Our Student Contributors

Our four undergraduate academic assistants, Fatima, Qingyang, Iram, and Akash at UBC have finished their work on our project. Congratulations!

They have contributed by carrying out background research for course developers, researching and generating case histories, and contributing to this blog. They have also reflected on their roles as student contributors to our project and we deeply appreciate their energy and enthusiasm. Please see the student contributor page for their reflections on our project.

 

Brief Report on UBC’s visit to Kyrgyz Republic and WMF2018.

Fatima Mannapbekova, one of our research assistants, and Dr. Arthur Gill Green, our GIS course developer, attended the WMF2018 Conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic last October.

Some highlights from the visit to the Kyrgyz Republic.

  • They met with UCA faculty and MSRI staff to discuss project deadlines, goals of the trip, and local culture’s impact on students’ learning expectations and behaviours, which seems very symptomatic.
  • Gill met a possible GIS instructor at UCA and they agree that the open source software and internal data sets from research institutions work best for students.
  • They talked with UCA students about their desire to learn GIS. As students are very enthusiastic and seemingly very resourceful, aspiring to pursue careers that make use of GIS, Gill identified “professionalism” as a new addition to overall learning outcomes. He is also considering integrating a portfolio component to the learning assessment which students will be able to show to future employers.
  • Gill with five other conference attendees visited the Naryn campus. The overall goal was to see and learn about the quality of the facilities, how students were living, how were students doing in the academic programs, were there lessons learned from the delivery of other courses.  and the general context within the community.
UCA’s Naryn campus, next to Naryn river.

Some highlights from the WMF2018 conference:

  • The first day of the conference was set to coincide with the International Snow Leopard Day to emphasize how this keystone species is an indicator for the sustainability of mountains throughout the region from the Himalayas to the Altai.
  • The conference was split into four thematic tracks. Each track was given a separate room. Fatima spent most of her time in Track 3.
    • Climate Change Affecting Water and Energy in Mountain Areas,
    • Poverty, Food Systems and Agrobiodiversity,
    • Resilience & Transformation in Mountain Communities and Ecosystems,
    • Investing in Mountains – Securing the Future.
  • Gill and Fatima were both excited to meet some of the global leaders in the WMF meeting.
  • Fatima represented the UBC-UCA curriculum development partnership by presenting a poster about the project. This provided a focus to clearly explained to people the goal and components of the Earth and Environmental Sciences B.Sc. degree being developed for UCA.
  • Talking with student volunteers during breaks was particularly rewarding. For example, they discussed gender imbalance in the EES program with majority boys. Nevertheless, both boys and girls expressed genuine interests for the subject and the importance for them to be studying this degree. Students and faculty recognize that local people (including parents of current and prospective students) seem to be unaware of the content of the program and the career potentials associated with the Earth and Environmental Sciences degree, which may put pressures on students who decided to pursue this degree.
  • While there was a wide range of topics that had varying levels of quality regarding evidence and research, people at the conference often spoke of the beauty of mountains and their own identity in relation to mountains. Both Gill and Fatima found this “personal relationship” fascinating and important. Gill mentioned that talking about identity and community centered on a natural feature is rare in academic conferences on environmental issues.
  • The conference was very policy focused on generating a “Call for Mountains” declaration.
  • Both UBC delegates agreed that the most interesting presentation was Sonam Wangchuk – from Students’ Educational & Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) – presented on the Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh initiative in the trans-Himalayan desert of northern India, which has pioneered an alternative education system suited to mountain culture and ecosystem. Fatima was able to talk with Mr. Wangchuk in depth. Gill traveled with him to Naryn and discussed the UBC/UCA partnership. While interested, it is clear that intra-region collaborations are of most interest, rather than interactions with European or North American organizations.
At the WMF2018 conference, Bishkek, October 2018. Standing: Marc Foggin (MSRI), Gill (UBC); Sitting: Fatima (UBC), Christian Hergarten (MSRI)

(Post authored by Qingyang Liu.)

Visit to Tajikistan for geology course development.

October 8 – 19, 2019.

