The allure of pine forests, majestic granite peaks and rushing rivers has always drawn mankind to mountaintops. The same intrigue drives the work of scientists around the world, many of whom will convene at the University of Nevada, Reno for a multi-day conference on social, biological and environmental systems in mountain regions, especially important as climate and land-use changes affect mountain environments and the communities in them.
The conference, "Mountain Observatories - A Global Fair and Workshop on Long-Term Observing Systems of Mountain Social-Ecological Systems," will be July 16-19 at the University's main campus and will feature one-day as well as extended field trips to locations around northern Nevada and the Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada region.
The conference is organized by the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI) at the Institute of Geography in Bern, Switzerland, in partnership with the University's Extended Studies program and the DendroLab, which is run by Professor Franco Biondi in the College of Science.
"This is different than a typical conference, because in addition to the field trips, and some traditional format such as keynote speakers, there will be workshops and roundtable discussions to compare projects, instrumentation and systems," Biondi, professor of geography and co-organizer for the event, said.
Biondi currently oversees three National Science Foundation-funded research projects, as well as the statewide lead for the Ecological Change component of a multi-institutional collaboration which has been funded by the National Science Foundation for $15 million over five years and established a comprehensive environmental monitoring system across the Great Basin of Nevada through the Nevada Climate Change Portal.
"This is not the first time scientists will be getting together to talk about mountain observing systems, but it is new on this scale," Biondi said. "MRI chose to have this meeting here because of the University's tradition of field work and research, the innovative observation systems that were recently put in place, and the variety of ecological and social interactions in the region."
The goal of the conference is to move toward a more comprehensive, global mountain observation network by strengthening the ties between existing observation systems. Once researchers come together to exchange ideas, and see what other monitoring networks offer, they can develop common programs, assess priority locations and develop creative financing options.
The workshop portion of the conference will feature sessions where speakers from around the world present state-of-the-art projects regarding mountain observations, together with roundtables where participants work together to develop common solutions.
The fair portion of the conference will feature expositions in which participants explain their observing network or products in a poster session format and side meetings for more in-depth discussions.
More than 140 scientists from around the world are already registered for the event. This includes researchers such as climatologists, meteorologists, hydrologists, ecologists, economists, sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists, historians or other researchers who create long-term datasets at specific sites, or managers involved in existing observing networks focused on mountains or including mountain sites or managers of field stations and transects that generate long-term data.
The event features six keynote speakers on topics ranging from an overview of the relationship of human-environment interactions and best methodologies for observation to data management and sharing, from new opportunities for monitoring weather and weather-related phenomena to climate effects on plant and animal populations.
The four one-day field trips will take participants to various destinations near the University of Nevada, Reno, which is minutes from the base of the Sierra Nevada. One trip will go to Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe to see 200-year-old pine trees standing submerged under 100 feet of water and to hear about the several research projects associated with that discovery. Another trip will arrive at 10,700-foot elevation on nearby Mt. Rose with discussions of plant monitoring projects and to see the first western snow survey site. Yet another will focus on active earthquake faults at Lake Tahoe and the tsunamis they have created. The last one will visit sites along the Truckee River with a stop at the Federal Watermaster's Office to discuss research and water allocation issues for the river that starts in the Lake Tahoe basin and ends at Pyramid Lake in Nevada.
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Photo Cutline: University of Nevada, Reno researchers, visiting scholars and the Long Now Foundation tour the Snake Range Subalpine climate/environmental monitoring site in the Bristlecone Pine forest at 11,000-foot elevation in eastern Nevada. Photo courtesy University of Nevada, Reno.
Founded in 1874 as Nevada's land-grant university, the University of Nevada, Reno ranks in the top tier of best national universities. With nearly 19,000 students, the University is driven to contribute a culture of student success, world-improving research and outreach that enhances communities and business. Part of the Nevada System of Higher Education, the University has the system's largest research program and is home to the state's medical school. With outreach and education programs in all Nevada counties and home to one of the largest study-abroad consortiums, the University extends across the state and around the world. For more information, visit www.unr.edu.