CSU Professor Joel Berger heading to Everest base camp for world’s highest climate conference

Joel Berger

Joel Berger, the Barbara Cox Anthony University Chair in Wildlife Conservation, is heading to Nepal’s Mount Everest base camp to take part in the “World’s Highest Climate Summit.” Photo by John Eisele/CSU Photography

Colorado State University Professor Joel Berger has traveled around the globe studying species in the Arctic, Bhutan, Mongolia and Namibia. Now, the renowned wildlife conservation biologist is heading near the world’s highest point.

Berger — the Barbara Cox Anthony University Chair in Wildlife Conservation at Colorado State University’s Warner College of Natural Resources — is traveling to Nepal’s Mount Everest base camp for the Global Warming International Seminar, billed as the “World’s Highest Climate Summit.”

Scheduled for May 29, the date holds significance as it marks the 69th anniversary of when Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first people to summit Everest. This year also marks the 75th anniversary of U.S.-Nepal diplomatic relations.

“It’s an amazing honor,” Berger said. “I’m excited. As one of only two invitees representing not only Colorado but the United States, I’m honored.”

He will be joined by University of Colorado Boulder professor Joanna E. Lambert as the sole Americans invited to the conference. Lambert’s career has focused the evolution, ecology and conservation of wild animals. Berger said the selections are notable as both are from the highest U.S. state in mean elevation.

Berger and Lambert are leaving Colorado on May 15, flying from Denver to Los Angeles to Doha, Qatar, to Kathmandu, Nepal, and finally to Lukla Airport, considered the most dangerous airport in the world. They will then make a 30-mile trek over several days to Everest base camp at 17,598 feet.

“Joel Berger’s inclusion in this historic summit is a reflection of his dedication to wildlife and conservation throughout his life and outstanding career,” said John P. Hayes, dean of the Warner College of Natural Resources. “As one of only two Americans in attendance, we’re confident that Joel will be taking with him our vision for a more sustainable future, and we are proud to have CSU, Colorado and the U.S. represented by a passionate and visionary researcher like Joel.”

During the conference, Berger will lead a presentation on Nepal’s legacy on biodiversity, focusing on snow leopards and wild yaks. He also will touch on the American Everest expeditions as well as the loss of glaciers and the consequences of global warming on biodiversity.

“As a wildlife biologist, I look through the eyes of animals and what it is we might need to do to do better for them,” said Berger, who joined CSU in 2015.

In his career, Berger has established himself as one of the world’s preeminent field biologists.

Berger has experience traveling in mountainous regions of the world, something he said will help on his 30-mile trek to Mount Everest base camp.

He worked in Namibia on issues concerning whether the dehorning of African rhinos made sound sense from a conservation standpoint. He also has engaged in extensive research in the Arctic on muskoxen, a key species in understanding how climate change will impact wildlife populations throughout the world. This has involved Berger wearing a polar bear costume to understand how muskoxen are reacting to the marine predator expanding its hunting territory beyond the melting polar ice.

As a child, Berger said he was more attracted to the Antarctic expeditions of Ernest Shackleton than the feats of Hillary and Norgay. However, he said it was in graduate school that he discovered the importance of biodiversity in the mountainous regions of Central Asia.

As Berger prepares for his trip, he said he has plans to explore the area around base camp and would be lucky to hike above 19,000 feet, which would be 2,000 feet higher than his previous expedition to South America. When he returns in June, he said he wants to take his experiences from the conference and interactions with local people and incorporate it into the classroom at CSU.

“I feel very lucky and empowered as a university professor because I get to hand off to the next generation,” he said.

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Check back in at SOURCE in June for video and more coverage of Joel Berger’s trip to Mount Everest base camp.