Fauna Australis


School of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences

Department of Ecosystems and the Environment

Upon finishing my doctorate in 2000 in WildCRU, I had the desire to return to Chile and bring along not only a postdoc, but an innovative and collective form of work that would combine research, education, and conservation. What I learned in WildCRU, as well as the vision of my graduate classmates, were a great example that, along with Jessica Gimpel, enthused me to create this group. The name Fauna Australis was born from the idea that this group would be identified by topics related to the fauna of the end of the world. Initially, I thought of “Fauna Austral,” but Jessica suggested “Australis” to make it more exotic and attractive.

We started from scratch, with only our good intentions and the support of Professor Fernando Bas, who saw that our enthusiasm was genuine and well-meaning. The construction of our webpage and the incorporation of our first undergraduate student, Karen Spielmann, were, per se, Fauna Australis’ first activity. In March 2001, I was already in charge of the Ecology and Wildlife course. In the first two months of that semester, we also launched the webpage and opened a workplace where we could receive students.

Jimena Valech, the person responsible for the Faculty’s website and an ecology alumnus, was the one who designed the site and created the Fauna Australis logo from a photo of vicuñas in the Salar de Surire and the
idea of merging it with the name and logo of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Jimena did an exceptional job that has been recognized by many people and even a professor of IT and web design at
Oxford Brookes University in the UK said that this site and its logo were of very good quality. But it was not only the design that was important, but also the content, and the work of our students and our research was quickly incorporated. The same year a second web site was created for the MACS project, in conjunction with Jerry Laker.

Soon, new students joined Fauna Australis either as teaching assistants in ecology and fauna or as volunteers and thesis students. Omar Ohrens, Nicolás Gálvez, and Tomás Ibarra joined the group. Our first full-time researcher and head of the guanaco farm was José Luis Riveros. Later José Luis entered the PhD program at the Universidad de Chile, South campus and did all his research work in guanaco reproduction with the support of the MACS project. After graduating, Karen went to work for a foundation related to the conservation of the Chilean palm. After two years she returned to Fauna Australis and worked even harder to strengthen our group.

Fauna Australis soon became a meeting place and multiple seminars and workshops on conservation medicine, birds of prey, animal welfare, conservation of endangered species were very popular with students from our University as well as others. The International Wildlife Seminar organized during the CITES convention in
Santiago was a great success with more than 100 people attending and speakers from all over the world (12 November 2002).