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ECIM History

Foundation OF ECIM

The Estación Costera de Investigaciones Marinas (ECIM) was founded in 1982, when the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUC) acquired a piece of coastal property in Las Cruces, central Chile. Scientists, led by Juan Carlos Castilla and Patricio Sánchez, closed off 1km of rocky coastline and the adjacent nearshore waters from all human intervention, thus creating one of the first no-take coastal and marine reserves in the world. By excluding humans from the research area, scientists were able to test the impact of humans on coastal ecosystems, particularly the effects of local artisanal shellfish harvesting. This seminal human exclusion experiment provided some of the first scientific documentation worldwide for the establishment of marine protected areas, and directly lead to the development of nobel co-management techniques for sustainable marine resource exploitation in Chile.

Profesor Juan Carlos Castilla


Over 20 Years of Growth and Research

In the decades following the Foundation of ECIM, the station has developed into a comprehensive marine research facility, used by scientists from the Biological Sciences Faculty of the PUC as well as visiting researchers. Laboratories, aquaria, and offices have been built, as well as housing for students and researchers. Major support for the development of ECIM’s infrastructure came from the Canadian International Development Research Center (IDRC) in 1983, and especially the Proyecto de Cooperación Italiana (CICS-EULA) in 1993, through grants devoted to education and research in sustainable management of coastal benthic resources.

Profesor Patricio Sánchez

During these years of growth, scientists from the PUC and Chilean and foreign collaborators have carried out research at ECIM on a variety of topics in ecology, biology, and coastal oceanography along most of the Chilean coast. Major research areas at ECIM have included trophic interactions and community regulation; recruitment and dispersal of marine invertebrates, fish and algae; the biogeography, biodiversity and macroecology of Chilean marine ecosystems; life histories and ecophysiology of marine invertebrates, fish and algae; ecotoxicology; biology and infectious diseases of macroalgae; coastal oceanographic processes; and resource management and conservation; as well as many others.

Throughout the more than 20-year history of the station, the adjacent nearshore waters and rocky shore have remained closed to human intervention. As one of the longest-maintained coastal and marine no-take reserves in the world, the ECIM area has been and continues to be an important source of long-term data about minimally human-impacted marine and coastal ecosystems. In recognition of the importance of this conservation project, in 2004 the station received the N’aitun Award of conservation, a prestigious Chilean honor. In 2005, the long-standing ECIM reserve gained more permanent protection when it was officially declared a National Coastal Marine Protected Area under Chile’s new marine protected areas law, becoming only the third such area declared in Chile, and the only one with a solid foundation of long-term datasets and ecological information.

Students taking a sample on the rocksIn March 2008 the Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile received the very first generation of students of Marine Biology and ECIM opened its laboratories and new classrooms to undergraduate teaching. To welcome the future marine biologists of the Chile, ECIM has substatially expanded its facilities, including new classrooms designed to work with sea water,  auditoriums, processing labs and computing and study rooms which will provide students with the best working conditions in the country. This is a new milestone in the rich history of our laboratory.

A World Class Marine Research Station

ECIM at present day

Studies conducted at ECIM by researchers of the PUC Biological Sciences Faculty are now regularly published in leading international scientific journals, books, and national publications, averaging more than 20 publications every year. The station is an active participant in the global scientific fields of marine ecology, biology, and coastal oceanography, with numerous international collaborations in the United States, France, Germany, Spain, South Africa and New Zealand. Researchers working at ECIM have won important national and international recognition for their work at the station, including two Pew Fellowships in Marine Conservation and membership in the Chilean and U.S. National Academy of Sciences. ECIM research also continues to inform management and conservation policies related to the marine environment in Chile and worldwide. In addition to ECIM’s research activities, the station also sponsors a variety of outreach, education, and conservation projects, working both at the national level and with local communities.