Helping Haiti: University of Idaho Advances Capacity for Science and Science Education

Tuesday, August 3 2010

Written by Sue McMurray

MOSCOW, Idaho – University of Idaho faculty and nearly two dozen other scientists, science policy experts and educators are reaching out to Haitians to help advance science and science education for long-term, sustainable development and an improved life for Haiti citizens.

Gary Machlis, College of Natural Resources professor and adviser to the director of the National Park Service, and Jorge Colón, professor of chemistry at the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras, recently conducted two workshops focusing on long-term actions to advance science and science education capacity in Haiti. The first workshop was held July 10-12 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“The scientific community – especially those in fields relevant to the immediate and near-term needs of rebuilding Haiti – can provide valuable assistance to the Haitian government and its people,” said Machlis. “A critical element is a set of well-founded policy and action recommendations that can help guide how the U.S. and other countries can contribute to advancing Haitian science capacity.”

Anthony Davis, director of the University of Idaho Center for Forest Nursery and Seedling Research, also attended and gave a presentation on the biophysical, socioeconomic and cultural sciences relevant to the future of Haiti’s science and science education capacity.

“Given the issues pertaining to natural resource management, and particularly a highly deforested landscape, it is critical to have an open discussion on the relationship between environmental and social issues,” said Davis.

The second workshop occurred July 15-17 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Machlis led a delegation, met with officials, and conducted additional sessions with 30 Haitian secondary school principals and Haitian scientists from several universities.

Machlis and Haitian counterparts are co-writing a report of the recommendations proposed to advance science capacity in Haiti. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) report will be distributed widely, and briefings will be held for government, educational and donor organizations in Washington, D.C., and Port-au-Prince to encourage further support for science and science education in Haiti.

Sponsors of the workshops included the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources; the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy; the AAAS Caribbean Division; the Association of American Geographers; and the University of Puerto Rico.
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. The university is home to the Vandals, the 2009 Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl champions. For information, visit

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit