The Eastern Himalayas
I hosted a wonderful seminar today on the Himalayas, by Kamal Bawa from the University of Massachusetts and his photographer colleague Sandesh Kadur from Bangalore. The seminar was on the landscapes and forests of the Eastern Himalaya, and was resplendent in gorgeous imagery and film footage. It made me want to there, or at least support local research and monitoring there. There are still so many parts of the globe to explore.
The link to Kamal Bawa's work can be found at http://www.kbawa.com/kb
and to Sandesh Kadur's photography at www.sandeshkadur.com
The Himalayas book home page is http://www.himalayabook.com/
Interesting that Peru's new oil concessions have all avoided the Amazon, contrary to expectations. Seems the moves to consult indigenous communities is having some delaying effect (for now...)http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/andes-to-the-amazon/2013/may/14/peru-amazon-rainforest-oil-gas
St James's Palace
The second day of the two-day meeting, the morning at the Royal Society, and the afternoon at St James' Palace at Clarence House. The morning is spent on final presentations (many of them excellent), and the afternoon is a truly memorable one in the grand setting of St James' Palace. I sit next to the Prince for the entire meeting, with him chattering in my ear at various occasions throughout the meeting. Very surreal.
I give a speech on behalf of the tropical forest science community, summarising the conclusions of the Royal Society meeting. I find myself unusually nervous at the start. But I think it ends up well received.
In the meeting the Prince was surprisingly strident on the subject of climate change, with an attack on climate sceptics and climate lobbyists. I agree with everything he said, but was nonetheless surprised to here it.
In the remaining speeches, the contradictions between the Lib Dem Ed Davey (Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change) and the Conservative Owen Patterson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) were very, very apparent.
May 07th, 2013
The first day of the Tropical Forest Science meeting at the Royal Society together with Prince Charles' International Sustainability Unit. The meeting has lots of international scientists, and focuses on the big picture of which direction the science should go. Lots of excellent talks.
In the evening, after the dinner, I stay up until 2 am working on my speech for the next day and the St James's Palace Memorandum. Out of the window the landscape of central London beckons.
The Cusco house
I spend the morning in Cusco, at the project house. Cusco is as beautiful and beguiling as ever. The local students have made the project house into a wonderfully organised hive of activity. Walter and others have self-organised into a research NGO. While I am there one student is giving a weekly lesson in the statistical programming language R to other students. Others are printing out maps of their new field plots. Again, I am astounded, and come away wanting to give their efforts every support possible.
Last morning in the field for me, though the team of course will now be continuing for six more months. As well as checking over the data collection I take the morning doing video interviews of the work. This was something I arranged just before coming with a film producer commissioned by our funder, NERC. But I really get into the role, and by the end of the morning collect a huge amount of valuable and sometimes hilarious footage. I think we make more of this, and I will try and make a film documenting the project in advance of the August meeting.
In the afternoon we drive back to Cusco via a stop in Pisac to investigate the venue for our August meeting. The landscape is stunningly beautiful in the low, clear late afternoon light, a tapestry of terraces and breathtaking slopes, quite green because the rainy season has only just ended.
Today is Labour Day, a Peruvian national holiday, and the students ask for the day off to chill out and wash clothes.
This gives many of us a chance to think through how we are going to codify and database this huge volume of data. Brad Boyle from the University of Arizona makes an exceptional contribution. He genuinely lives and breathes data structures, and it is a real insight listening to him and learning to design the data classification from the start. This is something we rarely do in projects, and then inevitably struggle link the different data streams together at the end. By the end of the discussion we have an elegant way of labelling the various data that makes logical sense and is well designed up from. The next step for me to find a database programmer to design a system for entering all these data.
The afternoon of the day off is a heap of fun. The manager of the Wayqecha field station, Robinson, is wonderfully gregarious and amenable, happy to chat with and serve the guests with a smile, a poncho and a Peruvian hat.
To make this day special he has organised a huge feast of potatoes, salads and sauces, the centrepiece of which is a huge roast pig in a bucket. The food and mood are wonderful.
Then, in the afternoon, we head off to a nearby small clearing for the Wayqecha football tournament, held at 3000 m above sea-level. I am in the team “world famous scientists” playing against “CHAMBASA students”, “frogs project” and “Wayqecha field staff”. The first few minutes running around in thin oxygen are hard, but to my surprise after a while it feels OK and we keep playing. The game is full of laughs, acrobatics and ineptitude. The students have prepared CHAMBASA T shirts with duct tape. Whenever the ball is kicked off field downslope we wonder if it will be next be seen in the Brazilian Amazon. In the end the international scientists come last, but the fact that we are not obliterated with our low altitude lungs must counts as some sort of moral victory. I get the personal pleasure of blasting home a particularly satisfying penalty kick.
Yadvinder Malhi is an ecosytem ecologist and Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University