2019 News & Events

research initiative on life and systems in closed worlds

December 11-13, 2019


On behalf of the supporting institutions, the International Research Laboratory iGLOBES is convening a small group of experts to address interdisciplinary challenges arising from life and systems in closed worlds and explore the potential for national and international collaborations. Further details and participant bios...

outing in the Santa catalina mountains

November 30, 2019


Fabrice Dubertret, a French visiting scholar doing research on Pima County's evolution of land use and land cover changes, takes a break to enjoy a Fall hike on the Agua Caliente trail in the Santa Catalina mountains.

PRESENTATIONS at the observatory seminar in lyon france

October 7-9, 2019


The UMI's Pima County International Man-Environment Observatory funded several projects again this year. Two of them were presented at the annual Labex DRIIHM seminar that took place in Lyon, France:

  • "Cuéntame Mas: Tales from Tumamoc" is a project run by Benjamin Wilder, Javier Duran, Christian Ruvalcaba, Yadira Caballero and Michelle Aguilera of the University of Arizona.
  • The second poster, "Socio-ecological issues of stream restoration in the semi-arid American Southwest: the case of the Santa Cruz River in Tucson", won a prize. This study was done by Claire Néel and Anne-Lise Boyer who are French students at the Ecole Normale Supérieure of Lyon.

UA Faculty teach about Frontiers in Ecosystem Research at ENS and the Jardin des Plantes in Paris!

September 2019


Drs. Scott Saleska and Greg Barron-Gafford co-led a week-long graduate course on the Frontiers in Ecosystem Research, which included classroom learning, field measurements, and student research and presentations. 

The course covered everything from the basics of plant ecophysiology to ecosystem-scale monitoring to remote sensing to applying ecological theory in human-dominated ecosystems, and we ended the week with hands-on learning about photosynthesis and leaf traits, using the historic Jardin des Plantes as a field site. Students were able to work in a part of the Jardin not open to the public - an incredible experience even for the local Parisian students.  Overall the course provided the students insights from UA faculty and an opportunity to utilize equipment not readily available at ENS, and gave Saleska and Barron-Gafford a chance to interact with ENS students and craft a course designed for a 1-week, intensive setting - something not typically available at UA.  

orientation week at ens: umi director presents internship opportunities

September 17, 2019


At the "Environmental studies at Ecole Normale Supérieure" meeting which took place during the new scientific and literary students' orientation week, Régis Ferrière presented the UMI and UA while talking about the overall current research themes : water politics and management of natural resources in the Americas, climate change and the transformation of societies and ecosystems, life and living in the universe.

A dozen philosophy, sociology, economics, geoscience and ecology students have already shown a strong interest in the bachelor and master's internships we offer at the UMI and in UA labs!

french visiting student working on the leo project during his internship

August 7, 2019

Mathieu Poupon, a Paris ENS student, is working with the Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO) research team at the University of Arizona - Biosphere 2 during his internship, studying the relationship between erosion and climate change. 

The weathering of silicate rocks by water consumes part of the carbon dioxide contained in the atmosphere. This mechanism plays a key role in the carbon cycle and contributes to the reduction of greenhouse effects. The study's objective is to understand how the subsurface waterflow controls the weathering of these rocks. This research is part of a larger project carried out by the LEO, which aims to understand the interactions between climate change, water resources and ecosystems in arid environments.

Where does the water come from?

July 16, 2019

Élise Drilhon and Esther Loiseleur, two law students from ENS in Paris doing a summer internship at the UMI, went to Green Valley to study first hand their research topic on irrigation grandfathered rights. 

In certain regulated areas (Active Management Areas – AMA), irrigation grandfathered rights limit how much water farmers can draw out from underground. They have been in existence since the 1980 Groundwater Management Act which was one of the pioneering measures of Arizona’s water management policies, put in place during a crisis when water resources had been excessively exploited, particularly those underground which require a long natural cycle to replenish themselves. 


Their research questioned the pertinence and the sustainability of these rights today –forty years after local water regulation was put in place for agricultural irrigation -, and has led them to meet face to face with local stakeholders who manage this precious resource. 

UMI deputy director leading an expedition In french guiana....by canoe (FINAL)

July 7, 2019


After the team arrived safely last Friday, it’s time to take stock of this emotion and information rich adventure…a  recap by François-Michel Le Tourneau.

