Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ecologist's Quest to Help Remote Tundra Dwellers

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ecologist's Quest to Help Remote Tundra Dwellers

Article excerpt


THREE times in the last four years North East scientist Chris Madine has journeyed to a remote part of the world which is almost the size of India but has only a million people. Chris, who lives in Prudhoe in Northumberland, has travelled to the Republic of Sakha-Yakutia, which is part of the Russian Federation.

Around 40% of the area is in the Arctic circle and Chris stays with the indigenous Turvaurgin Chukchi community, nomadic reindeer herders and fishermen with their headquarters in the village of Kolymskaya.

He flies to Moscow, then takes a sixhour flight to the republic's capital of Yakutsk, then another plane to the former Soviet port of Cherskii.

From there it is a 200km ice road drive to the village, and another 100km journey into the tundra and the reindeer herds.

His trips are in connection with a pilot project to provide solar panels for the Chukchi community, to provide power for their wooden fishing stations and tents.

The project involves the Finnish Snowchange organisation, which works with Arctic peoples and the UK's Arkleton Trust.

Chris says of the herders: "They are a remarkable and wonderful people, so warm and giving. They feed me and clothe me from head to foot in reindeer skin clothing."

Back home, ecologist Chris has taken on a new part-time role leading the North East's participation in the UKwide roll out of the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) project.

Newcastle University is leading the programme in the region, which is encouraging communities, groups and individuals to take part in environmental surveys.

Chris, 37, who grew up in Ryton as part of a mining family, gained a first class degree in ecology at Newcastle University after enrolling as a mature student.

His previous jobs had included forestry harvesting at Kielder, and working in the A&P shipyard at Hebburn and the AMEC module yard in North Tyneside.

Under the OPAL project, led by Imperial College in London, people of all ages can contribute to scientific research in their local are. It has been running in England but is now going UK-wide thanks to a PS3m grant from the Big Lottery Fund. …

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