Two women bike the Silk Road to explore wilderness conservation across border

For all of 2011, Kate Harris and Melissa Yule, both young wilderness conservationists, are riding nearly 13,000 kilometers through the shattered mountains and vast deserts that span the Silk Road between Istanbul and northern India. Along the way, they are applying their academic training in biology, earth sciences, conservation, and sustainable development to investigate the natural and social impacts of existing and proposed transboundary protected areas. The 2011 expedition’s goals are to research and raise awareness about the importance of transboundary conservation in mountains along the Silk Road, and in wildernesses beyond.

“The greatest threats our planet faces today transcend political borders, whether climate change, poverty, peace and security, water issues, or habitat and biodiversity loss,” says Harris. “These are all tightly interlinked challenges, and to tackle them we need to think beyond borders.” Cycling Silk will study these issues in the mountains and deserts of the Silk Road. Through 2011, the expedition will explore transboundary conservation initiatives straddling the Caucasus, Tian Shan, Pamir, Himalayan, and Karakoram mountains. Starting in Istanbul, Turkey, the geographic edge of Europe and the origin of the historic Silk Road, they will bike through Georgia and Azerbaijan, cross the Caspian Sea by ferry, then continue from Kazakhstan through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, and Nepal to the expedition’s final destination in northern India.

Throughout their trip, Harris and Yule will conduct research to develop case studies on cross-border conservation at six existing or proposed transboundary protected areas or "peace parks” along the mountainous route. They have planned periodic stops along their route to explore and document each transboundary protected area case study; interview scientists, conservationists, government officials, and local communities; and continually update followers via their website, www.cyclingsilk.com. The expedition is sponsored by Seven Cycles, Polartec, The WILD Foundation, OneWorld Sustainable Investments, and Wings WorldQuest, among others, and endorsed by the IUCN-WCPA.

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