SLC 2020 Kick-Off Meeting | Cultivating Synergies and Fostering Research Collaboration in and for Our Changing Mountains
MRI News
article written by MRI
18.03.20 | 08:03

(Pictured above, left to right: Aino Kulonen, Liz McCreary, Ricardo Grau, Shawn Marshall, Bryan Mark, Rob Marchant, Carolina Adler, Jörg Balsiger, Christian Huggel, Jianchu Xu, and Aster Gebrekirstos)

Between 4-6 March (prior to the Swiss travel restrictions), the newly appointed MRI Science Leadership Council members met for the first time this term at the Château de Bossey of Bogis-Bossey, in the outskirts of Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting was also an important opportunity to meet with the MRI Chair, Co-PIs and Coordination Office staff, and jointly discuss matters of strategic importance for the MRI as a global network and for mountain research, more generally. 

SLC group

In attendance were the MRI Coordination Office staff, MRI Chair Jörg Balsiger and Co-PI Christian Huggel, with MRI SLC members Aster Gebreikirstos, Ricardo Grau, Rob Marchant, Bryan Mark, Shawn Marshall, and Jianchu Xu; SLC members whose presence was greatly missed during the meeting were Irasema Alcántara-Ayala, Elizabeth Jimenez Zamora, Samuel Morin, Maria Shahgedanova, and Mandira Shrestha, however we were very grateful to receive their inputs ahead of the meeting. The diverse professional and disciplinary backgrounds, fields of research, languages and cultures, and geographies of our members offer enriching perspectives and a multitude of collaborative opportunities and avenues for change in the world of mountain research.


Christian Huggel at the SLC 2020 meeting in Geneva
(Pictured here: Carolina Adler and Christian Huggel)

MRI Chair Jörg Balsiger, Executive Director Carolina Adler, and Scientific Project Officer Aino Kulonen kicked off the retreat with a recap of MRI’s previous and current activities and their corresponding objectives. With these in mind, the following member introductions revealed several promising starting points of collaboration between institutions and ideas around paths for bringing mountain research to the forefront of the broader scientific community and as key contributions to important science-policy dialogues and the role of science in, with, and for society.

Of the many topics on offer for discussion, brainstorming sessions were specifically focused on strategies for resource mobilisation to further support MRI flagship and community-led activities, as well as ideas to better profile and support early career researchers and enhance collaboration and links

Shawn and Aster
with the regions. Other topics included ideas around paths for bringing mountain research to the forefront of the broader scientific community via planned publications that reflect the rich social and intellectual capital on mountains, as well as taking stock of key global change processes such as economic transformations that warrant further attention with a ‘mountains’ lens, globally. In addition, reflection on MRI’s current and potential contributions to global assessments and how these support key science-policy-society dialogues were also discussed. Ideas were articulated to further develop and strengthen our network’s collective capacity to respond to the various knowledge needs of global agendas on sustainable development, climate change, disaster risk reduction, and the intricate connections between biodiversity and human dimensions of conservation and land-use, among others. 

(Pictured above: Shawn Marshall and Aster Gebrekirstos)

 In between brainstorming and workshops, we found time to explore the ‘Sentier des Toblerones,’ the Toblerone Trail, in nearby Nyon. Flanked by a brook and surrounded by forest, this path is marked by a ten-kilometre-long series of fortifications built to block the invasion of foreign military tanks during the Second World War, bringing an insightful aspect to the role of mountains and their landscapes in shaping political decisions and social change in history – in this case, in the Geneva region of Switzerland. The unusually warm weather and bright green foliage appearing in early March were reminders of the urgent need to safeguard the mountains from the effects of climate change.

 On the evening of Geneva’s second rainiest day in the past 12 months (34mm!), we took a well-deserved break from the meeting room and embarked on a field trip to the neighbouring Château de Nyon where we developed our cultural knowledge of the region with a local apéro and wine-tasting. (The wine is excellent, in case you were wondering).

wine tasting

(Pictured above, left to right: Carolina Adler, Shawn Marshall, Bryan Mark, Ricardo Grau, Rob Marchant, and Aster Gebrekirstos. Photo courtesy of Jörg Balsiger.)

 As we shape the ideas shared during this meeting and put these newly-defined objectives into action, we look forward to sharing with you the fruits of our labour as they materialize in the near future. Stay tuned for announcements for how you can participate, and key publications in preparation that document these planned actions. In the meantime, get to know our SLC members here.

We wish to sincerely thank our host, MRI Chair Jörg Balsiger, for the great hospitality and reception afforded, and for the opportunity to explore and learn more about this part of Switzerland. We also wish to thank our dedicated SLC members for their engaged and enthusiastic participation and contributions to this meeting, during very challenging times for travel and connection. We also wish to thank YOU for your inputs and suggestions offered via the survey we conducted prior to this meeting.