LMU’s Associate Provost for Research and Compliance John Carfora, Ed.D., who spoke with UCA administration about ways the two universities could collaborate in the future, solidifying a partnership.
Back at LMU, Carmona and Pal have begun exploring options with the environmental science master’s program to collaborate on an UCA project restoring a polluted river system in San Salvador. Carmona is the only biology representative on this project, working alongside members of El Salvador’s Ministry of Environment.
Plans are also in the works to bring scholars from UCA to present at LMU’s research symposium later this year and for a trip back to El Salvador in the fall.
“We pride ourselves on teacher-scholarship at LMU,” said Carmona. “Here’s an opportunity to transform our teacher-scholar model into a tool for social justice by bringing in Salvadoran students, showing them the ropes, and allowing them to go back and use their experience to better their communities as well as ours.”