THE HIMALAYAN ECOSYSTEMS PROJECT: ENVIRONMENT & CULTURE
The Himalayan slopes form a rich landscape of forests, river valleys, mountain villages, alpine meadows and lakes. Through on-site explorations, our team will take part in interdisciplinary field studies, investigating many of the Himalayan Mountain’s most important ecosystems. We will gain an in-depth understanding of the biggest mountains in the world, their natural history, the ecosystems they support, and the transitions that are underway throughout the region. The places we will examine support hundreds of bird species and thousands of plants growing in forests that are ecologically complex and only partially understood.
Our destinations include some of the most ecologically and culturally fascinating parts of the Himalaya, where tropical, temperate, and alpine landscapes remain relatively intact. Working in a stunning range of mountain habitats, team members will help to assess the ecology and culture of a region that has been identified as a global center of biological diversity. We will also evaluate efforts that are currently in progress to balance wildland habitat conservation with the needs of local subsistence farmers who have inhabited this region for centuries.
In the Himalayan backcountry, we will examine linkages among the indigenous local subsistence culture, wild plants and animals, ecological processes – and key external pressures, including economic development, agricultural intensification, and conservation policies. Adapted to a spatially complex and challenging environment, the people of the Himalaya face life with a spirit refined by centuries of self-reliance. Despite limited access to goods and services, they retain a deep cultural heritage and a finely-honed sense of place. Our time spent in their company will provide some of the richest, most enlightening moments of the program.
Our project offers the opportunity to examine critical conservation efforts through direct hands-on observation and field study experience. Our priorities include ecological surveys of forest, mountain, and agrarian landscapes. We will meet with local resource specialists and survey diverse habitats in an effort to give team members a thorough understanding of the Himalayan ecology. GPS technology will enable us to locate “ground truth” and effectively map our survey locations. Participants will also become closely acquainted with the people of the mountain regions, their subsistence lifestyles, and social customs. We will try to understand their perspectives on conservation, how they interact with wildlife, and their patterns of natural resource use. We devote significant effort to instruction and field work to learn ecological survey methods, investigate local natural history, interview villagers, and collect scientific information in an effort to understand how the region might be managed with ecological and cultural sensitivity.
Nearly every day of the program, we’ll explore the Himalayan landscapes on foot; nearly every night we’ll camp in tents. We believe that the observation skills you develop in the Himalaya will be useful worldwide. Expect to learn how climate affects the architecture of a forest, and how plants and animals adapt to different elevations. Opportunities also exist to explore topics such as medicinal plant use, agricultural ecology, human-wildlife interactions, and mountain spirituality. By the end of the project each of us will have gained direct experience conducting ecological field studies in a magnificent part of Asia, and a new appreciation for the lives of indigenous mountain peoples of the Himalayas.
WWU Accessibility Notice