Adventure of science: Women and glaciers in Central Asia

“Adventure of science: Women and glaciers in Central Asia” proposes field trainings in cryospheric sciences, climate change and alpine ecology. The target group will be young women at the beginning of their scientific studies because they are at a critical decision-making process in their education and career path when a boost of confidence, strong role models, and new knowledge of what a science career offers can have a great influence on their futures.

Each course is open to young women (18 to 30 years old) having different cultural and social backgrounds from Central Asia (equal participation from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan). The program is tuition-free and all necessary equipment is provided. The courses are organised in a single-gender format, including the instructor team, providing an environment in which the young women are not exposed to any social concerns and pressure of mixed gender groups. A close link to local universities and research institutes based on well-established relations through CICADA project allows the trained women to build up their scientific network locally, which is key to ensure the sustainability of the program.

The first field training course takes place in September of 2019. Each year, a team of about 10 young women from Central Asia, accompanied by 2-4 science instructors and 1 mountain guide, spends 10 days learning and exploring effects of climate change on the alpine landscape, particularly the change of glaciers and their impacts on water resources management and hazard prevention through scientific field studies. The programs are organised in the Ala Archa National Park at Ak-Say Glacier in Kyrgyzstan. A key element of the courses are research projects in small groups supervised by an instructor. The participants plan and realize their own scientific study in a team. Thereby, they receive a step-wise and highly applied training in scientific methods including the formulation of a research question, the planning and execution of experiments and the analysis, interpretation and presentation of data. The last 2 days of the course take part at the Central-Asian Institute for Applied Geosciences in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where the participants will analyse their collected data, and present their field results during a public event. The courses is bilingual in Russian and English. After the course participation, the communication with the young women continues to provide a post-course mentorship. Platforms for interaction between the participants and the establishment of a social network of female cryosphere scientists in Central Asia will be established. The young women are encouraged and supported to share their experiences within their private and professional environment, so that they can become role models and encourage other young women to proceed as cryospheric or climate scientists. Moreover, from the beginning, local scientists have been part of the instructor team and thereby receive a training in organisational and teaching skills, which they can apply in projects in their own countries. A step-wise hand-over of responsibility to promising female scientists will allow, that on a mid- and long term-perspective, Girls on Ice Central Asia will be led by women from Central Asia who will be part of the international community of women in science and benefit from the network of « Inspiring Girls Expeditions[1] ».

Through the long-standing experience of the project team in the region, “Adventure of Science: Women and glaciers in Central Asia” benefits of close collaborations with local Universities, Research and Mountaineering Institutions that help to solve logistical difficulties. The instructor team includes at least one local scientist. The programme integrates female researchers in the organisational team and counts on volunteers from the four different target countries. The project collaborates with other ongoing initiatives.



1) Empowering young women through science, art, and wilderness exploration.

2) Motivating and supporting young women to proceed as cryospheric scientists in order to increase the share of female researcher of the scientific community in Central Asia.

3) Encouraging National Universities with curriculum in earth sciences to include young female scientists into academic activities, as well as female students into scientific research.

Duration: 2019-2020

Funded by: Mainly financed by the University of Fribourg under the CICADA project with a remarkable contribution of Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC. The programme is organised in close cooperation with UNESCO Almaty office, Girls on Ice Switzerland and Inspiring Girls Expeditions. Material sponsors including Mammut and outdoor icon furthermore support the project. We are seeking for funding contributions from external collaborators for to guarantee a continuation of the programme after 2020.

Project lead: M. Barandun and Marlene Kronenberg

National and International Collaborators - Kyrgyzstan/Uzbekistan/Tajikistan/Kazakhstan: Perizat Imanalieva, Zamira Sarsebekova, Dilorom Jalolova, Anastasiya Cheremnyh, Helga Weber, Kathrin Naegeli




Martina Barandun

Department of Geosciences

University of Fribourg
Chemin du Musée 4

CH–1700 Fribourg

   +41 26 300 90 21