From the START Secretariat

START participates in the 20th anniversary of LCLUC

NASA’s Land-Cover and Land-Use Change (LCLUC) Program Spring Science Team Meeting took place during 18-19 April 2016 in North Bethesda, MD. The meeting marked the 20th anniversary of the program and the LCLUC community took time to reflect on projects and experiences from the past two decades and to chart future directions to advance LCLUC research.

START is a partner in the LCLUC effort and was represented by Hassan Virji and Senay Habtezion in the meeting. Hassan made a presentation (see photo above) on “Reflections on Capacity Building under GOFC-GOLD”. In addition, the South Central and Eastern European Regional Information Network (SCERIN), a GOFC-GOLD Regional Network supported by START, also presented a poster highlighting knowledge sharing and capacity building work in the network.  



Engaging Japanese Universities in GEC studies

In March 2016, Hassan Virji (Executive Director of the START Secretariat) traveled to Hiroshima University to participate in meeting of the Advisory Committee for the University Graduate School’s TAOYAKA Program, a multi-year effort funded by the Japanese government (MEXT). START is an international partner in this innovative program aimed at fostering global leaders who can contribute to multicultural coexistence by deep involvement and understanding of regional societies-cultures in developing countries.  The focus is on engaging an international cohort of graduate students across many faculties of the university to conduct participatory research to develop and implement social and technological solutions for vulnerable poor communities in South Asian prone to environmental and natural disaster risks. START arranged a visit by the Future Earth Executive Director to the TAOYAKA program and facilitated engagement of Hiroshima University as a full partner in the Japan universities consortium involved in Future Earth. START also assisted in development of collaboration between the TAOYAKA Program and the Delft Technical University’s Global Initiative.


START participates in the 2016 AfriGEOSS Symposium

Senay Habtezion represented START in the 2016 AfriGEOSS Symposium, held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, 27-29 April 2016. The AfriGEOSS initiative, developed within the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) framework, aims to strengthen the link between the current GEO activities with existing capabilities and initiatives in Africa. The 2016 Symposium aims to gain collective understanding of the role of Earth Observations in the implementation of African policies for sustainable development and to identify means and ways for mainstreaming Earth Observations in the decision-making processes in the continent. Senay presented on the START’s capacity building activities under the Global Observations of Forest and Land Cover Dynamics (GOFC-GOLD) program and the program’s current and potential contribution to the regional effort on Sustainable Forest Management. 




START Board of Directors Charts a Course for the next 25 Years

START convened its annual Board of Directors meeting on 31 March - 1 April 2016.  In addition to their usual duties of setting START's programmatic and administrative trajectory, the Board also selected a new Executive Director for the International START Secretariat when Hassan Virji retires later this year. A public announcement of the incoming Director will be made shortly; stay tuned!  The Board also began preparations for START's "silver jubilee" 25th anniversary that will occur in 2017.  We have lots of fun activities planned and hope you'll join us in the celebrations to come.

Photos: ABOVE - Board Members Joachim von Braun and Remi Quirion. BELOW - Board Chair Khotso Mokhele and  Executive Director Hassan Virji.



From START Regions

Coastal Cities at Risk Scientists win Ateneo de Manila University Recognition

Members of the Coastal Cities at Risk (CCaR) Manila team were recently acknowledged for their outstanding contributions to the University's body of research. Justin See, a CCaR MA Sociology and Anthropology Scholar working with Emma Porio in the Social Sector Team, was recognized for his outstanding dissertation. Justin's master's thesis,entitled,"Assessing Social Vulnerability to Flooding in Metro Manila using Principal Component Analysis" was awarded the Most Outstanding M.A. Thesis Award at the 4th School of Social Sciences Graduate Research Colloquium held on 15 April 2016. Kendra Gotangco and several members of the Social, Physical and Organizational Sector Teams were given the Loyola Schools Publication Award by the Publications Review Committee of the Ateneo de Manila University. The publication, entitled, "Quantifying Resilience to Flooding among Households and Local Government Units using System dynamics: A Case Study in Metro Manila" was featured in the Journal of Flood Risk Management with vital support from Dr. Slobodan Simonovic.



