Monday, July 06, 2009

UA geo-students will go on trial in Brazil

USA Today is reporting that a trio of geology grad students, including two from the University of Arizona, are likely to spend months in Brazil, awaiting trial for their alleged poaching and violation of visa resulting from their collecting soil samples as part of a research project in partnership with a Brazilian state university.

The paper says,
University of Arizona geoscientists Michael McGlue, 31, and Mark Tress, 48, and University of Minnesota-Duluth student Kelly Wendt, 26, were arrested by federal police June 16 while working on a climate change project with the University of the State of Sao Paulo. The Americans spent eight nights in jail before being released on bail June 26. Police confiscated their passports as well as computers, research equipment, cellphones and cash.

Last week in Buenos Aires at a Latin American seminar on geoinformatics, I spoke with a colleague from the Geological Survey of Brazil (CPRM) about the incident. He was familiar with it and explained the country's sensitivity over looting and poaching activities. He talked about how authorities cannot easily discern differences between illegal activities and unlicensed scientific collecting. The implication was that the charges would not likely to just be dropped.

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