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Haub School Student, Catherine Winnop, Travels Abroad to Chamonix, France

October 1, 2019

Students abroad in Chamonix, France

Chamonix, France, is a place that I fell in love with over the span of three short weeks. During the summer of 2018 I had the opportunity to study abroad in Chamonix, France with the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources through the University of Wyoming. To say that I was excited would have been an understatement. The landscape of Chamonix is truly mesmerizing. The stark dichotomy between the town and the mountains high above was astounding. Never in my life had I felt so small. People always talk about how vast the Alps are, but coming from Wyoming where I’ve been surrounded by mountains my whole life I thought I knew what to expect; I was shocked when I stepped off the bus and looked up. They weren’t lying. The glacier carved landscape looked like something I had only dreamed of. The pinks and purples of the summer flowers practically glowed against the snow capped mountains. Hang gliders and parachutes filled the sky. Chamonix was not the sleepy little town I had imagined but was a vibrant, bustling mountain resort filled with tourists, mountaineers, bikers, climbers, and working people. Although you could walk across the town in a little less than an hour, there were so many things to be seen and discovered. I could’ve spent hours tasting cheese and drinking wine; however, we were not there to be tourists but rather investigators and researchers. We were going to be spending the next couple of weeks learning about shifting alpine environments and how climate change has shaped the Alps landscape in the past 20+ years. The main reason we were in Chamonix was because of its proximity to the Research Center for Alpine Ecosystems (CREA Mont-Blanc).

CREA has been researching natural mountain environments for over 20 years. By combining ecological research with communication and outreach initiatives, CREA has become a leader in “citizen science,” stressing the importance of public involvement in scientific research. CREA does a wide range of ecological research across the region, and during our stay we had the privilege of helping them perform this research. We did everything from looking at morphological characteristics of tadpoles, observing alpine bees, collecting soil samples, sampling pink algae on snow, and tagging and researching the Alpine Chough, a bird the director of CREA has dedicated her life to researching.

Students Abroad in Chamonix, France

In order to reach research sites we had the opportunity to stay in two alpine mountain huts, hike across the Mer de Glace glacier, scale ladders on a rock face, walk across talus fields, and much more.

Before going on this trip, I had only talked about climate change and the effects it was having on the environment in my classes. Through my experience in Chamonix it helped me to finally visualize how climate change is influencing and affecting our environment. I have also become more interested in ecological dynamics and the shifts they experience not only from human actions but also from climate processes. This was a once in a lifetime trip and I am forever grateful for the Haub School for providing me with this opportunity and look forward to finding my way back to Chamonix in the future.

Story from Haub School student Catherine Winnop. Pictured: Catherine Winnop.

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Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources

Bim Kendall House

804 E Fremont St

Laramie, WY 82072

Phone: (307) 766-5080

Fax: (307) 766-5099

Email: haub.school@uwyo.edu

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