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11:15 AM  September 2, 2019

From mountains to migration: how TSU window for Siberia study works

© предоставлено пресс-службой ТГУFrom mountains to migration: how TSU window for Siberia study works

TOMSK, Sep 2 – RIA Tomsk, Elena Taylasheva. Tomsk State University(TSU) master programs, connected with Siberia study, were among the most popular this year. Eurasian Integration program was expected to receive three times more bachelors than there were places. Why our region is interesting to whole world and how "Vasyugan diplomacy" works, director of Siberian Institute of the Future Ludmila Borilo told.

– The Siberian Institute of the Future has four master programs: Eurasian Integration, which, according to the report of the admissions commission, became one of the most popular master degrees of the university. It is also "Migration Research," Study of Siberia and the Arctic "and" Siberia: Resources and Modern Practices of Development of the Region". Why did one unit combine such different directions?

© РИА Томск. Павел Стефанский
Director of the Siberian Institute of the Future Ludmila Borilo
– The mission of the Tomsk State University from the very beginning was to study Siberia. And this is not just the environment, nature, minerals. These are primarily people, the story of their life and development.

Therefore, when four years ago we created the center "Trans-Siberian Scientific Way," and then the Siberian Institute of the Future on its basis, we laid the foundation for interdisciplinarity. We have become a "single window" around Siberia to study it from different aspects, from climate to migration, from economic potential to new materials for the Arctic. The Territory requires an integrated approach.

– What scientific schools became the basis of the institute?

– I counted about 30 schools on study of Siberia which existed since the inception of our university. the School of Archaeology is one of the oldest and most respected in the scientific world: archaeological research in the Tomsk Province was carried out by the founder of the University Vasyl Florinsky.

© предоставлено Степаном Иванцовым
Some schools have been transformed by the present time, some have ceased to exist, and some have been revived, such as the school of glaciology, which originated from the famous researchers of the Tronovs brothers and Basil Sapozhnikov. Unfortunately, there was a period when this direction did not develop. But now the young guys have come and it 's come to life.

– Why did the school almost die?

– I considered the last student of Mikhail Tronov in Tomsk to be the recently departed professor Rudoy, he carried out magnificent research, but didn’t leave the pupils. Also after the death of the former head of the high-mountain station "Aktru" in Altai Yuri Narozhny, the archives were partially lost.

For several years it was necessary to restore previous contacts, for example, with the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and this year our station was visited by its director Olga Solomina. Or with the World Glacier Surveillance Service. By the way, its chairman Mike Zemp agreed to come to us next year.

Foreigners understand – our station "Aktru" is unique. For example, Terry Callaghan (Professor of Arctic Ecology at the University of Sheffield (UK), Professor of Botany at the TSU, Nobel Laureate, as well as Scientific Head of САЕ TSSW and the International SecNET Network) always emphasizes that the data that we have are not available in Europe and America, as continuous observations have been carried out here since the 1930s.

© предоставила пресс-служба Томского госуниверситета
Glacier Aktru with a difference of 54 years.

– Yes, many foreigners always come to "Aktru" for summer schools...

– Not only in "Aktru" – all year round we carry out joint research. The territory of Siberia is huge and affects the whole world – so much so that all scientists who deal with climate or processes related to biodiversity, cannot build forecast models without data about Siberia.

Therefore, interest is huge, 3-4 groups of foreigners come to us annually only on the international program of research and monitoring in the Arctic INTERACT.

Terry Callaghan, who is the scientific director of INTERACT, often uses the term "scientific diplomacy": scientists, despite the political differences of countries, continue to work together for new knowledge.

Sergei Kirpotin (Director of the Center of Excellence "BioClimLand" of TSU) has another term – "Vasyugan diplomacy": when we take groups of foreigners to the Vasyugan swamp, they see at what level we work, what quality of research we carry out, how we make a lot of efforts to make our guests comfortable. We show them Russia intellectual, motivated, technological and friendly.

– Do joint researches help to understand what happens to climate?

– The same Sergey Kirpotin likes to use the expression "climate is hysterical," and it is true: it is almost impossible to predict exactly what will happen to the climate in the near future, except that the number of extreme events will increase.

But still, based on research, we can make forecasts on fish, wild plants, ticks, at least for the coming months. And it is very demanded: we work hard with farmers, small businesses.

© предоставила пресс-служба Томского госуниверситета
A year ago Ludmila Borilo climbed to the highestpoint of Siberia – Belukha(4506 m). "Space images and maps provide a very approximate picture of the state of nature. Field observations are the most reliable source of information. You have to know the territory you study," – she says about motivation
Along with old schools, the institute has completely new directions, for example, studying the quality of life of human. It has been developing for the last three years, it is interdisciplinary projects in which ecologists, psychologists, economists, sociologists work. Now we are implementing a large grant together with the laboratory of the Higher School of Economics.

– It seems, quality of life is rather concrete, measurable concept, which directly depends on level of economy. What new can you discover here?

– Don't say! There are subjective and objective factors for studying the quality of life.

Objective factors, indeed, are based on calculations, now our scientists are calculating the Urban Prosperity Index for Tomsk within the framework of the UN City Prosperity Initiative, it will be based on statistics on productivity, infrastructure, quality of life, equality and social inclusion, environmental sustainability, city management and legislation.

But there are also subjective factors to assess the quality of life. They often do not depend on material security at all. The well-known concept of "Danish happiness" is an example. By exploring these factors, we want to find tools that would help a person realize himself or herself as happy without much cost.

World-class scientists, such as Kennon Sheldon, a professor at the University of Missouri, a psychologist who is one of the top 10 most quoted in the world in his specialty also works with us. Last summer we also took him to "Aktur" where we held a seminar "Quality of life in the context of global transformation of mankind."

In an interview after the seminar, he said that one of his goals was to connect Russian and American schools and organize new research.

© предоставила пресс-служба Томского госуниверситета
Kennon Sheldon with his wife, Professor Melanie Sheldon in "Aktru".

– What other topics in Siberia are Europeans and Americans interested in?

– Probably the most popular topic is migration research, including "climate refugees." Everyone is concerned about this process in the world, and in Europe and America there are programmes for potential relocation for 2020-2050 in case of environmental disasters in their territory (for example, flooding of England).

Siberia is a promising area for resettlement because: a) here is the largest fresh water reserves; B) a lot of farmland with which it is possible to provide yourself with food and c) here is a sustainable tectonic platform.

– Oh, now people will begin to say that you sell Siberia to foreigners...

– One important thing must be understood. We are not a travel firm for foreign scientists, which simply organizes them research in the Siberian region. All results are joint intellectual property, if an article is published, it is either joint or with an affiliate with the TSU. Modern science cannot be done alone, cooperation benefits everyone, and our territory becomes more studied.

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