New Masters Program on Urban Governance

Our colleagues in Taiwan at the South Asia Regional Centre for START (SARCS) have an International Program on Urban Governance (IPUG) at National Taipei University.  Read more about IPUG here.



Program Highlight: Global Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts, and Adaptation (PROVIA)

START is leading UNEP's Global Program of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation (PROVIA) Young Research Fellows Programme. Over the past three months, START has worked closely with the four PROVIA Fellows from Nepal, Malawi, and Kenya to arrange their fellowship residencies at host institutions and to provide feedback on their PROVIA research proposals.

PROVIA fellow, Jeeban Panthi (second from left), visited Wuseng Wastewater Treatment Plant in Shanghai, China at his host institution.

Prior to traveling to their host institution, fellows drafted proposals for their PROVIA Fellowship research projects. Proposals focused on agricultural and community-based adaptation, as well as the impacts of climate change on water quality and quantity in river basins. The fellows spent one month each at their host institutions in Bangladesh, Ghana, and China, where they worked with mentors to revise and strengthen their research designs. During their stays, fellows also contributed to host institution research, presented seminars, met with stakeholders affiliated with host institution research, and visited field research sites. Upon return to their home institutions, fellows submitted revised research proposals, taking into account what they learned at their host institutions.

PROVIA fellow, Timanyechi Munthali (middle), conducted her field work in Ghana.

The next milestone for PROVIA Fellows will be attending the 2016 Adaptation Futures conference in Rotterdam, May 10-13. The fellows will have the opportunity to meet with UNEP officials and accomplished researchers in their fields. START is also designing and facilitating a two-day follow-on workshop for the fellows, May 14-15, to help fellows finalize their research designs and conceptualize non-standard outputs. The workshop will emphasize:

  • When and how to engage stakeholders throughout the research process,

  •  How strategies may be incorporated into research plans to bring about changes in policy and practice,

  • How to engage with stakeholders after research is completed, and

  •  What types of creative outputs may be produced (aside from an academic paper or a policy brief).

Each fellow will receive a seed grant to continue work on their research project after Adaptation Futures. Both START and host institution mentors will support the fellows to carry out their research, all of whom will engage in primary data collection and field work, with final outputs expected by September 2016.

Alumni Spotlight: Edwin Abucay

In October 2013, I was one of the lucky 42 young scientists given by START and IRDR International Center of Excellence an opportunity to participate in START's Young Scientists’ Conference on Integrated Research on Disaster Risk, Future Earth & Sustainability. It was a very engaging and fulfilling conference experience with participants from other countries. I presented a paper from my Master of Science (MS) in Environmental Science research on modeling rainfall-induced landslides, which received best oral presentation award. The entire duration of the conference served as a venue for participants to share and present their work, establish network and hopefully in the future create collaborative, multi- and interdisciplinary research in addressing disaster risk in Southeast Asia.

Parallel with my stay in Taiwan for the conference, I was also in the process of preparing a research proposal on flood hazard mapping for funding of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in the Philippines. The conference somehow gave me broader perspective on what other young scientist have been during to address disaster risk. As of this writing, the research project where I serve as the project leader is now on its 3rd and last year of implementation.

The XXIst International Conference of the Society for Human Ecology with the theme "Shaping a Livable Future: Research – Education – Policy" was held in Santa Ana, California, USA on 12-15 April 2016. Sponsored by START, I attended along with over 100 participants from various countries.  Keynote presentations by prominent individuals, scientists and advocates provided very interesting and motivating topics from risk and vulnerability, urban farming, regenerative economy, sustainability, re-inhabitation and climate justice.

I presented a paper from our DOST funded project on flood hazard mapping using LiDAR technology. It is interesting to note that many countries are already using LiDAR in many applications. In the Philippines although fairly new, it has proven to be a very effective tool in reducing risk and loss of lives through provision of early warning hours before the anticipated flooding event. The conference also provided a venue to exchange ideas, initiatives and networking between and among participants from educators, researchers and practitioners utilizing interdisciplinary and ecological approaches.

The next conference in 2017 will be held in the Philippines bringing greater heights for the College of Human Ecology, University of the Philippines Los Banos to serve as host of the XXIInd International Conference Society for Human Ecology.

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