Ozlem is building two courses; Geochemistry and Sedimentology and Hydrocarbon Resources. A productive 10 day trip was made in October 2018 to gain some understanding of mountains, rocks, faculty, students, administrators, affiliated organizations and different cities in Tajikistan. This was a busy visit with many goals accomplished, especially a greater appreciation for the landscape, people and academic setting of UCA’s Khorog campus.

  • Oct 7 – Oct  9: Travel Vancouver -> Toronto -> Istanbul -> Dushanbe, then on to Khorog.
  • Oct 9 –  10: introductory meetings with UCA faculty, staff. Also meetings with Khorog State University and AKAH (Aga Khan Agency for Habitat). It is wonderful to have Prof. David Rodgers at Khorog, helping establish geology teaching and learning opportunities for classes, labs and field experiences. See photos and reflections on time in Tajikistan here on his project blog.
  • Oct 11: Road-trip to explore geology close the university. We observed rock lithology and structures and examined locations on the river that may be suitable for field work for geoscience courses. We also went to Barsem Village, scene of a major debris flow disaster in May, 2015.
  • Oct 12 – 14:  Road-trip along Pamir Highway onto the high Pamir plateau as far as Murgab (approximately 5hrs of driving time one-way). See some wonderful photos of the region by David Rodgers. Gained an appreciation for the landscapes, collected rock samples and observed the larger-scale geological features of the area. Meeting with locals to discuss potential for having students carry out field studies in the area. Also talked about how geoscience graduates may contribute to community and regional development. Returned to Khorog before end of October 14th.
  • Oct 14  After return to Khorog, we meet with Dean Dianna Pauna, considered planning and requirements for geoscience teaching labs, attended classes, met with students, and discussed teaching and curriculum with science lecturer, Maqsad Suriev, and other instructors.
  • Oct 15 – 16: mostly travel between Khorog and Dushanbe
  • Oct 18:  Meetings with AKAH and Geological survey in Dushanbe to discuss arrangements necessary for a formal partnership between UCA and AKAH that will support exchange of information for learning at UCA.

A special thanks go out to everyone at UCA who were so welcoming and supportive in making this visit productive and enjoyable.

October 2018, UBC visits to Central Asia

First – some project highlights to date are summarized here.

Also, several course developers are visiting UCA this month. One is spending two weeks in Khorog, collaborating with Dr. David Rodgers to work on geology curriculum and establish field sites for learning about rocks, structures and landforms at sites around Khorog.

Geoscience in Tajikistan (photo D. Rodgers)
Geoscience in Tajikistan (photo D. Rodgers)

Two of our team are attending the WMF2018 conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic.

We are excited to be presenting at this conference. Fatima Mannapbekova, one of our research assistants, will present a poster entitled Engaging in Sustainability: A New Mountain-Focused BSc. Degree in Earth and Environmental Sciences for the University of Central Asia, by Fatima Mannapbekova, Tara Holland, Francis Jones.  See the PDF of this poster here.

Finally – D. Rodgers (professor at Idaho State, serving as visiting professor at UCA’s Khorog campus, on Fullbright funding) has a lovely blog with regular reflections and photographs documenting is activities. See it at https://rodgdavi.wixsite.com/website.

September – news from UCA.

Several important updates include:

  1. On September 14, 2018, President Rahmon inaugurated the first regional university in Tajikistan, the University of Central Asia’s Khorog campus. Click For more details at UCA’s news feed, click here and  here.
  2. The Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Tajikistan and the University of Central Asia (UCA) took a key step forward by signing an Agree of Cooperation. Click the link for more details.
  3. New and existing faculty participated in a faculty orientation workshop, with on-site contributions and workshops led by Linda Strubbe, the UBC team member who built the prerequisite physics course. See photos here and here.
  4. Starting this September, students will taking the first 3 of UBC’s 22-course contribution, in preparation for Earth and Environmental Sciences courses that begin September 2019.
  5. Co-op education is now underway at UCA. This is an innovation for Central Asia, and a key component of undergraduate students’ experiences as they develop academic and work-related capabilities. See details here.
  6. Dr. David Rodgers, geology professor at Idaho State University, is now in Khorog, contributing some of his sabbatical leave to help teach at UCA and to help develop the geoscience component of their EES degree. This is going to be an awesome collaboration that will significantly enhance their degree program, especially the geoscience courses.

