Citizen Science for a Sustainable Mountain Future – MoChWo Symposium Review

As we approach the end of the year, we are looking forward and vision-casting for 2019. However, oftentimes we plan for the future and look ahead by first looking backwards at experiences we’ve had and lessons we’ve learned. As we plan for 2019, we are also reflecting on 2018 and thinking through the experiences that have helped shape us and prepare us for what is to come in the New Year.

In light of this, we have a reflection from Smartphones4Water-Nepal (S4W-Nepal) staff on a conference held in Kathmandu this past October, which was sponsored by SmartPhones4Water. We hope you enjoy it!

The Kathmandu Institute of Applied Science organized its third conference on ‘Mountains in the Changing World’ (MoChWo) on the 9th and 10th of October 2018 at the Radisson Hotel in Kathmandu. It is an annual event that provides a forum for national/international scholars, researchers, policy makers and students to share research findings and exchange ideas and knowledge covering various aspects of mountain ecosystems. The conference covered broad range of thematic areas such as Disasters: resilience, and adaptation; Biodiversity conservation; Climate change; Environmental pollution; Forest management; Soil, water and atmospheric research; Agriculture and agro-ecology; Sustainable livelihood; and Policies for mountain resources and livelihood. These areas were covered through different symposia, technical sessions and poster presentation sessions. A group photo of MoChWo conference participants can be seen below Figure 1.

Figure 1: A Group Photograph of the MoChWo Conference Participants.

S4W-Nepal organized a symposium titled ‘Citizen Science for a Sustainable Mountain Future.’ Two of the advisors of S4W-Nepal, Dr. Ram Devi Tachamo Shah (Technical Advisor, Himalayan Biodiversity and Climate Center (HimBioCliC)) and Dr. Bhesh Raj Thapa (Researcher-Irrigation Engineer, International Water Management Institute (IWMI) – Nepal), chaired the first and second sessions, respectively. The invited speaker for the first session, Dr. Anjana Shakya (Capacity Building and Higher Education Specialist at PAANI Project and Kathmandu University Visiting Faculty, Environment Education and Sustainable Development), gave a presentation titled“Engaging youth for integrated water resource management in Nepal.” For the second session, Mendel Wong (Co-Founder, Co-Chair and Platform Director of Citizen Science Asia, Hong Kong) gave a talk titled “Building Citizen Science Asia: Community Partnerships and SDGs.” Besides these two presentations, there were 5 other oral presentations and five poster presentations covering citizen science concepts. One of the oral presentations was from some of our colleagues from TU Delft titled “Streams, sewage and shallow groundwater: water quantity and quality interaction in the Kathmandu Valley.” The symposium highlighted the importance of involving citizen scientists in the research field in order to provide researchers with access to a broader array of data, . Participants in the symposium were responsive to the new and cost effective methods of data collection presented and discussed. A photo of S4W-Nepal staff and their TU Delft colleagues taken during the symposium can be seen in Figure 2 below.

Figure 2: S4W-Nepal Team with TU Delft Colleagues at the MoChWo Conference.

S4W-Nepal provided scholarships to attend the conference to ten qualified candidates based on their research abstracts. Similarly, an award evaluation committee evaluated both the oral presentations and posters presented by students and chose the best four to receive awards. Ms. Surabhi Upadhyay, one of our S4W-Nepal staff members and co-author of this article, won the best undergraduate poster presentation award (Figure 3). Her poster presented research on the importance of involving citizen scientists in generating reliable observations of land use in the Kathmandu Valley.

Figure 3:  Ms. Surabhi Upadhyay receiving the best undergraduate poster presentation award.

Overall, the two-day conference was a wonderful platform to share ideas, research findings and projects with people from diverse environmental backgrounds from all across the world. All of us from S4W-Nepal were honored to be a part of the conference and were overwhelmed by the opportunity to share our research work that we’ve invested so much in. We look forward to opportunities in the new year to continue conversations about the importance of science in our world, and we hope to find new platforms and opportunities to share this with others. Thank you for your interest in our work!

By Surabhi Upadhyay and Amber Bahadur Thapa

We also have a similar reflection on the MoChWo conference from 2017 available here. You can learn more about SmartPhones4Water on our website or by watching a video about our work in Nepal here.

If you’d like to support our work, you can donate used phones and money. 100% of all donations will go directly to supporting ongoing work in Nepal.

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