Tuesday, March 08, 2011
BICYCLING: Canadian Girls Bike to the Caucasus to Study Transboundary Nature Conservation (finchannel.com)
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(Tbilisi, Georgia) Two Canadian girls arrived by bicycle in Tbilisi , Georgia, today as part of their year-long research expedition called Cycling Silk. The goal of this expedition is to study and raise awareness about nature conservation and connectivity across political borders. For all of 2011, Kate Harris and Melissa Yule, both young scientists, are cycling nearly 13,000 kilometers through the mountains, forests, and deserts of the Silk Road.
They started biking in Istanbul, Turkey in mid-January, and after spending time in Georgia, they will continue to Azerbaijan, cross the Caspian Sea by ferry boat, and continue biking from Kazakhstan through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, and Nepal to the expedition’s final destination in northern India.
Along the way, they are studying and documenting the natural and social impacts of existing and proposed transboundary protected areas, including those in the South Caucasus. As one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, the Caucasus border region of Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, eastern Turkey, and northern Iran is renowned worldwide for its natural beauty. “The greatest threats our planet faces today transcend political borders, whether climate change, poverty, peace and security, water issues, or habitat and biodiversity loss,” says Harris. “These are all tightly interlinked challenges, and to tackle them we need to think beyond borders.” While in Georgia the team is speaking with people working on nature conservation, and visiting protected areas such as Lagodekhi, which lies adjacent to the Dagestan and Zakatala protected areas in Russia and Azerbaijan.
Cycling Silk is comprised of two scientist-explorers, Kate Harris and Melissa Yule, friends since childhood. Kate is a writer, scientist, adventurer and photographer. She won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University where she completed her Master's thesis on transboundary conservation and peace parks. She also holds a Master's degree from MIT in earth and planetary sciences. Melissa is a social scientist, environmentalist and endurance athlete. In her work and research, Mel combines community development with environmental science to study ecological impacts on human health. She holds a Master's degree in International Development from the University of Guelph, and worked as a researcher at the International Development Research Centre in Canada. Harris and Yule have previously biked coast-to-coast across the continental USA in 2005, and they spent four months cycling through Xinjiang and Tibet in western China in 2006.
Harris and Yule will share their journey through a documentary film and a multimedia website, www.cyclingsilk.com, since raising public awareness is a key goal of the expedition. “We believe that people must first care for a place before they feel compelled to protect it, so our goal with Cycling Silk is to leverage adventure into environmental advocacy,” says Yule. “We hope to instill a deeper understanding and inspire a greater appreciation for wild spaces and species that transcend borders, both on the Silk Road and beyond.”
Contact: Kate Harris and Melissa Yule, email@example.com