The past week has been entirely devoted to directed research. The complement of 22 students in the program were broken up into six different groups whose research groups included both physical and social science topics. Some of the most interesting projects, in my opinion, were: biodiversity in local forests, the growing cordycep (an extremely valuable Himalayan fungi) market, conservation around religious sites and, my own research project, the effects of forestry management practices on local forest stands.
Being that the entire summer semester program is six weeks long, the directed research component is extremely compact. The first day of the project was spent writing a six-page research proposal with my three other colleagues. The next four days of the project were used to collect data at nearby Kikila Pass, a local conifer forest at the top of a mountain. This field research included coring trees and collecting data on the regeneration of specific pine species in a managed forest stand. The field research experience is a new type of learning that I’ve never been exposed to before, and it was something that I really enjoyed. I got to work closely with authors in the field who had written the research that I’d used in my proposal which provided me with an incredible wealth of information to tap into.
After four days of data collection and in-depth data analysis, the hardest part of the research was upon me. The requirement for our research paper was 16-pages (single-spaced) written in the span of around 36 hours. In addition, we had to develop a presentation and a poster for a symposium. Needless to say, there was relatively little sleep the past several days, but the research materials somehow got finished! After giving the presentation to our classmates, I was selected with another member of my group to give the presentation again to the government staff the following day.
Anyone who knows me somewhat well knows that presentations aren’t exactly my favorite thing in the world, but after another jam-packed 24 hours of work, I was ready to present the research in front of a crowd of 50 people in our symposium. I was the very first student to speak in the first presentation of the day, but I can say that the presentation went very well and that I also looked rather official in my all-black gho that I had to wear for the occasion.
After all the stress of the research, the program directors decided that we were due for a bit of break. That break came in the form of an eight-mile hike to the top of the ridge above campus. Luckily, I enjoy rigorous hikes, but I can’t say the same for all my peers. It was a tough hike, too, but the payoff at the end was incredible. From the top, I was surrounded by prayer flags, whipping winds and around 40-degree temperatures (Yes, in summer! We were at about 12,000 feet). I could see the valley we have been staying in, Bumthang, as well as the neighboring valley of Chumae, which culminated in being one of my favorite experiences of this entire study abroad so far.
So, now it’s time to move again. I’m all packed up and tomorrow we head off to one of Bhutan’s larger cities, Paro. We’ll be finishing up our studies there and visiting the world-famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery before heading back for the states on the 15th. It’s hard to believe it’s that time already.