Yuliya in Nepal


Yuliya ontop of the Gosainkunda massif, north of Kathmandu. Photo: Anton Fjodorov

You can not overstate the importance of planning when it comes to field trips. You can not, however, prepare for everything. Yuliyas Zhuk went to Nepal to do field work in the aftermath of the disastrous earthquakes in April and May 2015, and found herself the middle of a geopolitical crisis.

When Yuliya started planning her research project in Nepal back in 2014, she did not expect it to be quite this dramatic. A few short months before her trip, Nepal was struck by the worst earthquake since 1934, resulting in more than 8000 casualties, tens of thousands of injured and massive desctruction of infrastructure and buildings. 

- The geological department in Kathmandu where I have my local contacts and planned to base my research was leveled by the eartquake, Yuliya says. Luckily, no one was inside the building as the earthquake hit on the weekend, but all that remains of their equipment is a single petrographical microscope! It is a bit ironic that the geological department was hit particularly hard by the earthquake... 

The geologists are currently housed with the engineers, where they do their best to maintain their teaching and research, with very little resources and equipment. 

Yuliya and her field assistant Arishma Gadtaula - a geology student at Kathmandu University.

In spite of the humanitarian disaster in Nepal, Yuliya and her local supervisors decided that she should go ahead with the project. 

- No one would be helped by me canceling the trip, Yuliya says. I felt that I could perhaps make a tiny bit of a difference with my feet on the ground. For example, I was able to hire two geology students as field assistants and translators. I could never have managed without their help, and I'd like to think that the work experience and their pay was valuable to them.

In the tropical climate of Nepal, the bedrock weathers exceptionally fast compared to in Sweden. You often have to struggle to find fresh rock samples, and a rock quarry like this is can be extremely valuable! Photo: Anton Fjodorov

Just three days after Yuliyas arrival in Nepal, the next crisis struck. This time, it was more of a geopolitical drama than a natural disaster. The government of Nepal introduced a new constitution that was not popular among the national Indian minorities. As a result of this, India stopped exporting fuel to Nepal, and within days, all cars and busses where useless. 

- I had hired a car for transportation between the field localities, but instead, we had to walk, Yuliya says as she points to the map. The field work took a lot longer to complete this way, but on the other hand, my lung capacity is far better now after months of hiking at 4000 meters altitude!

Yuliya is now back in Uppsala, and is now busy compiling field notes, doing microscopy work and preparing for geochemical analyses for her report that is supposed to be finalised before the end of the year. The purpose of her research is to compare three granite bodies in Palung, Ipa, and Agra and see if they are geologically related or not. we are looking forward to her results in due course! 

Yuliyas field work was financed as a Minor Field Studies project, and was carried out as an independent research project within the Master programme in Earth Science, with a specialisation in Geology.

If you would like to hear more about Yuliyas travels and about Nepal, you should go to the seminar "An Earthquake has Many Voices" on Saturday, May 7, hosted by Uplands Nation. At that seminar, Yuliya and seven other speakers will tell you about their experiences relating to the 2015 Earthquakes in Nepal, and its impact on society. 

Are you are a student, and would you like to lead a project like this in the future? Then you should attend the MFS-day on May 11. Yuliya and representatives from the Minor Field Studies organisation will be there!  

/Börje Dahrén

News archive 2016