© FMLT/Alexandru M.-SAED
© FMLT/Alexandru M.-SAED

UMI deputy director leading an expedition In french guiana....by canoe (9)

July 4, 2019


It’s the end of the line for these adventurers on the Guiana rivers after overcoming several unexpected difficulties. Hear about it in this new blog by François-Michel Le Tourneau.


Pictured: 4 in a canoe...not yet the Raft of the Medusa, but we're getting there!

UMI deputy director leading an expedition In french guiana....by canoe (8)

July 2, 2019


After a beginning full of fallen trees, the Approuague river finally offers big open easier canoeing, at least until you hit the rapids...and a flipped and destroyed canoe forces the team to squeeze all the equipment and crew into 4 canoes instead of 5. Thankfully no one was hurt. Then later on, a second canoe is unusable...good thing ETA is Friday.

award: rdi's ACCelerate for success grant

June 26, 2019

UMI Director Regis Ferrière is awarded Research, Discovery & Innovation's Accelerate for Success grant titled Sonoran Soundscapes: Using sound processing and machine learning to capture our sound environment and understand its evolution. 


Soundscapes form the acoustic environments experienced by human populations. They comprise a dense high-dimensional array of information about geophysical, ecological, and human phenomena,  and provide us with a novel approach to human-environment feedbacks. The analysis of soundscapes and their variation across space and time requires new methods to characterize and identify global spatio-temporal patterns in very large data sets. Specifically, we need real-time “intelligent” algorithms that can detect known or emerging acoustic patterns and control the recording process. The present project aims at initiating the development of machine learning methods able to identify patterns in soundscapes of the Sonoran desert environments. 

UMI deputy director leading an expedition In french guiana....by canoe (7)

June 26, 2019

François-Michel Le Tourneau was able to meet with the illegal gold miners (Garimpos), a commerce that is destructive to the environment, but which is hard to eradicate because they are so well organized.


French Guiana has a lot of gold and the Brazilian Garimpos have their own effective techniques to extract it from the rivers. It is an economic system all its own, with villages popping up to resupply them, provide entertainment and jobs, and in return these miners spend their money. All of this illegally.


The environment suffers from this activity: deforestation, huge quantities of sediments and mercury released into the river, creating ecological mutations. The Guiana army (FAG) has attempted to get rid of them by destroying their equipment, but the Garimpos are resilient and have found ways to adapt and limit their losses.

For the past 3 years, François-Michel, in collaboration with the FAG, has been studying this phenomena. One thing that has come to light is that they are not working under a big boss, but rather independently so that when one of them is caught, someone else takes over the market share.


During the expedition, they had a rare encounter with a fully functional site (rather than just individuals). As per the project's precepts, the meeting was peaceful, with lots of discussions on their situation and their vision of the area. Of course, they now know they have been detected and should expect a raid...but this is nothing new to them. 

A NEW COLLABORATEUR FOR THE UMI : DR. daniel apai, University of arizona

Dr. Daniel Apai, Associate Professor of Astronomy and Planetary Sciences is collaborating on the the project Life and living in exoplanetary environments led by Régis Ferrière (UMI iGLOBES, UA, ENS/PSL) in partnership with IRIS PSL Origine et Conditions d’Apparition de la Vie coordinated by Stéphane Mazevet (Paris Observatory/PSL). 


For more information on Daniel, see the UA webpage or visit his site where you will find his bio, research projects and blogs. 

UMI deputy director leading an expedition In french guiana....by canoe (6)

June 25, 2019


The team has earned a day of rest today after a difficult run on the Emérillon river that was narrow and full of obstacles, and a land crossing to get to the Approuague river. They did find two additional archeological sites !

When Father Grillet and Béchamel went on their expedition, there were a number of native tribes, numbering 6 000 to 8 000 people, that were very distinctive linguistically: the Galibis, Karanes, Sapayé, Nouragues, Akokwa, Piriou, Maouriou. Most of them will disappear little by little due to diseases brought over by the Europeans and their interferences. Small groups survived by going deeper into the forest and regrouping with other ethnic groups, an example being the Tekos of today. 

