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  • Director's Interview

Director's Interview

One-of-a-kind Research: Comprehensive Efforts Encompassing Mountains, Animals, Plants, and People

One-of-a-kind Research Suited to the Worldly Shinshu Region

Professor Shigeyuki Izumiyama, a member of the Shinshu University Academic Assembly Institute of Agriculture and serving as the Director of the Institute of Mountain Science (IMS) since October 1, 2015 has said the following about IMS:

"The Institute of Mountain Science pursues research in a wide variety of areas--everything from geology and meteorology to plant and animal life in mountainous regions and the activities of people residing in the mountains. Despite this diverse range, all researchers at the Institute are striving for the same thing: elucidating the basic principles and approaches needed for people to live in harmony with nature."
Indeed, a diverse range of research topics is included. Consider, for example, this list of new research projects initiated in FY 2015:
(1) Multifaceted monitoring of Dicentra peregrina habitats in the Shinshu University Norikura Research Forest.
(2) Gathering basic field data on wild animals in the Shinshu University Kamikochi Research Forest (as part of countermeasures and other efforts against sika deer invasion in high-elevation areas of the Northern Alps/Hida Mountains).
(3) Initiating continuous observation of oxygen solutions by water depth in Lake Suwa to promote cleaner lake water.
(4) Analyzing aquatic insect occurrence, downward-flowing particle collection, compositional analysis by size, and other research on the Chikuma River middle-basin river ecology.
(5) Conducting international-scale joint developmental research using cutting-edge laser sensing technologies to measure forest resource quantities according to tree type.
(6) Performing research as part of a plan to promote proliferation and natural population recovery among the endangered red deer of the Tian Shan Mountain Range in the Kyrgyz Republic (Kyrgyzstan).
(7) Verifying the effects of Nagano Prefecture timber production and distribution on the local economy via a field study.
(8) Recording words related to "ridges" and "buildings" in more than ten different Eurasian languages to better understand mountainous scenery as it relates to mountains and architecture.
(9) Conducting research to locate and industrialize mountainous mushrooms to use them in more advanced and diverse ways as local resources.
(10) Artificially cultivating matsutake mushrooms to optimize utilization of forest resources.
(11) Performing research to measure growth and changes due to climate change in trees located in the Alaskan interior permafrost regions.

As you can see, IMS research covers a diverse range of fields and many of them are unique. In addition, the IMS has been continually pursuing research on geology, mountain environments, plant and animal life, Polar Regions, industrial cultures of mountainous regions, and more.

All of these pertain to science relating to nature and humans based on the principle of harmony amid diversity. "I believe that the IMS," states Izumiyama proudly, "is pursuing one-of-a-kind research suited to the Shinshu region that places great emphasis on the rich blessings of nature and quiet lifestyles seen in mountain villages."

Using Research Locations and Stations

"The IMS has access to the impressive assets and achievements of Shinshu University, and our existence is founded upon the University's successes," continues Izumiyama. He also states the following:

"Shinshu University teaching staff and students have worked together with locals for many years to carry out surveys and research in different research locations in Nagano Prefecture, and many research stations have been set up throughout the prefecture during that time. Through these efforts, strong and deep-reaching interpersonal ties have been cultivated with local researchers, persons involved in relevant industries, government officials and others in the region. Our research is unique on a global scale--truly one-of-a-kind work. That is why Shinshu University has been ranked by Nikkei Incorporated as number one on their list of universities that contribute toward local society. Such one-of-a-kind research serves as a precious asset to the University."

When examining the abovementioned list of new IMS research pursuits in FY 2015, it is clear that each is intrinsically linked to research locations and stations within the prefecture. Therefore, the IMS' research has been highly praise on an international scale and their research locations have expanded globally.

The plethora of research findings by Shinshu University teaching staff and students have accumulated in the Shinshu region, and their continuously expanding network linking local people together forms the foundations of the Interdisciplinary Cluster for Cutting Edge Research (ICCER). IMS director Izumiyama has studied the ecology of the Asian black bears living in Shinshu so thoroughly that people say, "where there's a bear, you'll find Izumiyama." Through these endeavors, he has explored the region's mountains and valleys with great thoroughness, and his words carry weight appropriate to that high level of experience.

Scientific Examination of Interactions between the Natural Environment and Humans

"Our mountain science research really takes a lot of time and energy," says Izumiyama with a wry smile. The ecological survey of red deer in the Kyrgyzstan's Tian Shan Range, a survey in which Izumiyama personally took part, as well as the snow leopard survey and other research pursued simultaneously, focused on animals whose numbers were scarce and, thus, require much time to be found. In the case of the snow leopards, it took seven years to attach GPS tracking devices to the animals and then capture the device-carrying felines.

Regardless, Kyrgyzstan's government, as well as numerous international organizations, has asked the IMS to carry out surveys for the sake of protecting endangered species. This is because of the high praise received by the IMS for past surveys, protection efforts, and damage control measures for Asian black bears, sika deer, Japanese macaques, and other species in the Shinshu region.

"Despite the GPS and other advanced technologies utilized in our surveys, these are all founded on surprisingly low-tech approaches such as seemingly endless walks through the mountains, drawn-out periods of waiting, and repeated capture and release," explains Izumiyama. He further elucidated the following: "Whether it be research on climate change or plants and animals, a lot of time is required, and after years or even decades of repeated efforts, some of our results may at last draw more widespread attention. This is the reality of our research here at the IMS."

The seven-year quest to capture snow leopards, as part of a study on species trends, for example, resulted in data that was vital for the UK broadcaster BBC's program on snow leopards. This was broadcasted around the world, and it would not have been possible without Izumiyama's research results. The research results produced by IMS researchers are, according to Izumiyama, often used as basic sources in the scientific journal Nature, NHK television specials, and many other instances.

More importantly, the work of the IMS, focused on interactions between humans and the natural environment, often helps to protect and preserve mountain-region communities and lifestyles. Surveys on trends among Asian black bears, Japanese macaques, sika deer, and other species performed using GPS technology have proven useful in measures against damage/injuries caused by birds and animals to people and communities in mountainous regions. Such research has also helped to reveal a wide range of natural resources that directly contribute toward the revitalization of local industries in these regions and communities. In numerous cases, the research itself has contributed to local communities in significant ways.

The IMS' mountain science efforts in the Shinshu region represent research that is unique to Shinshu and Shinshu University. As in the past, IMS researchers will continue to seek advancements in collaboration with people in the region.

SHINDAI NOW, 97, Issued on January 29, 2016

Director of the Institute of Mountain Science, Interdisciplinary Cluster for Cutting Edge Research
Head of the International Mountain Cooperation laboratory
Head of the Department of Terrestrial Ecosystem
Academic Assembly Professor (Institute of Agriculture), Ph. D. in Agriculture
Shigeyuki Izumiyama