The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Students go overseas in support of research

CSUN professors and students travelled across the Pacific Ocean on Feb. 27 to help launch the Taiwan Coral Research Center and finalize an academic agreement with a university located in the region.

The newly-opened center is located at the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium in Pingtung, Taiwan, and will focus on the coral reefs located on the southern coastline of the country. These coral reefs are located in the “golden triangle,” an area known to scientists as having the most diversity among marine species, said Dr. Robert Carpenter, professor of marine biology at CSUN.

The center is also a symbolic representation of the recently established international-relationship between two universities. The center will serve as the meeting site for American and Taiwanese scientists and experts of coral reefs to converge and discuss their research.

“This is a natural alliance between coral reef scientists of Taiwan and us,” said Carpenter.

Currently, CSUN marine biology professors are engaged in a long-term project studying the coral reefs of Moorea, a French Polynesian island. Their project was granted $4.6 million in 2004 for six years of research from the National Science Foundation.

Dr. Peter Edmunds, professor of marine biology at CSUN, was among the coral reef scientists representing the United States and CSUN, attending the opening ceremony for the center.

“It involves us going to Taiwan and Taiwanese scholars coming to our French Polynesian coral reef site,” said Edmunds, in regards to the academic exchange that will result from the international alliance.

The trip to Taiwan was also an opportunity for CSUN and Taiwan’s National Dong Hwa University to formally agree to the memorandum of understanding between the two universities.

The memorandum not only links CSUN faculty members but students as well to the international institute, a link Edmunds said is a great opportunity for students.

Edmunds said the new found academic friendship between the universities involves students having the opportunity to study abroad at the university, while working on marine biology projects at the newly opened center.

“This is a great opportunity for students to develop good thinking and hopefully we can equally host Taiwanese students,” said Edmunds.

Despite the immense prospect for the university and students to develop long standing international and professional relationships, the financial portion of the collaboration between the universities has developed a financial hardship.

“The next hurdle is generating funding to host the international students,” said Edmunds.

Edmunds said hosting an international student is a complex financial dilemma that extends further than the airplane ticket for flying a student over the Pacific Ocean. The problem is one of political and cultural expectations that include trying to convince American taxpayers that hosting international students is necessary to insure an international academic alliance here at CSUN.

“We host you, we expect you to host us,” said Edmunds. “It’s a challenge to finding resources to host foreign students.”

Edmunds said the Taiwanese hospitality that he and the other visiting American scholars experience is one that is hard to replicate at CSUN on the limited resources that are available.

In Taiwan, gifting is culture-sensitive and generosity is highly prized and respected, which is why there is an expectation that their visiting students and scholars will reciprocate the same generosity, said Edmunds.

Faced with limited financial resources and wanting to insure the scientific ties between Taiwan and CSUN continue, Edmunds said he and others attached to the project will look elsewhere from University funding to possible foundation funding, which may provide more flexibility of resources.

“Once you buy into the concept that this is a fantastic experience for students, you have to buy into the concept it takes resources,” said Edmunds.

Students who benefit from the international relationship, the new center fosters are graduate marine biology majors, who are working on research projects with the similar emphasis as the center.

Nicholas Colvard, a graduate biology major, had the opportunity to witness the opening of the center.

Colvard said the center will offer endless possibilities for research in the areas of coral ecology, oceanography and coral physiology. He viewed the trip to the center as a preliminary glance at Taiwanese research, which he could potentially incorporate into his own work.

Colvard said the opportunity for research and networking with other scientists will benefit students on a personal and professional level.

Scientists coming from different cultures have different science experiences, which “leads to an integrated cultural exchange,” said Colvard.

Edmunds said this center and academic alliance is one that includes components of culture, education and sophisticated science that is needed in the global workforce of the 21st century.

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