Water management and spatial transformations in the desert cities of the American Southwest

Anne-Lise Boyer, visiting doctoral student in geography from the Ecole Normale Supérieure of Lyon, is doing her thesis on water management in Tucson and Phoenix, specifically the alternative options to the huge supply infrastructures operated by powerful institutions that have shaped the development of the region until now. She has been studying rainwater collection, use of recycled water and preservation of resources in order to find emerging stakeholders and new areas in water management.

UMI deputy director leading an expedition In french guiana....by canoe (5)

June 17, 2019

After fixing a nasty tear on one of the canoes and squeezing through a few tight spots, the team took a rest day.

One of the objectives of this expedition is to study different types of palm trees located in the ancient sites that have been occupied and in the "enthroned mountain" regions. Why? For the past twenty years, scientists have realized that the amazon forest is not the virgin forest described by the Europeans of the 17th and 18th century, but rather that human presence has influenced its make-up by moving dozens of species.


Guillaume Odonne, an ethnoecologist, has been collecting samples, looking for the presence of pioneer species that are the first to colonize previously biodiverse steady-state ecosystems and the slower growing, but longer lasting species that arrive later in the cycle of growth. 

UMI deputy director leading an expedition In french guiana....by canoe (4)

June 13, 2019


After five intense days, the team has progressed according to plan and is now on the Inipi river. Read François-Michel Le Tourneau's account of the 1st leg of the journey.

UMI deputy director leading an expedition In french guiana....by canoe (3)

June 11, 2019


After a capsizing, a scorpion bite and some strong rapids, all are doing well. They are in high spirits and have arrived at the mouth of the Inipi river.


So, who were the first explorers that took this route back in 1674? Father Jean Grillet and François Béchamel were Jesuit missionnaries who, with the help of the indigenous people, were the first to explore deep into French Guiana. They helped bring to light the physical and human geography of the country.

UMI deputy director leading an expedition In french guiana....by canoe (2)

June 6, 2019


The team will be arriving tonight at Camopi, the expedition's starting point. For transport, they will be using 6 Pakboat 170 canoes that can be packed in a bag. This will make it easier to cross on land from the Camopi bassin to Approuague's.

What scientific goals does this month-long, 280 mile expedition have?

  • Finding ancient sites of occupation,
  • Supporting on-going projects by collecting samples for other researchers, such as samples of palm trees for the study of the genetic diversity of the Oenocarpus bataua, of tics for the study of the diseases they carry, of the armidillos for the study of the cycle of leprosy in the wild (they are carriers of the bacteria),
  • Meeting garimpeiros (illegal gold miners) for the on-going project that is looking into how their activities impact the environment. 

anthropology off earth

June 4-5, 2019

How does terrestrial exploration and scientific imagination shape our relation to outer space and extraterrestrial life?

The workshop, a collaboration of the PSL interdisciplinary program Origine et Conditions d'Apparition de la Vie (OCAV) and the UMI iGLOBES, will take place in Paris, France June 4 and 5. Download and see the full program. 

Organisers: Perig Pitrou (CNRS/Collège de France/Paris Sciences et Lettres University), Régis Ferrière (École Normale Supérieure/Paris Sciences et Lettres University & University of Arizona), Istvan Praet (University of Roehampton, London). Organisers of the doctoral and post-doctoral session: Joffrey Becker (IRIS-OCAV/Paris Sciences et Lettres University), Elsa De Smet (IRIS-OCAV/Paris Sciences et Lettres University).

A river runs through it

May 24, 2019

Claire Néel, on an internship at the UMI, went out in the field with François-Michel Le Tourneau to follow the Santa Cruz River. Due to the significant drainage of the underground water to sustain the economic and urban development, the river has been completely dried out near Tucson since the mid-20th century. Today, it is flowing again South of Tucson in the Tubac region as sewage that is first treated in the Nogales factory is then deposited into the riverbed.   

Analyzing media coverage of biosphere 2 in the american press

May 17, 2019

French visiting scholars Brigitte Juanals and Jean-Luc Minel, working with University of Arizona professors Catherine Brooks (Arizona's iSchool)  and Susan Swanberg (School of Journalism),  set out to analyze media coverage of Biosphere 2. More than 400 articles published in the local and national US news between 1987 and 2019 were collected and provide different types of analysis, combining quantitative and qualitative methods coming from Communication Studies and Natural Language Processing (NLP). Text mining was the method used for the quantitative analysis, to which was added qualitative and interpretive analysis by studying content and discourse. Mapping representation tools will be used later for heuristique purposes.

