From January 5-January 30 of 2005 the Longwood Graduate Fellows Class of 2006 journeyed to the country of Chile to explore diverse ecosystems, experience a new culture and understand how a developing country handles public horticulture. The Fellows spent time in five major areas beginning in the Patagonia region, then on to the Lakes District, then Santiago, eventually heading to Easter Island and then back to central Chile for some projects.
The trip began in the southernmost portion of Chile. While there, the Fellows observed plants known as alpine species in the United States growing at sea level in close proximity to gigantic glaciers. They also saw Magellanic penguins nesting in their native habitat. It was the height of summer during our visit and thus it was dark for only about four and one half hours each night.
The Fellows continued their journey by moving north into the Chilean Lakes District. This region was rich with vegetation and filled with active volcanoes. They saw Mapuchi Indian reservations (the native tribe) and how they live today. They also saw Monkey Puzzle Trees growing in the only native stand on the globe. The temperate rain forests were astounding. Because of the diverse environments the Fellows saw first hand how ecosystems shifted in the landscape.
Next they took some time to visit the new botanic garden slated to open in 2007 or 2008 in the Chilean capitol, Santiago. The Fellows also visited a local university and were able to compare how their system differs from ours and what similarities there were. It was amazing how similar to major U.S. cities Santiago was.
After spending time in the capitol the Fellows flew five hours west to the most remotely populated place on planet earth: Easter Island. They were immersed in the plants (or lack there of), culture and tourism of the place. The Fellows saw Moai first hand and began to understand the troubles of humanity when limited resources loom heavily. They also worked with a local museum and visited with the parks service to better understand the strange dynamics of this archeological treasure.
Lastly, they returned to the mainland and partnered with a university in Talca to conduct some research on a native Chilean bulb and also observed Alstroemeria in the wild. The Fellows hiked through the Andes and took a bus trip to the very top of the majestic peaks, almost reaching Argentina. All the while seeing even more change in the ecosystems and wondering how such diversity could be held by such a slender county.