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GLOBE Argentina Students Travel to Sweden for Volvo Adventure Finals

For the past 10 years, Volvo Adventure has partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to support environmental education and action. Organized by AB Volvo Car Company and officially endorsed by UNEP, Volvo Adventure is designed to support environmental education and was set up to recognize and reward practical environmental action being taken by young people in their local communities. Young people around the world between the ages of 10 and 16 are able to select their own project groups, choose a subject, and decide how they should approach it. In 2011, the 10th year of the Volvo Adventure Competition, GLOBE School Integral Education Center (IEC) San Ignacio in Neuquén, (Western) Argentina became one of the competition's 11 finalists with their project Mail Without Fire, winning an all-expense paid trip to attend the Volvo Adventure Conference in Sweden. On 5 June 2011, the team met the other ten finalist teams from around the world in Göteborg, Sweden for their final presentation. The team placed 4th in the competition and was commended by judges who stated, "This team raises forest fire awareness by simple but effective means."

Under the leadership of GLOBE Teacher Maria Bertossi, GLOBE Students Adrian, Agustin, Franco, and Marilina designed their project around the devastating and frequent wildfires in their region. The team of students, calling themselves Team Meteor, explored nearby Lanin National Park (Parque Nacional Lanín) to determine the fire risk index in their region through daily weather reading, as well as to raise community awareness of the importance of fire prevention through speeches and local radio presentations. Wildfires are a major disaster for the Patagonia area of Southeast Argentina, which is visited every year by thousands of tourists who come to hike and camp. Often fires are caused by human action; others, to a lesser extent, are started through natural causes, such as electric storms. Although the fires are often small, they can occasionally develop into large-scale wildfires, destroying the flora and fauna of massive areas, and causing an environmental disaster that can take years to recover from. By tracking information from their school's weather station, IEC San Ignacio served as a reference point in the prevention of fires. The school also collected data to keep track of the reasons that cause a fire, and which species are most vulnerable to fire.

Team Meteor's Volvo Adventure project involved using their school's GLOBE weather station to send daily weather data to Lanin National Park. As a state agency, Lanin Park works toward the prevention and control of wildfires; to that end, the National Park places weather stations at different locations in order to determine the rate of fire prevention. Unfortunately, there are still not enough reference points. Knowing the need for consistent, accurate weather information, IEC San Ignacio has provided data to the Park's Fire, Communications, and Emergency (ICE) office from their weather station since 2005. From September through April the school takes weather readings every day at noon; data is collected for Relative Humidity, Precipitation, wind direction and speed, Barometric Pressure and Maximum, Minimum, and Current Temperature. The information is then sent via email to Lanin National Park, where it can be used as a reference point to calculate the fire risk index for Sancabao Valley as well as a quantitative indicator to design activities in fire management. The information is also used to inform the public of local fire risks. The rate may be low, moderate, high or extreme and is represented by corresponding colors such as green, blue, yellow, orange or red.

In addition to helping determine the local fire index, the school's activity also provides an important example to community members, as they actively observe the commitment of young people and adults to reading and providing daily data to the park. With the records provided by the Department of Fire Management and Control, students study the causes of and the frequency with which fires occur in the region and participate in information sessions conducted by the ICE at Lanin National Park. According to the data provided, most fires occur near rivers and roads. The causes of these fires are principally human negligence, a large percentage occurring when fires lit intentionally in pastures flare out of control. The community as a whole is also engaged in efforts to anticipate and inform visitors about fire risks. In recent years, however, there have been no wildfires.

IEC San Ignacio has actively worked to create fire prevention protocols and inform others, inside and outside the GLOBE community, of the impact of fire on the climate. In 2009, students from the school met with GLOBE Students at Desert View Elementary School in New Mexico, USA via Skype. The Argentinian students presented a PowerPoint presentation covering their research on the relationship between rainfall and fires in their home community and across the border into Chile. The event motivated both groups of students to learn about the impact of fire on climate, to prepare their presentations and documentation with care, and to share their research with others.

IEC San Ignacio is a rural secondary school, where young people come from up to 500km away to attend. Students often spend more than two months at the school without seeing their families. In addition to their commitment to reducing destructive fires, students also conduct research on the environment and participate in international campaigns like Plant for the Planet, 350, and ENO Tree Planting Day. Other school projects have included a search for ways to prevent desertification in Patagonia. Students create plans to avoid excessive use of natural resources, such as forestation and overgrazing as well as ways to implement drip irrigation to optimize water use and to encourage the use of alternative energies. Through the media, exhibitions, and workshops, the school also works to train the people in the region on proper water usage, efficient farming techniques, grazing management, and in the use of solar and wind energy. The aim of their environmental education is always to improve the conditions of life for rural families in Patagonia.

Watch these videos from the 2011 Volvo Finalist Competition:

Read this newspaper article featuring the IEC San Ignacio's Volvo Adventure project.

Read more about the Skype meeting between San Ignacio and Desert View students.

Learn about GLOBE's Fire Fuel Protocol.

16 August 2011