For more news and announcements, see the UCA main web page at http://ucentralasia.org/Home, and browse for “news”, “media”, and “announcements”.

“Training”, or course transfer meetings

How will courses developed at UBC be “transferred” to the actual UCA instructors? May 23-31, 2018, three UCA instructors visited UBC to interface with developers of the three prerequisite courses that will be taught for the first time in September 2018. This was a busy, but enjoyable opportunity to build collegial relationships between UBC and UCA generally, and to help UCA instructors take ownership of courses they will teach.

UCA visitors explore the UBC campus.

Here are the types of activities we engaged in for the week of “training”. A complete itinerary can be seen on a separate page.

  • Attend free UBC professional development workshops about teaching and learning (much appreciated). Examples here and here.
  • Observe UBC classes at prerequisite level (also much appreciated).
    • Summer term means classes are double length compared to normal terms, which is consistent with some UCA scheduling. However, most are “large enrollment” (~150-250 students).
    • For senior courses, this will not likely be possible outside of fall or spring terms, since UBC’s summer courses tend to focus on prerequisite capabilities (math, etc.)
  • Meet UBC instructors or Science Education Specialists to discuss specific teaching strategies, pedagogies, or subject-specific issues (eg. math, chemistry, etc.) (Well worth while).
  • Whole-group meetings to discuss curriculum, etc. Two, possibly three of these are probably adequate.
  • One-on-one meetings with instructors and course developers. These are the most important and specific component of ‘training’.
  • Private “study time” to review course materials before and after one-on-one discussions. Important to leave appropriate ½ day time slots in the first and second “thirds” of the visit.
  • Social opportunities. Important; lunches are relaxed, 2-3 dinners involving the whole team, or at least sub-sets of the team. One evening event at a team-member’s home was also much appreciated.
  • Down time: not study time (see above). A slow first 24hrs is recommended after long distance traveling. Two or three ½ days to see some of Vancouver worth while, and contribute to efficient, well-motivated training sessions.

Quick report from the field

The trip to Central Asia has been a great success. It unfolded in three parts: 1) tour into the High Pamirs and down towards the Wakhan Corridor; 2) meetings at the Khorog campus, Tajikistan; and 3) meetings in Bishkek & the Naryn campus, Kyrgyzstan. 

‘Report’ from part 1, by Phil Hammer, May 14th.

The trips to see the Pamirs and absorb more of the culture have been fantastic! Lots of ideas for everyone for future trips and also things that will filter into the courses.

The Alichur trip that Chris and I did with Kobil was wonderful – really great in all ways. Incredible landscape (4000+m high, broad valleys) and we learned so much hanging out with the Wildlife Conservancy guides, talking with shepherds (through interpreters), spotting Marco Polo sheep and Siberian Ibex, setting up cameras to capture snow leopards prowling on two ridges, living in the head guide’s guesthouse. The Panthera project there is designed to increase snow leopard numbers that have plummeted over the last few decades. Overgrazing has led to the population of their major prey dropping. So, the goal is to improve grazing management, to help the sheep and ibex recover, to help the snow leopards recover. The communities have bought in. They have been developing guiding of tourists for wildlife spotting and big game hunting to raise money. That is then used to pay shepherds to rest valleys for a year or two. One MarcoPolo sheep can bring $20,000USD into the conservancy – a HUGE amount of money that is used for the project, but also community projects. It appears to be working…   Chris was fascinated by the project and was bursting with research ideas!

We just returned from a 3 day trip with Brendan and Tara. We went south to Ishkashim and got to Darshai (after lunch and a couple of interesting road-side stops) where we went hiking with the head of the Darshai Wildlife Conservancy (primarily Ibex there). We stayed at his guesthouse and by dumb luck, Stefan Michel was there. He is the German that started the entire wildlife conservancy program initially (through GIZ I believe). So Chris and Tara have made contact with him directly. Nice guy… sort of retired from that project now, but he remains involved in some ways. He was their with his wife on a vacation.

