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Denis Samyn

Glaciologist, Water and Air

My role at ICIMOD

I work as a Glaciologist in our River Basins and Cryosphere Regional Programme, and officiate as Cryosphere Group Lead under the Water and Air Theme. Besides contributing to the glacier and snow core cryosphere programme in the region, I am developing new research lines focusing on permafrost and its links not only with snow and climatic dynamics, but also with geohazards and risk management at the community level.

Denis Samyn

Q:

How do you protect the pulse of the planet?

A:

Beyond my work in developing new research lines related to the cryosphere, ICIMOD is giving me the space to link this research with the development and sustainability of local communities in the HKH region. Relating environmental research with the direct significance of glaciers, snow and permafrost to the millions of people living in and downstream the HKH mountains is how I seek to protect the pulse of the planet.

In these times of global change, current and projected rises in surface temperature over the HKH region are amplified compared to the global average rate of change. Even in a 1.5 °C warmer world (compared to pre-industrial times), temperature is expected to rise to 2.1 °C as a mean in the HKH. This could lead glaciers to loose about one-third of their volume by the end of the 21st century, and to a possible loss of two-thirds of their volume in the same period if no concrete mitigation actions are taken on a global scale (RCP8.5 scenario). These changes will have profound impacts on the HKH environment, and consequently, on the way people in this part of the world will be able to live and use water.

Q:

What is your favorite part of the work you do at ICIMOD?

A:

I particularly enjoy the multicultural atmosphere and the variety of topics covering mountain dynamics and development at ICIMOD. As an environmental scientist, I also feel concerned with societal issues and challenges faced at all levels of the society across the globe. I am amazed every single day at how resilient, strong and diverse these communities are in these immense, rough HKH mountains.

Q:

What are you passionate about?

A:

I am passionate about the evolution of our Earth’s landscapes, and have always been fascinated by the relationships between humankind and the environment. Investigating why and how people decided in (pre-)history to migrate and settle in icy, rugged and remote places such as polar and high mountain regions remains one of the main reasons for dedicating my career to cryosphere studies. With ICIMOD, I found the perfect match in the HKH to fulfill this passion.

Q:

My qualifications

A:

I hold a PhD in geology and glaciology from the University of Brussels, Belgium, and a Master’s degree in geology from the University of Louvain, Belgium. I also graduated with a postgraduate degree in archaeology and art history, and a postgraduate degree in applied geomatics, both from the University of Louvain.

Before moving to Nepal, I worked as a postdoc researcher at various universities and research institutions in Europe and Japan. My scientific interests overarch transversal topics in cryospheric and geological sciences using different kinds of techniques and at various scales.

As examples of former contributions, I worked on the micro-structural and geochemical characterization of basal ice sequences retrieved from subglacial tunnels in the Antarctic Dry Dalleys, on marine ice dynamics from Nansen and McMurdo Ice Shelves in Antarctica, on the deformation history of the deeper parts of the North Greenland Ice Core Project (NorthGRIP) and North Greenland Eemian Deep Ice Drilling (NEEM) international ice core programmes, on paleo-permafrost dynamics in Arctic Siberia, on the reconstruction of nitrogen and sulphate atmospheric budgets from Svalbard ice fields, and on the deglaciation dynamics of African tropical glaciers.