Undergraduate students organise research expedition to Kyrgyzstan

  • A team of five students undertook an expedition to research glaciers near Bishkek
  • Three of the students are part of the Department of Geography
  • A film has been produced documenting their journey - you can watch it now

Ala Archa National Park

The University of Sheffield has produced a film documenting an expedition organised by two Geography BSc undergraduates. Last year, two third year physical geographers undertook an expedition to Kyrgyzstan to conduct research for their dissertations. Sam Gillan and Alex Hyde headed out to Bishkek, from where they trekked up to part of the Tien Shan Mountain Range to research the nature of the changing climate in the region.

“Central Asia is one of the most threatened regions in the world to climate change, seeing some of the fastest rates of global glacial retreat,” said Sam. “There is currently a real focus on developing understandings of how climate change is affecting glaciers there, and we wanted to contribute to this developing field of research.”

Sam and Alex both used different approaches and techniques to detect the effects of climate change on the region. Alex looked at how the glacial melt of the region differed in various locations, while Sam used advanced drone technology to build up a composite map of the region's glaciers. These high resolution images can help interpret the way in which climate change is affecting the region.

The two BSc Geography students had to pull together a team who would assist them with their research, and ensure that everything ran smoothly when they were in the mountains. Second year Environmental Science student Louise Reddy was part of their five man team, helping to make the expedition as sustainable as possible.

As well as assembling a team, Alex and Sam had to raise funds for the expedition. They managed to gain essential climbing and camping equipment from corporate sponsors, as well as grants from the Everest Foundation and the Royal Geographic Society. The Department of Geography also contributed to the cost of the expedition, as did the University’s Alumni Foundation.

The group also contacted the American University of Central Asia, which is based in Bishkek. The University assisted Sam and Alex in their planning, while in return students from the university were invited up to the expedition’s basecamp during the group’s last week in Kyrgyzstan. Sam and Alex taught the students about their research methods and findings, as well as sharing their experiences with them.

The pair believe that the expedition has been an invaluable experience. “The chance to lead an expedition has definitely given me the confidence to take on new challenges,” Alex said. “Not least am I more keen than ever to travel and challenge myself through expeditions of this style, but I feel like this project has also opened up a lot of doors and opportunities for work as well as study that I hadn't before appreciated.”

Watch the video below and find out more about their incredible experience.