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New Engineering Program Focuses on Natural Resources and Climate Change

The program offered by the Faculty of Agriculture & Forestry will train individuals who have in-depth knowledge of the use of natural resources and are able to recognize the needs of local communities and their territories.

A man is doing research in a boat.

photo_camera The new Natural Resources Engineering program, which will open its admission process in 2023, aims to educate professionals to tackle socio-environmental issues. (Photo credits: UC Patagonia Station/Nicole Saffie)

“We want to go beyond simple resource management, and articulate scientific knowledge to solve problems and provide solutions to communities in their territories.” 

This is how faculty member Francisco Meza describes the Natural Resources Engineering program, which will begin in March 2023 at UC Chile.

According to Meza, professor of the Faculty of Agriculture & Forestry and leader of the program, the program is interdisciplinary in nature.  

The program will train professionals so they are able to solve socio-environmental problems and will provide them with solid knowledge in:

  • Basic sciences 
  • Earth science 
  • Data analysis skills

“Natural resources engineers will have advanced training in climate change. They will be equipped to diagnose, solve, and prevent socio-environmental issues in an innovative manner, thus contributing to sustainable development."

One of the key elements of this new program is that it is designed to engage students with the territory by valuing local natural resources and learning technical and public policy interventions for their rational use.

The program is interesting because it views and thinks about engineering as something more encompassing and diverse.

As Academic Vice President Fernando Purcell explained: 

"This is an innovative program that comes at a historical moment when the management of natural resources is becoming an increasingly sensitive issue and conservation-focused education is no longer enough. We need specialists with interdisciplinary and ethical training, who can learn in a flexible environment and choose a minor based on their interests."

For Rodrigo Figueroa, dean of the Faculty of Agriculture & Forestry, the creation of this program is a very important milestone for the faculty, because it complements the existing curricular offerings. 

“At the Faculty, we are very motivated because this program will be an important contribution to the current socio-environmental crisis that humankind is facing, and will allow us to train professionals to address the impacts of climate change, considering its territorial impact,” he said.

Who is This Program for?

A man is talking in front of six people in a forest.
Ideally, students will seek to look at the environmental problem in a holistic manner and use technology, mathematical modeling, and natural resource management as a means to develop their career path. (Photo by: CEDEL/Karina Fuenzalida)

"We are looking for young people who are passionate about the sustainable use of natural resources,” claimed Professor Francisco Meza. "We want people who are absolutely committed and willing to dedicate their professional lives to providing solutions and contributing to the conservation of nature."

The program runs for ten semesters and includes specialization through a major in natural resources and six elective minors. For the minors, the Faculty of Agriculture & Forestry engages in interdisciplinary activities with six other academic units:

  1. Minor in Sustainability (led by the Villarrica Campus and the Institute for Sustainable Development)
  2. Minor in Environment and Territory (taught by the Institute of Geography)
  3. Minor in Water Resources (offered together with the School of Engineering)
  4. Minor of Marine Systems (taught together with the Faculty of Biological Sciences)
  5. Minor in Sustainability and Climate Change (developed by the Faculty of Agriculture & Forestry)
  6. Minor in Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (offered by the Faculty of Agriculture and Forest Engineering)

"We want students who want to understand sustainable natural resource management in all its dimensions. This implies a willingness to learn basic sciences, earth sciences, engineering, as well as an inclination towards social sciences. We want them to think about how the territory can be managed more rationally. We also want them to learn about the problems, perceptions, and needs of local communities in order to provide effective responses," explained Meza.

Therefore, students are expected to look at environmental problems in a holistic manner. They should also have a desire to seek solutions via technology, mathematical modeling, and natural resource management.

Key Topics

The program will incorporate expert instructors on key topics such as:

  • Soil conservation and Carbon Sequestration 
  • Hydro-Climatology 
  • Information Technology 
  • Circular Economy 
  • Rural Development

In addition to incorporating new professors, the program is committed to developing an eminently interdisciplinary research. “For example, the problem of water scarcity and drought associated with climate change is not only solved with more engineers or earth science professionals. We need to be open to the different areas of knowledge available at the university so that together, they can explore and open new frontiers of solutions." 

All this occurs in dialogue with the communities and stakeholders, because everyone has different perceptions.

The technologies or new solutions as a result of the research carried out by students and faculty members will be made available to the communities. For instance, we expect to develop science to improve carbon sequestration, new models of water resource use, or recycling. These are concrete ways in which this profession will influence society.

Another contribution is expected to be made through public policy. 

Knowledge of the incentives and regulations that make it possible to achieve sustainable development goals is essential for influencing policy. 

For this reason, Professor Meza stated that the new program will "promote the work of economists, social scientists, and dialogue with the public sector."

Challenges for the Future

The photography shows an eolic park with a blue sky at the back.
According to Francisco Meza, “Communicating that solutions are possible in the area of natural resource management is a major challenge.” (Photo by: Nicole Saffie)

The environmental crisis we are facing as a planet is a massive global challenge, and to counteract it, we require more well-rounded professionals.

"The traditional paradigm is not enough to adequately address the needs of people and the environment. We need a deeper understanding of critical natural resources in order to achieve a more harmonious development with nature," said Professor Meza. 

Therefore, communicating that there are possible solutions for natural resource management is a challenge the program will face. 

Consolidating a good faculty and students, who are enthusiastic about the idea of formulating new ways to manage natural resources, is another challenge.

A third challenge is involving communities in the learning and solution process. Students are expected to discuss the design of solutions with local communities and work collaboratively with:

  • Academia 
  • Inhabitants 
  • Civil society Organizations 
  • Public Institutions 
  • Companies

In order to accomplish this, involvement with local territories and dialogue are key.

"We believe that future degree and thesis projects should be informed by a proper diagnosis of what is happening, grounded in reality, and be willing to innovate, for example, by exploring the issue of the circular economy more boldly."

Personally, Professor Meza is very grateful for the opportunity to lead this program and has high hopes for the impact the graduates can have.

"The integral development of communities depends on the health and well-being of natural resources and ecosystems. For me, creating a program and leading this project is a wonderful opportunity, a great gift and an honor, because this is something that will transcend time and will modestly contribute to the future development of our society."

If you want to learn more about the program please click here.

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