South African Contingent
Prof Werner Nel (UFH), Dr Sonwabo Mazinyo (UFH) Liezel Rudolph (APECSSA; UFS), Prof David HEdding (Unisa), Sibusiso Sinuka (UFH), Michael Loubser (UP)

One of our National Committee members recently got the opportunity to go to the Altai region in Siberia for a Summer School. The summer school was organised by Tomsk State University with the aim of linking young and established researchers from various disciplines to discuss ongoing and future research around the theme: Natural and human environment of Arctic and Alpine areas: relief, soils, permafrost, glaciers, biota and life style of native ethnic groups in a rapidly changing climate. Field excursions were hosted at Aktru Research Station.

The Aktru Research Station is located in the south-eastern part of the Altai Republic close to the borders to Mongolia and China in the center of the Eurasian Continent (50°06’03” N; 87°40’14” E). With an altitude of 2150 m a.s.l., the station is situated in the high alpine part of the Altai Mountains. The research at Aktru Research Station focuses on glaciology, hydrology, meteorology, geomorphology, ecology, botany, zoology, and soil science.

The first two days of the School were spent in Tomsk. The first day was dedicated to a tour of the University premises and various collection and exhibitions museums; the second one on introductory lectures of Siberian geography and a history tour through the city. The participants then departed on a 2-day journey to the Aktru Research Station (1200 km South of Tomsk) for the field excursion. The route crossed different landscapes, such as taiga, steppe, mountain tundra, glacial and periglacial areas. There were several stops en route discussing paleo-geographical landforms, biodiversity and archaeological features. The excursion by the research station included hikes to the Small and Big Aktru Glaciers, with data collection on the ecological succession at the foot of the glaciers; measuring tree heights at the edge of the tree-line on valley slopes; collecting invertebrates and identifying vegetation for biodiversity classification of the fores. The Summer School was a great success and opened the doors for potential collaboration with other emerging researchers.

Liezel was one of six South Africans who were able to attend the School, thanks to a grant from the BRICS Network UniversitiesEcology and Climate Change‘ International Thematic Group, which is currently chaired by the University of Pretoria’s Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Meteorology. For more news on the Summer School have a look here or here.

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