Award and Assessment Team


Carolina Adler, PhD

Geographer and Environmental Scientist

Dr Carolina Adler is President of the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission and a geographer and environmental scientist with over twenty-five years of professional experience in the public and private sectors. In 2010 she completed an award-winning PhD on climate change adaptation in mountain regions. Since May 2017, Carolina has taken on the role as Executive Director of the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI), supported by the Swiss Academy of Sciences, and hosted at the University of Bern, in which she undertakes the coordination of scientific research agendas and supports regional and thematic working groups on global change research in mountains. Furthermore, Carolina is also a Lead Author in the Sixth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), focusing on the assessment of climate change in mountain regions. Carolina is an avid mountaineering enthusiast and a member of the New Zealand Alpine Club (NZAC), the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) and the German Alpine Club (DAV).

Maretha Alant

South African National Parks – Principal Planner

Maretha Alant has 25 years of experience in protected area planning and conservation management. She has climbed mountains in 18 countries and is currently the Environmental Planner for South African National Parks (SANParks) in the Garden Route and Frontier Regions. Current projects include protected area expansion, commenting on development proposal and land use planning applications in National Park buffer zones and establishing voluntary (Stewardship Agreements) mountain to sea and coastal corridors as a climate change adaptation strategy.

Hussein Baghirov

Chairman of Board of Trustees of Western Caspian University

Professor Hussein Baghirov was born in 1955 in Quba Rayon, Azerbaijan. In 1978, he graduated from Baku State University with a degree in history. From 1978 to 1979, he worked at the Ministry of Education and then worked as a lecturer at the different post-graduate educational institutions.

From 1984 to 1985, he worked as a researcher and defended his Ph.D. thesis at the Academy of Sciences of USSR in Moscow. At the same year he received professorship from the Education Ministry of the USSR in 1990. Immediately after he was appointed rector of the Institute of Youth. In 1991, he established Western University in Baku. In 1998 he was awarded a Fullbright scholarship for researching and lecturing at Indiana University (United States). He served as the rector of Western University until 2000 until  he was eventually appointed to the different positions in the government of Azerbaijan. Professor Baghirov is now The Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Western Caspian University and Director of the Institute of Mountain Biodiversity, Landscapes, and Culture of the Western Caspian University (Which is a member of the Mountain Partnership Alliance of United Nations). Hussein Baghirov is a member of the Mountain Protection Commission of the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) and a global advocate of sustainable development. He has quite a number of books and academic articles published in national and international scientific journals.

Jan Ivar Bøe

Media Relations and Communication

Jan Ivar Bøe is a member of Norwegian Alpine Club, and has earlier been a board member for the club. He is leading the club’s committee for the maintenance of the club’s three cottages in the Norwegian mountains. Since the late 1980 he has been climbing and ski-mountaineering, and served as a climbing instructor. In his professional life, Jan Ivar is educated in media and communications and works at the regional government, Viken County Council, where he is contributing as a special adviser with media and government relations and strategic communication planning. One of the important topics is communication on sustainable development, environmentally friendly and low emission transport in a regional context.

Valeska Buchemi de Oliveira

Environmental Researcher

Valeska was born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Initially purely a hobby, Valeska’s interest in the mountains became part of her studies at college with a focus on research and environmental protection. In 2011, she started to practice rock climbing and mountaineering in both Asia and South America. Since 2013 she has been associated to Serra do Cipo Climbers Association (AESC), and to “Mineira” Climbing Association (AME), contributing to climbing development. Valeska is currently running a Working Group at AESC dedicated to trail management and minimal impact, as well as running a management plan at Baú Rocks (a noted rock site in her home state). She has also worked with local guides at Serra do Cipo to construct an association, one involved in directly combatting fires at the Serra do Cipo National Park. She also is founder of a Research Institute ( that deals with scientific and conservation research, and scientific tourism. She also is affiliated to CEM, a state trekking club, where she lectures about environmental conservation, and performs reforestation programmes with volunteers.

Jan Cools, PhD

Research coordinator of the Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development, University of Antwerp, Belgium

Dr. Jan Cools is passionate about the sustainable management of landscapes while also being an active mountaineer. In his academic research, he focuses on integrated water resources management, climate adaptation and sustainable development. Thereby, he integrates natural/engineering sciences with governance and social/economic sciences. He has 20 years of experience in projects for a number of international clients, including the European Commission and the United Nations. Jan has a PhD in Environmental Sciences from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. He is also an active mountaineer and mountain hiking guide. In 2006, he received the Austrian certificate of mountain hiking guide. He also contributed in the setting up of the UIAA approved programme in Flanders, Belgium to become Instructor Mountain Walking and Trekking (IMWT). He is also board member of the Flemish Mountaineering Federation (KBF, Belgium).

Ganesh Gurung, PhD

Social Scientist

A PhD in sociology from University of Lucknow, India and former Visiting Fellow of Harvard University, USA, Dr. Gurung was Executive Chairman of Policy Research Institute (A Think Tank of Nepal Government). He was an honorable member of the National Planning Commission of Nepal and Vice Chairman of Social Welfare Council (apex body of Nepal government to supervise I/NGO). He also served as Chairman of CARAM Asia (Asia and Pacific level organization) based in Malaysia.

Born in the mountains of Nepal, he is a social scientist, presently active in the development of mountain areas including mountaineering and mountain tourism. He serves as advisor to the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA).

Paul Kwakkenbos

Sustainability and ESG reporting practitioner 

As Board Member of the Royal Dutch Alpine Club (NKBV; 2012-2021) and associate member of the NKBV Sustainability Committee, Paul has been driving the sustainability program for NKBV together with volunteers and further stakeholders with the aim to reduce or offset carbon emissions for the NKBV´s professional organisation and activity portfolio, whilst raising awareness for what members can do themselves as well.
Following his academic geography study, he took up various roles involving communications, sustainability reporting, and, more recently, environmental programs and ESG topics for his current employer, one of the largest European energy distribution companies. Paul studied geography; he and his wife live in a tiny house in the Netherlands and are passionately enjoying mountain sports in summer and winter.

