AAAS DIVISIONS

The three divisions of AAAS serve as regional networks for scientists and engineers. Through annual meetings and other events, the Divisions also provide a forum for scientists and local communities to discuss issues that benefit from scientific input. In 2015, AAAS Divisions addressed the health of Arctic coastal regions in the face of climate change, international research collaborations with Cuba, and the effects of human population growth and development, particularly in the Galápagos Islands.

Caribbean Division

The 30th annual meeting of the AAAS Caribbean Division convened 12 September in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Carlos A. Torres Ramos, an assistant professor at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, and president of the AAAS Caribbean Division, welcomed more than 150 scientists, educators, and students who attended the day-long event, which had three concurrent sessions on themes of science education and sustainability.

Sergio Jorge Pastrana, the executive director and secretary of foreign affairs at the Academy of Sciences of Cuba, gave the keynote address on the Academy of Sciences of Cuba and its role in international scientific collaborations. Established in 1861, the Academy was the first association of its kind in the New World.

Two centuries later, following the Cuban Revolution, the country intensely focused on building its capacities in education, science, and medicine. Today, Cuba’s biotechnology industry exports a number of important vaccines and other biomedical technologies, and the country’s infant mortality rates and average lifespans are roughly comparable to those in the United States.

Pastrana has been a key figure in many science-related partnerships between Cuba and other countries, including the United States. He participated in an April conference on science diplomacy, held at AAAS headquarters, and earlier, he took part in a meeting between the Cuban Academy of Sciences and a AAAS-led delegation in Havana. That conference resulted in a joint agreement to foster joint cooperation in biomedical research (for more information, see page 12).

Arctic Division

The health and sustainability of near-shore zones and estuaries in the face of climate change was the focus of the 2015 Arctic Science Conference, which took place 1-3 October. These areas, where freshwater and oceans meet, serve as a gateway for fish and other migratory animals. They are increasingly important and vulnerable as climate change affects their chemistry and biology, and as it opens new sea routes.

The conference, which was hosted by the University of Alaska Anchorage, also served as the annual meeting of the AAAS Arctic Division. Researchers from the life, physical, and social sciences as well as artists and educators attended the meeting.

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the lower latitudes, according to the Arctic Report Card, prepared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). As a result, scientists are trying to track the changes it is undergoing to learn what may eventually occur in more populated southern regions, said Larry Duffy, executive director of the AAAS Arctic Division.

“What we see happening in the north within the biota and the physical environment will happen later at lower latitudes, but with a much bigger impact,” said Duffy, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “When we talk here about a village of 500 people being eroded away, that’s a problem. But when we talk about New York and New Jersey losing a portion of their coast due to sea-level rise—that’s a big problem.”

The warming temperatures also create stress on the 4 million people who live in the Arctic region, many of whom are indigenous people who rely on subsistence hunting and fishing. Arctic communities are seeing more frequent and severe extreme weather events, changing animal migration patterns, disappearing traditional ice paths, increasing tree lines, and eroding riverbanks, reported Mary Dallas Allen, associate professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage School of Social Work. Arctic communities are losing what it means to be home, she said.

Pacific Division

With a special focus on the 180th anniversary of Darwin’s visit to the Galápagos Islands, the AAAS Pacific Division explored “Science in the Anthropocene” during its 14-17 June annual meeting at San Francisco State University. The gathering also began a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the year when the Pacific Division was founded.

Approximately 450 scientists, educators, students, and science enthusiasts from across the western United States attended the event, which was open to the public. Richard Cardullo, president of the AAAS Pacific Division and professor of biology at the University of California, Riverside, gave the Pacific Division presidential address on the science of human population growth and control.

The three-day symposium featured more than 30 speakers who discussed new research and a range of issues related to the Galápagos Islands, with sessions on the ecological impacts of human activities, and the status and conservation of the islands’ native plant and animal species. The program also included a variety of symposia on other topics, including building relationships between racially diverse communities and police departments, 3D printing and open-source technology in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education, as well as factors driving the emergence of vector-borne diseases.

The Pacific Division’s annual meeting was co-sponsored by the California Academy of Sciences and Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society.