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Ambassador of Interdisciplinary Mountain Research | Interview with Connie Millar

Connie Millar in the East Humboldt Range, Nevada

During the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, California, Dr. Constance Millar, USDA Forest Service Pacific, Southwest Research Station, Albany, California, was honoured with an AGU Ambassador Award. The award was given for her outstanding contributions and inspiring interdisciplinary research and leadership on how mountain flora and fauna adapt to climate change, and for building a diverse scientific community to guide management of these natural resources. 

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Opportunities in Mountain Environments Explored at Mountains 2018

The city of Nova Friburgo, in the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, hosted Mountains 2018, 10-14 December, with debates on topics ranging from agricultural production to ecological tourism and climate change, culminating in the creation of the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Research in Mountain Environments. “Like Lumont Lusofonia Mountain Research Network, the goal is to strengthen research in the area and set goals to improve people's lives, with sustainability,” says Embrapa researcher Adriana Aquino, chair of the Mountains 2018 organizing commission. According to her, the network will be an instrument to encourage the creation of government programs and promote joint research between institutions throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Discussions taking place at Mountains 2018. Image credit: Fernando Gregio. A highlight of Mountains 2018 was the presentation of the Letter of Nova Friburgo, a participant-led initiative to alert society and government of the importance of actions and...
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Ice Volume Calculated Anew

Written by Peter Rüegg. Source: ETH Zürich. Researchers have provided a new estimate for the glacier ice volume all around the world, excluding the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Their conclusion: previous calculations overestimated the volume of the glaciers in High Mountain Asia. Climate change is causing glaciers to shrink around the world. Reduced meltwaters from these glaciers also have downstream effects, particularly on freshwater availability. A lack of meltwater can greatly restrict the water supply to many rivers, especially in arid regions such as the Andes or central Asia, that depend on this water source for agriculture. Up-to-date information on the worldwide ice volume is needed to assess how glaciers – and the freshwater reserves they supply – will develop, and how sea levels are set to change.Ice thickness calculated for 215,000 glaciersLed by ETH Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, an international team...
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Hiking for science: hydrological research at the Páramo of Chirripó, Costa Rica

[caption id="attachment_3902" align="alignright" width="300"] Weather stations installed at the Base Crestones shelterWritten by Germain Esquivel-Hernández, Associate Professor at the School of Chemistry of the National University in Costa Rica.Restricted to the latitudinal zone between the parallels of 11°N and 8°S, the Páramo is a key mountainous tropical ecosystem in South America because of the environmental services it provides, including high water production and carbon storage capacity. However, the so-called 'Isthmian Páramo' situated in Costa Rica and Panama remains understudied due to its remote location, compared to some of the better understood Páramo areas in South America. Here, I share how I embarked on a scientific journey to reveal the water secrets of the most extensive Páramo region in Central America: Chirripó.Chirripó is a national park with an extension of about 100 km2, situated in the Talamanca Range (southern Costa Rica), where approximately 30 lakes of glacial origin are found. Visiting Chirripó is not...
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Mountain Glaciers: Vanishing Sources of Water & Life

[gallery size="large" link="file" columns="5" ids="3796,3802,3797,3798,3799,3800,3801,3803,3804,3805"][caption id="attachment_3815" align="alignright" width="305"] Click to download the flyer.Mountain glaciers are among the most visible and emblematic indicators of climate change. Worldwide, glaciers are losing mass at unprecedented rates – a process that has accelerated in recent decades, with record losses in the 21st century. As an effect of widespread glacier shrinkage, the high mountains of the world are currently experiencing a historically unparalleled, large-scale environmental transformation, with profound and far-reaching impacts for landscapes, ecosystems, and people.Glaciers provide important ecosystem services. In the tropical Andes, for instance, glacier meltwater offers critical support to sensitive ecosystems such as high-mountain wetlands. Ongoing glacier retreat therefore gives rise to ecosystem changes, and the eventual disappearance of glaciers in future will ultimately disrupt these ecosystems and their service functions. Glacier retreat also impacts water provision for people and economies downstream. Central Asia, several regions in South Asia, and the tropical Andes...
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The unique experience of a female science-art high-alpine expedition

[caption id="attachment_3750" align="alignright" width="350"] Expedition participants sit looking towards the Matterhorn near Zermatt in Switzerland. Image: Lena Hellmann/Girls on Ice Switzerland.Written by Lena Hellmann, Geographer and Leader of Girls on Ice Switzerland. In Switzerland, only 25 out of approximately 1,500 mountain guides are female, in Germany this number is around 10 out of approximately 500. Scientific positions, particularly in the natural sciences, are dominated by men with with only 23 percent of all university professors in Switzerland (1) and in Germany (2) being women. Even though these numbers have been increasing over recent decades, Girls on Ice Switzerland aims to further change these gender biases. As part of the international organisation Inspiring Girls Expeditions, the mission of Girls on Ice Switzerland is to bring out teenage girls' natural curiosity, to inspire their interest in science, and to connect arts and sciences. The exclusively female-guided mountain expedition encourages girls aged 15-17 to trust in their physical...
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New Study Highlights Loss & Damage in Mountain Cryosphere

