The "Gallegos River Estuary" Environment Interpretation Center (CIERG)
The "Gallegos River Estuary" Environment Interpretation Center (CIERG), established in December 2011, is near the coast and within the Río Gallegos’ Urban Coast Reserve. CIERG is a space conceived as a platform for communication, motivation, teaching and learning about our cultural and natural heritage. It aims to raise awareness and generate protection and conservation behaviors.
CIERG is the first interpretation center of its kind in Southern Patagonia built for a protected area, where residents can relate with their experience in nature through guided tours to the reserve. It also offers an ecotourism alternative for out-of-town visitors.
Its creation was the result of a joint effort by the City Government, the National Patagonian University in Río Gallegos (UNPA-UARG), plus local, regional and global nongovernmental organizations, in order to protect, preserve and increase the knowledge about the biodiversity of the Gallegos River Estuary both in local people and visitors.
Asociación Ambiente Sur is in charge of the administrative and executive management of the Interpretation Center, which is the culmination of the projects developed and the awareness-raising work carried out with other state and organizations. All of this has allowed us -- due to its seriousness and continuity with quantifiable results -- to obtain the necessary funds to design and build the interpretative infrastructure at the CIERG.
The Center’s purpose is to make a valuable contribution to raising awareness of the need for city dwellers to feel part of the environment in which they live and to take responsibility for it, since as members of the local community they are enabled to greatly contribute to the fulfillment of this objective.
The CIERG’s design and interpretative infrastructure was in charge of the Nature for the Future Foundation (FUNAFU).
In September 2013, the "Gallegos River Estuary" Environment Interpretation Center reopened with a strong commitment to innovation of its interpretative infrastructure, that included technology intended to allow visitors to learn about the Gallegos River Estuary ecosystem interactively through touch screens, mapping models, robotics and home automation elements, long-range telescopes and an auditorium with a 3D projector. The heavy investment made the Center a unique facility in the Patagonian region. It was also designed to facilitate accessibility to handicapped persons with limited mobility.
This significant upgrade of the interpretive tours of the Center was made possible through an agreement signed in 2012 between Asociación Ambiente Sur and oil company Petrobras, which thus made its largest investment in Argentina in terms of support for conservation and environmental education programs. The new interpretative infrastructure was developed by the Nature for the Future Foundation (FUNAFU), which specializes in the design of interpretation and visitor centers, and museum exhibitions.
The exhibition is composed by several interactive modules intended to promote physical participation of adults and children, since they facilitate learning and make it more fun. Thus, touch screens, rollers, turning discs, books, worktables and other resources are strategically mounted along the route.
The CIERG has a Welcome Sector and an Introduction Sector, from where visitors access the Historical Sector. There, important concepts around the first indigenous inhabitants of Rio Gallegos and their relationship with the estuary are reviewed.
In the Estuary Sector, some concepts required to understand the exhibition more easily are presented in didactic way. All the environmental benefits provided by the Estuary and the threats that cast a shadow over its future are exhibited through a model. Right there, behind a catwalk, the "encounter" between culture and nature is expressed in order to prompt reflections in the visitors.
Along the way in the tour, visitors reach the Protected Areas Sector, which contains a compendium of its different areas and their objectives. There, the topic of migratory birds, which is expressed in the next sector, is already insinuated.
In the Migratory Shorebirds Sector, the "distinguished visitors" of the Estuary appear and the deployment of relevant information in the observation room begins. There, as a corollary for the tour, visitors can observe directly the majesty of the Gallegos River Estuary and its biodiversity. One of the “stars” of the new exhibition areas is a model installed in the Center’s main room, that can be reached only after a pre-established and scripted tour through the other spaces.
Upon entering this area, a circuit is activated that allows a period of a few minutes. In this moment, visitors find a still scene meant for them to watch the most outstanding animal inhabitants of the estuary through reproductions or decals which recreate elements that have belonged to live animals without any intervention. The birds to be observed there are of natural size with the normal size variation for adult individuals of each species. There are ruddy-headed goose (Chloephaga rubidiceps), Hooded grebe (Podiceps gallardoi), Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica), Magellanic plover (Pluvianellus socialis), red knot (Calidris canutus) and Magellanic oystercatcher (Haematopus leucopodus), all of them birds that inhabit the estuary of the Gallegos River. On the railing that protects the model there are touchscreens with information of about these animals.
After the scheduled duration, the model makes a 180-degree turn until the other scene is shown. It represents the problems that the Hooded grebe faces, and visitors can observe a pair of adult birds with their babies and different elements of the environment, such as mink and trout, its predators. Suspended over the two scenes there is a Southern black-backed gull (Larus dominicanus), a species also present in the estuary that causes complications in the environment. This introduces the opportunity to explain the consequences of human actions in the area.
At this moment, visitors access the Low Tide Sector, which complements the tour for children and allows activities related to the estuary and migratory birds.
The CIERG also has a multi-purpose room called High Tide, built in slope so visitors can feel comfortable in their seats and enjoy a great view and sound. Visitors can watch 3D videos,; besides, conferences, presentations and thematic exhibitions can be held in this area.