Off the Amazon: Building Bridges Through Science

Published: 3 March 2014

Last week, I joined science collaborators from the United States and Brazil in Manaus, Amazonas, as the first intensive measurement phase began for the Green Ocean Amazon (GOAMAZON) field campaign. In their opening remarks on Tuesday, several representatives from sponsoring organizations and participating research institutions emphasized the importance of this research, the relationships and hard work that made it a reality, and the opportunities it holds for advancing climate science in the future.

I heard this theme reiterated throughout the week as we visited various GOAMAZON observation sites, but I think it was most eloquently stated by two up and coming young scientists from Brazil who are part of the local ARM team for the duration of the campaign. While I can’t do their stories justice in a short blog post, I thought I’d share a snapshot of our discussion in the truck while riding to and from the ZF2 site northeast of Manaus.

Bruno Takeshi Tanaka, scientist, GOAMAZON project manager, and fearless driver.
Bruno Takeshi is a project manager from the National Institute for Research in the Amazon (INPA) and head of Brazilian logistics and communications for GOAMAZON. Back in the day, he was part of a team that cut paths through the rain forest to establish the tower sites. He said they drove stiff army-style Jeeps (he admitted to a fondness for American muscle cars) in some dirt roads in parts of the Amazon basin that were barely passable and often times were not. It made our bumpy ride sound smooth by comparison.

During the first part of our drive, before we got to the washboard (“sheeps ribs”) portion of the dirt road, he spoke almost lyrically about his roots and how he got involved in GOAMAZON. He believes it is the biggest opportunity yet for research in the Amazon, both from a scientific and collaboration standpoint.

“One of the best things about this project is the people we’ve met and the relationships we are building for the future,” he said. “I could do science for the rest of my life with GOAMAZON data, and I know others can too.”

Juarez Viegas is earning his master’s degree in meteorology and mechanical engineering at the University of Amazonas. For the next two years, he will gain practical field experience while providing full time support for the ARM Mobile Aerosol Observing System stationed with the ARM Mobile Facility in Manacapuru.

During the ride back to Manaus from the ZF2 site, he shared his personal journey about moving away from his family nine years ago to pursue his education on his own. He is very excited to be a part of GOAMAZON, and plans to take full advantage of the experience both for his education and for practicing his English.

“I never talked in English until this project,” he said. “I read and write, but no conversations until now. I am not very good, but I try!” he added with a wide smile. Trust me, he is too humble; his English is quite good. And he will get a lot more practice in the coming years.

It was so inspiring listening to their enthusiasm and optimism about their role in GOAMAZON, how the experience is changing their lives, and their hopes for the science advances they fully expect from the data. Their perspectives provide further evidence that science transcends borders and can build bridges between people and countries, given the opportunity to do so.

With a very bright future in front of them, I speak for many when I say it is a great pleasure to have Bruno and Juarez as new friends and colleagues in the ARM community.

–Lynne Roeder, ARM Public Information Officer