Yup, you read that right. I’m off to Siberia! When I began my graduate work in New Mexico and Arizona back in 2006, I never thought I would say that, but I here I am, about to get on a plane feeling an equal mixture of excitement and anxiety. My final destination will be Zhigansk (from Denver to Frankurt to Moscow to Yakutsk and finally via 14 hour river boat to Zhigansk) in the Sakha region of Siberia where I will be attending the Second Festival of Northern Fishing Traditions (the first of which was held in Finland in 2014) as a representative of the Exchange for Local Observations and Knowledge in the Arctic (ELOKA, eloka-arctic.org).
Snowchange, a partner of ELOKA, has worked hard on connecting communities in both Finland and Russia. The description of the Festival I received was, “Created in 2012 by a Finnish professional fisherman Olli Klemola, the Festival emerged in 2014 as a mechanism and a forum to bring together representatives of the various professional and artisanal fisheries in the Eurasian North to exchange views and direct discussions on the priorities of cooperation, especially on issues like climate change, preservation of traditions, ecological restoration of aquatic ecosystems, partnerships with research and so on.” My role will likely be to observe, enjoy, and talk a bit about various ELOKA products that can be created in partnership with these communities to help preserve and visualize the deep knowledge of these communities. You check out some ELOKA sites created in partnership with Snowchange on the region I am heading here: http://eloka-arctic.org/communities/russia/index.html
I’m a seasoned international traveler at this point, thanks to many opportunities presented by projects I’ve participated and led since graduate school, but I’ve never been to Siberia. Indeed, I’m not sure what to expect, especially as an academic and field worker that “grew up” in the desert U.S. Southwest, and as you can imagine, my experience with fishing was limited to times spent at the Jersey shore, and I don’t get a ton of time on the water in landlocked Colorado. I was also asked to be prepared to cook fish in my “traditional” style. The first thought that came to my head was… fish tacos? I’m prepared to be embarrassed a lot on this trip.
Fortunately, I’ve spent the last two field seasons in Iceland, and I am carrying much of my Iceland gear: my lopapeysa, my waders, 66 North waterproof gear but minus the trowel. Stay tuned for pictures!