Travel in Tajikistan (road far left)
Travel in Tajikistan; road far left. (C) P. Hammer

Then a tourist day on the way to Langar with a few interesting stops (the Bibi Fatima hot springs and lunch and a Pamiri museum in Yamg were the highlights). Then yesterday we didn’t retrace our steps but rather drove on from Langar up the Pamir river (along the Afghan border) up to the Alichur Pamir. LandCruisers on the Tajikistan side of the Pamir river – camel caravans on the Afghanistan side!

Camel caravan across the river in Afganistan

Camel caravan across the river in Afganistan. (C) P. Hammer

 We took a short side trip to Bulunkul/Yashikul lakes (beautiful area but also the coldest spot in Tajikistan (-50C)) and had hot fresh bread and lunch with a family in the village there thanks to our driver. Then we continued back down the Gunt River along the Pamir Highway, stopping briefly at the 2015 Barsem debris flow. . Part of the drive was a repeat of what Chris and I had already done twice, but we thought it would be good for Tara/Brendan to see the high valleys (Alichur Pamir and Greater Pamir) as the geography there is very different.  So an excellent trip and a highly recommended loop for future groups going over. 

A bonus on the trip was that during the first 2 days (in the Wakhan Valley) we had a Concordia history prof who is writing a book about Tajikistan hitch with us from UCA. He was heading for China and had arranged a ride from Langar. He was a wealth of information. On our 3rd day, our driver had more of a chance to contribute which was good because he turned out to be hilarious and very knowledgeable. 

 

May 2018 – busiest month yet

As summer 2018 begins, the UBC/UBC curriculum development partnership is gearing up for the busiest month we’ve had to date.

Summer support: First, we welcome three UBC students to our team for summer jobs as undergraduate academic assistants. We aim to support all of the 19 core EES courses as equitably as possible.

  • Fatima Mannapbokova has just finished her Geography degree (congratulations!) and is working full time for the summer.
  • Qingyang Liu, 3rd year Geography, is starting mid-May in a UBC WorkLearn position, working roughly 1/2 time for the summer.
  • Iram Malik, entering 3rd year chemical and biological engineering, also starting mid-May in a half-time WorkLearn position.

They will help conduct background research on important issues related to Earth and Environmental Sciences in Central Asia. Our course development team is looking forward to using the information, resources, case histories, data sets and so on, that our summer team finds. We will also benefit from some support with project reporting, background information gathering and documentation (on this blog and elsewhere), testing and maybe some development of learning tasks, and likely some other contributions

Travel to Central Asia: Chris, Phil, Tara and Brendan (see Personnel) are visiting Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan between May 4-24. They will meet with NGO, government, academic and AKDN affiliates to discuss educational opportunities. They will also spend a few days exploring the southern Pamirs, and observing some field work being conducted by Kobil Shokirov and Jordan Lavine related to wildlife and conservation programs. Kobil and Jordan have been amazingly welcoming and helpful in arranging for our team to shadow their work.

UCA instructors at UBC: Four UCA instructors from Khorog and Naryn campuses will visit UBC in late May to work with our three prerequisite course developers. These courses will be taught for the first time starting September 2018 and January 2019, and we are looking forward to collaborating with our colleagues to ensure these challenging science courses are as effective and efficient as possible.

Course development: Meanwhile, course developers who are not traveling are working on syllabi and lessons.

Whew! Lots happening! There should be updates on these and other project activities throughout the summer.

Promoting Earth and Environmental Sciences

University of Central Asia graduates with knowledge and skills in Earth and Environmental Sciences will be making the decisions that will ensure productive and sustainable management of the natural resources in the uniquely beautiful mountainous regions of Central Asia.

This promotional video (in English, with Russian subtitles) was produced  during the UBC team’s first visit to the Khorog Campus in Tajikistan, October 2017. They discuss their passions for learning and working in sciences related to Earth and its environmental.

See also >UCA’s media web page.