UMI deputy director leading an expedition In french guiana....by canoe (1)

May 17, 2019


From June 5th to July 5th, François-Michel Le Tourneau and Guillaume Odonne, a French researcher with CNRS, will be paddling through history: first going the same way the 1st French expedition went in 1674, then by the migration route the natives took and who are currently living near the Oyapock.


Accompanied by the military unit the French Foreign Legion, this expedition done in total autonomy will enable them to obtain a deeper knowledge of regional territorial control, clandestin activities and biodiversity, while also responding to a request by traditional leaders wanting to find sites that were occupied by their ancestors on the way that led them to the Oyapock river. 


This project fits into CNRS' celebration of 80 years of scientific research. Regular updates will be posted on this page.

does global warming increase or decrease tree growth at the alPine tree line?

April 24, 2019

Axel Rodriguez gave a presentation at the Tree-Ring Lab on his research on how shifting climate conditions may affect tree growth, with consequences ranging from stand productivity to forest ecological diversity and function. As the global temperature rises, tree growth at the tree line is likely to either increase if the trees are temperature limited or decrease if climate change driven droughts trigger a detrimental loss of moisture. Dendrochronological techniques (the dating of tree-rings) were used to investigate the dominant climate controls of the alpine tree line ecotones on the South Eastern part of the Alps, focusing on the Larix decidua because it is competition intolerant and cold adapted which makes it a good candidate for strong climate signals. View his presentation.


April 24, 2019

The spread of disease through human populations is complex. The characteristics of disease propagation evolve with time, as a result of a multitude of environmental and anthropic factors. Non-stationarity is a key factor in this huge complexity. In the absence of appropriate external data sources, to correctly describe the disease propagation, we explore a flexible approach, based on stochastic models for the disease dynamics, and on diffusion processes (Brownian processes) for the parameter dynamics. Coupled with particle MCMC, this approach allows us to reconstruct the time evolution of some key parameters of an epidemiological dynamic. 

UQ Group seminars are every Wednesday at 2pm in ENR2 S395.


April 17, 2019

Bernard Cazelles, a pioneer in innovative statistical approaches and tools for ecological data modeling, will give a talk at the Tree-Ring Lab seminar on "Accounting for non-stationarity when analyzing ecological time series ", 12-1pm, Bannister 110. 


Long-term changes in climate, human demography and/or social features of human populations have considerable effects on the dynamics of numerous epidemics. Wavelet analysis appears very attractive as a first step to exploring the complexity of both the population dynamics and their links with environmental signals before the modeling stage. 


April 5, 2019


Lisa Vincent, a visiting master's student doing an internship at the UMI, is presenting her research on Soundscapes at the Women in Data Science conference. The conference aims to inspire and educate data scientists worldwide, regardless of gender, and to support women in the field.

Watch the video of her presentation.

A tour of the tree-ring lab

April 4, 2019


Axel Rodriguez, a UMI collaborator who is doing research at the Tree-Ring Lab, explains to the UMI team what dendrochronology means, i.e. the scientific method of dating tree rings to the exact year they were formed. This method was formally established with the creation of the Lab in 1937 and can also give data on atmospheric conditions during different periods in history.


The oldest living tree is in California, but its location is kept secret. It is a 5068 year old Great Basin Bristlecone Pine.

soundscapes: interdisciplinary research on human & nature acoustic environments

April 2, 2019

The workshop started with a presentation by Dr. Christian Lorenzi, Professor at the Department of Cognitive Studies at Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, on "Temporal modulation processing by the human auditory system".


Then followed short presentations by François-Michel Le Tourneau (CNRS), "What are soundscapes?", Lisa Vincent (ENS), "Soundscapes Analysis" and Pierre Deymier, UA Department Head of Materials Science and Engineering, "Topological Acoustic Sensing".

A Mirror lab tour...or how UA contributes to innovative telescopes around the globe

March 28, 2019


Since the Director of the Universe & Theory Lab of the Paris Observatory, Stéphane Mazevet, was visiting the University, several UMI scholars also took a tour of UA's Mirror Lab where  innovative large lightweight mirrors are constructed  using a honeycomb structure.  These mirrors are used in a new generation of telescopes that use optical and infrared light.  The large 8.4 m mirrors weigh 20 ton and are moved using a crane! Seven of these mirrors will be used for the Giant Magellan Telescope that will be installed in Chile. 