Written by Andrew Angle. This article was first published on GlacierHub.Few areas of the planet have been more affected by climate change than the mountain cryosphere, where negative impacts like glacier recession far exceed any positives like short-term increases in glacial runoff. These adverse changes make highland environments ideal for examining the policy concept of Loss and Damage (L&D), which deals with the impact of climate change on resources and livelihoods that cannot be offset by adaptation. A recent study in Regional Environmental Change analyzes L&D in the mountain cryosphere by extracting examples from existing literature on the subject and developing a conceptual approach to support future research to address the subject.L&D has become an important issue within the international climate policy realm in recent years. In the mountain cryosphere, the effects of climate change and the resultant L&D are directly evident. However, despite the visibility of these changes, research on L&D has rarely...
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UNESCO Biosphere Reserves: Fertile Ground for Education

[caption id="attachment_3712" align="alignright" width="300"] Field meeting among biosphere reserve participants from Japan, Russia, and Belarus (funded by the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO)Written by Dr. Yoshihiko Iida, Research Associate at the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability, Operating Unit Ishikawa/Kanazawa, and Secretariat Advisor of the Mount Hakusan Biosphere Reserve Council.Mountain landscapes contain a wealth of both nature and culture, and have the potential to be used for a broad range of educational activities in fields as wide-ranging as climatology, ecology, history, and the arts. What is more, the results of these educational activities, such as the scientific monitoring of water sources and the study of disaster responses, can also be applied to further sustainable community development.With such an inclusive area for study then, what kind of human resource development program can be put in place by higher education sectors in mountains, beyond research? The UNESCO Biosphere Reserves provide an...
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Observing Glaciers in 'Real Time'

Written by Markus Gross. Source: ETH ZurichHot summers cause glaciers to melt. That not only changes the makeup of the landscape and hence the maps of Switzerland, it also affects every area of society. A new, dynamic glacier inventory makes the impact of climate change and the changing landscape visible.[caption id="attachment_3695" align="alignright" width="300"] Glacier observation under the spell of several Valais four-thousand-metre peaks. (Image copyright: GLAMOS / ETHZ)The last time Swiss glaciers managed to grow at all was in 2001. Since then, the country’s 1,500 glaciers – as well as others elsewhere – have been suffering a slow but inexorable death. Until now, though, we have understood only partially how quickly they are really disappearing, and what effect that has on the landscape, people and animals. That is about to change, thanks to the Glacier Monitoring in Switzerland (GLAMOS) project. GLAMOS is working on behalf of various Swiss federal offices to...
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Why we explored an undisturbed rainforest hidden on top of an African mountain

Written by Simon Willcock, Lecturer in Environmental Geography at Bangor University and Phil Platts, Research Fellow, University of York. Atop Mount Lico in northern Mozambique is a site that few have had the pleasure of seeing – a hidden rainforest, protected by a steep circle of rock. Though the mountain was known to locals, the forest itself remained a secret until six years ago, when Julian Bayliss spotted it on satellite imagery. It wasn’t until last year, however, that he revealed his discovery, at the Oxford Nature Festival. We recently visited the 700 metre-high mountaintop rainforest in an expedition organised by Bayliss, in collaboration with Mozambique’s Natural History Museum and National Herbarium. As far as anyone knew (including the locals), we would be the first people to set foot there (spoiler: we weren’t). Since the rainforest’s discovery, Lico has received worldwide attention. That it captured the public’s imagination speaks volumes about how...
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MRI Synthesis Workshop on Treeline Spatial Patterns

Most mountain inhabitants and visitors will have clear mental images of the alpine treeline, the conspicuous transition from forest to treeless alpine vegetation. These images are likely to be as varied across the globe as the actual variation in form and landscape positions that can be observed between sites and mountain ranges. These spatial patterns can provide insights in what makes each treeline unique and in what makes some of them similar enough to allow generalised predictions about their dynamics. In a recent workshop, held near the Pyrenees between 31 August and 5 September 2017, nine treeline researchers gathered to discuss how this global variation in spatial patterns at treelines from the subarctic to the tropics can be captured, quantified and used to predict dynamics at different treeline sites. Photo by Dave CairnsPictured here, the workshop participants visit a treeline site in the Pyrenees (here with a view on Ordesa y...
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