UM Professor Awarded Fulbright to Conduct Research in Slovenia

February 12, 2016

MISSOULA – Sarah J. Halvorson, geography professor at the University of Montana, recently received a Fulbright Fellowship to conduct research on climate change perceptions and adaptation scenarios in the south-central European country of Slovenia during spring semester 2016.

Halvorson’s research concentrates on the social, health and policy aspects of water-related problems, including the implications of climate change for the governance of mountain watersheds and community water supplies. While in Slovenia, Halvorson will collaborate with other geographers and environmental social scientists to focus on two major projects: an assessment of experiences and observations of climate change risk and vulnerability among Slovenia’s mountain communities; and an analysis of the perceived effectiveness of current climate change policies and planning tools.

Dr. Irena Mrak, left, and UM Professor Sarah Halvorson tour a gorge in the southeastern Alps while visiting a citizen science site to plan an event there later this year.Her primary research collaborator is the Slovenian geographer and mountaineer Irena Mrak, who was a Visiting Fulbright Scholar to UM’s Department of Geography during the 2012-13 academic year. Halvorson’s institutional host in the capital city of Ljubljana is the Geološki Zavod Slovenije, known as the Geological Survey of Slovenia (GeoZS).

“I am truly grateful that Dr. Mrak identified UM’s Department of Geography as her host during her Fulbright Visiting Scholar fellowship a few years ago,” Halvorson said. “It was from our interactions in the halls and classrooms of Stone Hall as well as in the field that our research collaboration developed.”

“GeoZS is a terrific place to study climate change impacts on mountainous places,” she said. “It is one of the leading research institutes in Slovenia working in the fields of hydrology, geohazards and long-term environmental change. In addition, my local hosts and collaborators, Drs. Mrak and Matevž Novak, have each made important contributions to the fields of mountain geography, adaptation scenarios, and environmental risks and hazards.”

While serving as a Fulbright Fellow, Halvorson also will deliver guest lectures in environmental geography courses at the Univerza v Ljubljani (University of Ljubljana) and the Visoka Šola za Varstvo Okalja (College of Environmental Protection), her second institutional host, which is located in Velenje. During her stay, she plans to contribute to field courses and work on geography education outreach activities in collaboration with Slovenian colleagues.

Climate change-related impacts on mountain watersheds are of international concern. In the case of the European Alps, model calculations and measurements indicate that the warmest temperatures recorded in over 500 years have occurred in the past 20 years. The World Glacier Monitoring Service and others estimate that the total glaciated area within the Alps has decreased approximately 25 to 100 percent in the 20th century, in a similar manner to patterns observed worldwide. The downstream effects of shifts in snowmelt, precipitation and glaciation in Slovenia have local and regional implications for food production, energy development, tourism, water sharing and regional water security.

In 1997-98 Halvorson received a Fulbright Doctoral Dissertation award to conduct fieldwork in the Karakoram Range, Northern Pakistan. She was one of the initial co-authors of UM’s successful undergraduate minor in mountain studies and continues to serve as program co-director with UM colleague Ulrich Kamp. Halvorson is active in the field of geography education through her role as the coordinator of the Montana Geographic Alliance. As part of this work, she recently secured funding from the National Geographic Education Foundation to support a citizen science BioBlitz event in partnership with Glacier National Park.

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Contact: Sarah Halvorson, UM geography professor, 406-243-2793, sarah.halvorson@mso.umt.edu.