WWU Creates New Mountain Environments Research Institute

Monday, March 27, 2017

Western Washington University has created a new research center, the Mountain Environments Research Institute (MERI) and named Environmental Sciences Department research faculty member John All as its founding director.

The mission of MERI is to develop an inclusive and collaborative research, conservation, and education community through local and international field-based programming to facilitate innovative scientific research, improve life for mountain peoples, foster effective mountain stewardship, and to create the next generation of skilled mountain researchers.

“We’re going to take Western students into alpine research environments across Washington and the world,” said All. “Mountain environments are changing quickly as the global climate warms. Fragile indicator environments like the world’s mountain environments are among the first to be impacted by climate change.”

Courses offered through MERI in the upcoming academic quarter will include Introduction to Mountain Research and Mountain Permaculture Science, which will examine long-term, small-scale sustainable production and ecosystem health in the mountains. This summer, MERI will host a study abroad program in the Andes in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca mountains, featuring five weeks of backpacking and research.

MERI has also begun laying the groundwork for a Mountain Research Skills Certificate Program. After multiple surveys revealed a strong interest among students in mountain research courses, MERI faculty are creating this certificate to provide the skills to conduct research in mountain environments as well as foster stewardship within the region’s communities.

Besides All, faculty in MERI come from a wide variety of disciplines across the WWU campus, including the departments of Anthropology, Biology, Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, Geology, Recreation, and Western’s Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies. Their research interests and areas of expertise cover everything from how black carbon molecules and snow algae are helping melt glaciers in the Andes to how land use is impacting climate change in the Himalaya.

“The faculty who are part of the MERI experience at Western are just incredible,” All said. “They are going to be able to offer students such a wealth of expertise and opportunities to work in cutting-edge research around the globe.”

All’s research primarily takes place in Nepal and Peru, but he has led expeditions on five continents to extreme locations – from deep caves within tropical rainforest to the summits of iconic peaks such as Everest and Denali. All is a lifetime fellow of the Explorers Club in New York City, a Fulbright Senior Scholar, and the executive director of the American Climber Science Program. His new book, “Icefall: Adventures at the Wild Edge of Our Dangerous, Changing Planet,” was just published by Public Affairs Press. All began teaching at Western last fall; he received his doctorate from the University of Arizona and also has a law degree from the University of Georgia.

All was thrust into the public spotlight when in 2014, as part of an expedition to Everest, he narrowly avoided an avalanche that killed 16 climbers and Sherpas, but shortly afterwards fell into a 70-foot crevasse, breaking 15 bones barely managing to climb back out and escape.

For more information about All’s research or Western’s new Mountain Environments Research Institute, contact John All at (360) 650-7630 or john.all@wwu.edu.