The University of Montana's Climate Change Studies program will take part in the first ever "Bhutan Ride for Climate" this summer to study the effects of climate change firsthand in that country.

Nicky Phear, instructor and program director of the University of Montana's Climate Change Studies program, and UM student Mara Menahan will begin their 300-kilometer ride across the small Himalayan country July 2. They will be joined by seven other American students and trip leaders, as well as 14 Bhutanese students and leaders.

"We'll be coming back with more global awareness of how climate change is a global issue as far as our impact, and the effects felt by other parts of the world," she said.

Those effects in Bhutan, Phear said, will include the threat of added water to high-elevation lakes as a result of melting glaciers in the country. The excess water poses a risk of blowing out dams and flooding surrounding villages.

Phear previously led students in the Climate Change Studies program on a bike tour across Montana to study the effects of climate change. That tour included stops in Glacier National Park to study receding glaciers.

"We don't have the same degree of risk (as Bhutan), but there's still definitely a correlation," she said.

Planning for the Bhutan Ride for Climate began more than a year ago, when Phear met the president of the Bhutan Foundation in Washington, D.C. When he heard she led a bike tour across Montana, he suggested she lead one across Bhutan and attend a regional climate change summit in Thimpu on July 15.

The ride will end at the summit, where students will offer recommendations to political leaders based on their experience in Bhutan.

"This year, the big purpose of the trip is to prepare students to have a voice in the climate change summit," Phear said, but she also plans to make a trip to Bhutan a part of the program every year.

"Whether it's a variation of this trip or the same, we plan for it to be an annual event of some sort."

The Bhutan Ride for Climate and future trips will support an already strong bond between Bhutan and the University of Montana, Phear said. That bond developed through faculty at UM teaching and researching in the country and Bhutanese educators doing the same in Montana.

"The Bhutanese seem to be drawn to Montana and vice-versa," she said. "It feels like there's a lot of goodwill between Bhutan and the university."

You can follow Phear and Menahan's travels through the country by visiting www.bhutanrideforclimate.org or www.facebook.com/pages/Bhutan-Ride-for-Climate/ 202085863144858.

Intern reporter Victoria Edwards can be reached at (406) 523-5251 or at victoria.edwards@missoulian.com.

 

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