Mountain regions are of great importance for humans and nature: they cover about 25 percent of the earth's surface, are inhabited by more than a billion people and provide up to a quarter of the earth's population with vital resources. At the same time, mountain regions are particularly affected by the global rise in temperature due to climate change and are hitten by the associated ecological and socio-economic consequences particularly hard. "Many developments in mountain regions are not yet sufficiently understood due to their complexity and current dynamics. With the International Mountain Conference IMC, we have therefore set ourselves the goal of bringing together as many researchers as possible from both the natural and social sciences in one place. This approach should enable and promote a better understanding of mountain systems in detail but also in their entirety. After 2019, the concept has been successful again this year, as numerous positive feedbacks both during and after the conference have shown us," emphasize the organizers Stefan Mayr and Wolfgang Gurgiser from the University Research Area "Mountain Regions". "This confirms once again that the University of Innsbruck, with its thematic focus and its location in the middle of the Alps, provides ideal conditions to host an international conference on mountain topics. We would like to thank all participants and our numerous national and international project partners." Carolina Adler, Managing Director of the globally operating MRI (Mountain Research Initiative), also mentions the successful establishment of the conference already with its second edition: "This second edition of the International Mountain Conferences series in Innsbruck is a key event in the mountain research agenda. It not only offers a unique opportunity to focus on the state of research activity on global change in mountain regions, but also invites a truly interdisciplinary scientific dialogue and engagement on a wide range of diverse topics that are relevant for mountain regions, globally. It offers an opportunity to reflect on how we as a community are actively contributing to addressing these challenges through knowledge and insights that both inform and inspire actions.”
This was really a fantastic conference, thank you! I particularly enjoyed having sessions with time for discussion (which also meant they did not overrun), and I would say the balance between formal sessions and breaks for informal discussion and posters was perfect. It provided a real opportunity to make new collaborations.
Conference on mountain issues surrounded by mountains
The internationally unique conference exclusively on mountain issues was attended by 800 participants on site in Innsbruck and 70 virtually. So almost 900 people from 60 nations were part of IMC 2022 with more than 80 sessions, workshops and a comprehensive supporting programme. The very broad scope of the conference covered the following topics, among others: Impacts of the climate crisis, scenarios for glaciers, permafrost and water systems, future of mountain forests, development of mountain ecosystems, adaptation strategies for mountain regions and pathways towards sustainability the future of mountain tourism as well as outlooks on life in a possible "low-to-no-snow" future. The variety of topics was additionally illustrated by an outdoor poster exhibition open to the public and larger-than-life photographs by the artist Irmtraud Hubatschek. The organizers also highlight the importance of a comprehensive supporting programme that offered the participants the greatest possible - regionally authentic - quality of stay, even outside the sessions and workshops: the conference was opened by a concert by the internationally renowned Tyrolean musician Manu Delago, excursions to the mining history of Innsbruck and to the Hintereisferner in the Ötztal were also on offer, and the conference was rounded off by a Local Food Festival (see pictures). "We deliberately put a substantial work into designing the supporting programme, as we consider the time between and after the sessions to be at least as important as the content of the sessions themselves. The IMC offers space for exchange within the discipline and across disciplinary boundaries, which also justifies the journey in a 3-year-rhythm. This approach combined with the setting, which makes it possible to exchange ideas about mountain research in the middle of the mountains, is one of the strengths of our conference," stresses Wolfgang Gurgiser.
By hosting the International Mountain Conference, the organizing team brought attractive additional events to Innsbruck, such as a workshop on elevation-dependent climate change of the Mountain Research Initiative MRI, a workshop on the Biodiversa Project, a project meeting of the Highlands Project lasting several weeks or the final conference of the Alpine Drought Observatory Project. The organizers are also particularly pleased about the intense participation of the Canadian Mountain Network with a representative of the First Nations, which once again underlines the international exchange of information within the framework of the IMC.
Summer school for young researchers in the Ötztal valley
In the week before the conference from 5 to 9 September, a summer school for young researchers took place at the University Centre Obergurgl of the University of Innsbruck. The "Student for Student Summerschool - S4SSS" allowed 75 PhD students from all regions of the world to present their research topics and to network internationally before the young researchers took part in the conference in Innsbruck. "We developed the format especially for the IMC to enable young researchers to stay longer. It is also a priority for us to support people from disadvantaged regions of the world in order to make it possible for them to participate. This year we were able to award 30 travel grants and thus also welcome young scientists from South America, Africa and Asia," say Stefan Mayr and Wolfgang Gurgiser.
From the feedback on the Summerschool:
S4SSS was beyond my expectation. I had a nice time, making new friends across the globe. It’s an experience of a life time which I wish to get again if an opportunity is granted me again.
The next Summerschool and International Mountain Conference at the University of Innsbruck are planned for 2025.