Today is tree-ring day!

March 26, 2019


Today, Axel Rodriguez, a graduate student from Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, is doing a presentation on "Climatic limitation on tree growth at the Northern Hemisphere's highest tree line: focus on Larix decidua" at the University of Arizona. What to expect under different climate change scenarios? How is growth dynamic affected by temperature? See full schedule.

French master's student doing an internship at the michod lab, university of arizona

March 21, 2019


Arthur Cousson, a visiting master’s student from the Paris Ecole Normale Supérieure, is working with UA’s Michod Lab team on the Volvocine green algae, a group composed of small multicellular freshwater algae. This family of algae shows a complexity gradient in their cellular organization, from undifferentiated-celled colonies to differentiated-celled colonies. They are doing research on the co-option (recycling) of their closest unicellular parent, Chlamydomonas' survival mechanism, as a way to establish the cellular differentiation in more complex organisms. In Chlamydomonas, when conditions are bad, the growth and division capacities stop and then restart on better days. In the Volvocines, it is used to maintain the somatic cells in their non-reproductive state.


 March 15, 2019


How can transnational and environmental standards impact and/or shape local conflicts? Visiting French researcher, Marie-Esther Lacuisse, talked about how trade liberalization and the neoliberal state policies, supported by the Washington consensus, led to the privatization of development projects in Latin America and an increase of foreign company investments, particularly in the mining and hydroelectric power sectors. Confronted with this new industrial order, many socio-environmental conflicts have broken out in various Latin American countries and rural populations have begun to renew their “repertoire of contentious” by using international and transnational levers to try to defend their rights. 

régis ferrière, winner of this year's 80|Prime

March 7, 2019

In celebration of CNRS' 80 years, MITI (Transverse and Interdisciplinary Action) put in place a call for papers at the end of 2018, 80|Prime (Inter-institutes, multi-team research project). As in all of its projects, the goal is to support original, interdisciplinary projects that break new ground and require a combined expertise of at least two laboratories from two different CNRS institutes.


Régis Ferrière, Director of the UMI and PI of the project, is one of the 80 winners this year for his project "The Emergence and Dynamics of Cultures of Cooperation: Mathematical Modeling in the Context of Climate Change and Climate Extremes". 

University of arizona Water Resources Program ranked No. 1 Globally

February 28, 2019

Water management is among the most pressing issues in Arizona and throughout the Southwest. Elected officials and business leaders rely on world-class research to make crucial water-related decisions that will have significant generational impacts. The University of Arizona's influence in water studies has been recognized by the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities as the world's No. 1 program in water resources. Read more...


Did you know that this topic is part of the UMI's scientific program

presentation: soundscape analysis in tucson

February 28, 2019


Visiting French researchers Arnaud Banos and Lisa Vincent gave a presentation on the soundscape project.


What methods should be used to differentiate soundscapes? Are there variations between day and night sounds? How does one tackle the challenge of transparency since sound events are not separate on a spectrogram, but rather summed up together into a whole? 


February 10, 2019


Several French researchers took a trip to Nogales to see what the border between Mexico and Arizona looks like.

Cuéntame Más: Tales From Tumamoc (2)

The Desert Lab's project, sponsored by the UMI, is still on-going this Spring with interviews of hikers and visitors of Tumamoc Hill on the values and meanings they ascribe to it. For more details, see 2018 news and experience it by walking the hill.

What does the natural environment around the ROSEMONT MINE SITE look like? A study of cienega creek

Visiting French researcher Marie-Esther Lacuisse, working on the Pima County Observatory project, joined the Pima Association of Governments’ Cienaga Creek hydraulic monitoring program. PAG members include the Cities of South Tucson and Tucson, the Towns of Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita, Pima County, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, the Tohono O'odham Nation and the Governor-appointed Pima County representative of the Arizona State Transportation Board. Its mission is to address regional issues through cooperative efforts and pooled resources, and to provide accurate, relevant data that leads to effective regional planning decisions. Four times a year, it controls the evolution of the hydraulic resources in Cienaga Creek and Davidson Canyon. As part of her post-doc study on the opposition to the opening of the Rosemont mine, Marie-Esther participated in this endeavor in order to see the natural environment that surrounds the future site of the mine. 

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