Thursday, March 15, 2007

People Profiles: Anatoly Nikolaevich Kachur

Today (Thursday March 15) I got to go over to the Pacific Institute of Geography (TIG) to have a one-on-one consultation with Anatoly Kachur, the institute’s deputy director (=#2 in charge). He rocks!

I got to meet Kachur because I take a class (“Nature Protection and Regional Environmental Issues”) with him at the Environment Institute of Far Eastern State University. (It is common for universities to attract scientists from their city’s scientific institutes to read a lecture for a semester every now and then.) Kachur’s lectures are all inevitably on topics of great interest to me, from resource use to ecological monitoring, and are quite good (although he talks so fast that many of the Russian students simply give up on taking notes); plus it is immediately obvious that Anatoly has a ton of experience and a wealth of knowledge. He has traveled in the United States and Asia, and he participates in a number of international projects (e.g., the constantly-stalled project to create a transboundary Russian-American national park in the Bering Strait, creating a Russian-Chinese-Korean reserve in the basin of the Tumannaya River, etc.). Kachur not only occupies one of the highest posts at TIG, but he is also the Russian director of a regional United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) project that brings together Japan, South Korea, China and Russia to study the Sea of Japan and Yellow Sea. A big achievement of the project (now 10 years old) thus far has just been to get everyone speaking the same language, so that they can effectively exchange information about the environmental state of these seas – it’s not an easy task.

Kachur invited me to TIG to consult with him about reading and sources for my research, particularly related the history of resource use and development of the Far East. (Fun trivia fact: he recommended reading 2 books by Prozhivatsky, one of the first Russian explorers out here and rumored to be Stalin’s father!) He also gave me a number of loans from his own personal library, most regarding long-term nature conservation programs developed for the Primorsky Region (Vladivostok is the capital of this region) and international cooperation in protecting natural areas (transboundary protected areas, etc.). He had a number of very relevant recommendations (some of the best “scientific” proposals I’ve received so far) for me about things to do and people to meet, and I am very lucky that he was willing to put aside the time to chat with me and share his experience. (He’s a very busy person – 4 or 5 of his subordinates must have come in for signatures during the course of our hour-long conversation.) Plus he talks just as fast in person as in class, so we got to cover a lot of topics! (from real questions of environmental conservation to aspects of the Japanese work and social system). The coolest thing about Kachur is that he, like many ecologists, is really doing this because he cares – and you can see it right away – despite his rank and experience, it’s impossible not to see his enthusiasm, as well as his genuine interest in and commitment to his work and to learning.

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