From October 1-10 I went to two conferences. The first was the 8th annual Conference on Russian Far East Zapovedniks (nature reserves), held outside of Blagoveschensk in the Amur Region. Presentations aside, the best thing about this conference was that I got another chance to see some of the wonderful people I've met while visiting some zapovedniks in the Far East. It definitely made the 34-hour train ride worth it -- and I say that even considering that the guys in my car spilled beer all over me about halfway through the trip. (Although they tried to make up for it by asking me to marry them, that didn't save my jeans.) This first picture is me after the conference with a number of reserve scientists, from Khingansky Zapovednik (Irina, Tatyana, Marina, Alyosha and Slava), and on the end is Misha from Sikhote-Alin Zapovednik.
The conference was held at a little Soviet-era resort, Mukhinka, and there was a little lake and beautiful forest all around. The fall colors there were just amazing, and walking in the woods here was really delightful. The river in the background of the second picture below is the Zeya, a large tributary of the Amur.
During this conference I also made my first (in Russia or the U.S.) TV appearance! The local news service came out to the conference one day, and since I was the token foreigner, of course they had to interview me. Unfortunately I didn't get a copy of the recording, which is too bad, as I actually have the ability to sound rather intelligent in Russian these days. However, here are pictures of me with the cameraman, and a very blurry picture of me on "Vesti" (the news) on TV, with my name up there and everything (click on picture to enlarge).
Oh, and the Amur Region is also famous for dinosaurs! In the area near the capital, Blagoveschensk, in the 20th century scientists discovered 10 new species of dinosaurs (6 plant-eaters and 4 carnivores). Below is me with a duck-billed plant-eater, Olorotitan arharensis, who lived in the area more than 65 million years ago, but just got dug up and put together in the last 8 years.
The second conference, Sosnovka, was outside of Khabarovsk, about halfway between the first conference and Vladivostok. Every year this conference brings together a number of Russian environmental NGOs, from Moscow to Kamchatka, and I got to see some old friends, meet some new people I'd been long hoping to meet, and even meet some people whose names I'd seen on articles before, but who I never expected to meet in person! It was a really cool experience to get to go and hear discussed a number of issues facing the environmental community, from oil and gas to forestry regulations to mining and hydropower. (Obviously an extractive industries theme running through Russia's development plans, unfortunately.) Sadly I did a very poor photography job at Sosnovka, and the best part was the guitar playing and singing anyway, which you need video for.
This sign reminds vacationers at the Mukhinka resort to "take care of nature!"