Annex 3

Linking Biosphere Reserves and Universities Via a Distance Learning Network

Prepared by John D. Peine, Ph.D. and David Johnson, Ph.D.

Issue of concern

The centerpiece of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere program, in which 110 nations participate, is the international network of 285 biosphere reserves. Dual objectives of the reserves are to protect and sustain viable examples of the planet’s primary biomes while at the same time demonstrating how people and natural environments can sustainably coexist on the landscape. The heart of the concept is to establish a core area to protect a sustainable ecosystem surrounded by a buffer zone where projects are located demonstrating the principles of sustainable development. This visionary concept first crafted in the early 1970’s, is more relevant today than ever as human activity overwhelms natural environmental system on a global scale. With the advancement of information and communication technology, the time is right to encourage communication among those managing this global system of biosphere reserves. Distance learning linking biosphere reserve managers with educational institutions can become a key tool for communication encouraging a sense of belonging to a truly interactive global system of reserves. The Global University System is ideally suited to provide a technical framework for providing a multidimensional communication and learning network for the biosphere reserves.

Goal and objectives

The initial goal of the project is to build a prototype network of partnerships between selected universities and biosphere reserves to foster communication and problem-solving capability. The ultimate goal is to extend the network to the entire system of biosphere reserves. The intent is to enhance management capability to protect the natural and cultural resources of the biosphere reserve system and to demonstrate by example the principles of sustainable living. The universities will play the key role of facilitating the technology associated with distance learning. Specific objectives include the following:

  1. Establish the communications equipment necessary at participating universities to establish long distance learning capability.
  2. Recruit personnel associated with biosphere reserves interested in working with the host universities.
  3. Select prototype topics of common interest and develop an appropriate educational/communication program.
  4. Evaluate the effectiveness of the initial program and based on lessons learned, design and execute and evaluate a series of additional programs.

Geographic focus

Select paired universities and biosphere reserves that have a tradition of cooperation to demonstrate the potential to utilize distance learning to expand the scope of such cooperative activities. Potential candidates under consideration include the following:

Potential themes

Participants in the program will ultimately decide priority topics for exploration as part of the distance learning initiative. Suggested relevant themes include the following.

  1. Use of globally available remote sensing data sources to assess the status of the natural and cultural resource setting of the biosphere reserves via USGS, NASA and NOAA.
  2. Designing and implementing natural and cultural resource inventory and monitoring systems.
  3. Threatened/endangered species conservation practices.
  4. Exotic species control technology.
  5. Status of neo-tropical migratory bird populations and their habitats via Partners-in-Flight.
  6. Building sustainable ecotourism industries targeted to enhance local economy while enhancing conservation of native ecosystem and indigenous cultures via Ecotourism Society and Conservation International that has developed prototype ecolodges operated by indigenous peoples.
  7. Development of educational material related to natural and cultural resources and their conservation.
  8. Technical assistance and fund raising for resource conservation and ecosystem restoration projects utilizing relevant non-government organizations and corporations invested in the region.

Resources required

  1. Appropriate equipment at participating universities.
  2. Project coordinator.
  3. Stipends for participants to cover their expenses.
  4. Funds for instructors to conduct research, prepare instructional materials, lesson plans and to conduct the research.

Time frame

First year

Second year

Strategy for building the prototype network of distance learning centers

Project directors

David A. Johnson Ph.D. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville
John D. Peine Ph.D. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville

David A. Johnson, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Department of Urban and Regional Planning
The University of Tennessee at Knoxville
108 Hoskins Library
The University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996-4015
Phone: 865-974-5227
Fax: 865-974-5229
home phone 828-277-5792

John D. Peine
Southern Appalachian Field Laboratory
U. S. Geological Survey
108 Hoskins Library
The University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996-4015
Phone: 865-974-4056
Fax: 865-974-5229
home phone 865 428 0538