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SPIE seeks support for Chilean university replacing optical equipment lost in tsunami

29 March 2010

BELLINGHAM, WA, USA -- Researchers at the Dept. of Oceanography at the Univ. de Concepción in Chile are looking to the optics and photonics community for assistance in rebuilding their laboratories which were completely destroyed by the recent earthquakes and tsunami.

SPIE is offering complimentary subscriptions to the SPIE Digital Library to universities in Chile, along with print copies of reference volumes and journals published by the Society. The SPIE Digital Library includes more than 291,000 journal and proceedings articles and 120 eBooks from the SPIE Press catalog.

In addition, SPIE is assisting with efforts to obtain replacement equipment and monetary donations needed by the Univ. de Concepción's Benthos Lab in the oceanography department.

Through Past President Richard Hoover, SPIE has been in contact with Prof. Victor Ariel Gallardo, who has been tasked by the university with coordinating efforts to rebuild Benthos Lab. The lab was destroyed in the tsunami following the magnitude 8.8 earthquake on 27 February.

The list of needed equipment includes several microscopes and other optical equipment as well as computers, electrodes, and other items. The lab also lost its library, reprint collections, samples, data, and two small boats used in obtaining samples.

Gallardo hopes that refurbishing the lab will enable funding for grants that will provide jobs for some of those whose livelihoods were lost as well. In the near-term, he is applying for funding for sampling to assess changes in microbial communities after tsunami. The university is looking at quick-building technology with the goal of having a new facility running within several months.

Researchers at the Univ. de Concepción have participated at many past SPIE conferences and contributed to SPIE publications. This year, Gallardo is a member of the program committee for the conference on Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology at SPIE Optics and Photonics in San Diego, Calif., and he and his colleague Carola Espinoza are scheduled to present papers there.

Gallardo himself is among many Chileans left temporarily homeless by the earthquakes and tsunami. "The period after the major cataclysmic earthquake has been very difficult," he said. Water, electrical power, communications, and access to basic goods gradually are being restored, even as the area continues to experience aftershocks in the range of magnitude 5-6. Coastal ports and shipyards have been badly hit, as have the iron, oil, and fishing industries.

Despite fire and structural damage, classes will resume at the Univ. de Concepción on 5 April. Much teaching will have to be done theoretically until equipment and lab facilities can be replaced, Gallardo said. To contact him about donations, write to vagallar@gmail.com. (View the list of needed equipment.) 

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, was founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. Serving more than 188,000 constituents from 138 countries, the Society advances emerging technologies through interdisciplinary information exchange, continuing education, publications, patent precedent, and career and professional growth. SPIE annually organizes and sponsors approximately 25 major technical forums, exhibitions, and education programs in North America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific, and supports scholarships, grants, and other education programs around the world.

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