Irena Mrak, PhD

Mountain geographer and mountaineer

Her research is focused on environmental impacts of human activities in the World’s highest areas, predominantly in Karakorum and Hindukush. Her long-term research is related to Baltoro Glacier in the heart of the Karakorum – she is investigating its environmental state as well as the social and economic aspects of tourism in its wider area. At home she is conducting research in mountain conservation areas and is a lecturer at the Environmental College in Velenje, Slovenia. In her mountaineering career she is devoted to pure and ethical style ascents to highest elevations.

Hunsu Arda Odabasioglu

Mechnical Engineer (MSc), Moutaineer

Arda Odabasioglu was born in 1972 in Trabzon, Turkey. He graduated from Karadeniz Technical University Mechanical Engineering Dept. in 1995. He studied material science and graduated from the master course in 1998. He was introduced to mountains through a local mountaineering club during his university education. After graduation, he climbed several 4000-plus-metre peaks in Turkey, the Alps of Italy and France, Central Asia and the Caucasus. He specifically appreciates the opportunity to observe mountain ecosystem and culture. Arda Odabasioglu is a member of the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission and the R&D Commission of the Turkish Mountaineering Federation.

Mary Sanseverino

Independent Mountain Studies Researcher
Teaching Professor Emerita, Dept. of Computer Science University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada 

A long time mountaineer, photographer, and member of the Alpine Club of Canada, Mary has spent the more than a decade working as a mountain studies researcher with the Mountain Legacy Project (MLP) at the University of Victoria. With MLP she explored changes in Canada’s mountain landscapes through the world’s largest collection of systematic high-resolution historic mountain photographs (>120,000 images from 1861 to 1953) and a vast and growing collection of repeat images (>9,000 photo pairs). Mary has and continues to be involved in many aspects of mountain studies research including field work, grant writing and adjudicating, book and article writing, software development, and mountain landscape change analysis and assessment.

Mary is especially passionate about mountain photography and has had work appear in Discover Magazine, Canadian Geographic, and the Alpine Club of Canada’s State of the Mountains Report.


Ansgar Fellendorf

Climate Change and Mountain Specialist at UN Environment Programme

As part of the UNEP mountain team, Ansgar works in the areas of climate change adaptation, regional cooperation, and other aspects of sustainable mountain development. Amongst others, he supports the implementation of the Adaptation at Altitude: Taking Action in Mountains programme that strengthens and mainstreams climate change adaptation in mountain regions and other related projects. In addition, he is involved in the Sports for Nature Initiative that gathers sports organisations for the conservation and restoration of nature. Other responsibilities include project development, event management and advocacy activities around sustainable mountains.

Previously, Ansgar worked in natural hazard management, disaster risk reduction, and climate change adaptation in the Alps at the Austrian Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Regions and Tourism. Being a member of the Austrian Alpine Club, in his spare time, Ansgar enjoys hiking and skiing and more recently paragliding.

Laurent Fouinat, PhD

Geologist and Environmental Expert

Laurent Fouinat is an Environmental Expert at GRID-Arendal (, a Norwegian foundation and collaborating centre of the UN Environment Programme. He has completed a Ph.D. on paleoclimatology using lake sediments as archives of human and climate induced environmental changes in mountain regions. Since 2020, he joined the Polar and Climate programme in GRID-Arendal to focus on translating complex scientific work into accessible, environmental assessments that are used by government policy makers and others. He works on different mountain regions in East-Africa, Caucasus and Hindu Kush Himalayas. Laurent collaborates with organizations such as ICIMOD, Kilian Jornet Foundation, UIAA, IFMGA across the topics of biodiversity conservation, climate change and waste pollution.

Stuart Gray

Mountaineer and Geographer

Stu lives in Auckland, New Zealand. He is a geographer by both training and inclination, a former president of the New Zealand Alpine Club (NZAC) and is on the executive of Federated Mountain Clubs of NZ. Stu is the Continental Representative for Oceania on the UIAA Management Committee.

Most of Stu’s professional career was in the world of international business as an executive with the large NZ dairy co-operative Fonterra which operates globally with a strong focus on building sustainable agricultural & business practices. Stu has lived for extended periods in Australia and the Middle East as well as his New Zealand home.

He is an active mountaineer with a particular love for extended journeys in remote mountain environments. As well as spending as much time as possible in the challenging New Zealand backcountry Stu has climbed and journeyed in the Andes, Tibet, the Himalaya (Nepal and India), Central Asia and Europe.

Anu Kumari Lama, PhD

Tourism Specialist

Dr. Anu K Lama is the tourism specialist at the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). She has 22 years of experience of working in the field of tourism sustainability and its intersection – planning, management, regional cooperation, sustainable mountain development, heritage, value chain, resilient entrepreneurship, climate action, smart water solution, sustainable business model, business incubation, access to finance and governance.

She leads Sustainable Mountain Tourism Component (STMC) in support of operationalizing the institutional strategy in shaping green and resilient mountain economies in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region. The STMC focuses on informing and enabling science-based climate action in mountain tourism, contributing to addressing Paris Climate Agreement, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), net zero commitments and HKH Call to Action. Under Koshi Basin Initiative, she is leading the co-design and co-development of green and inclusive destination enabling community to build livelihood resilience against climate shock – ‘too little water’. She serves as one of the lead experts of the Tourism Panel on Climate Change, contributing to co-development of the global stocktake and science assessment reports.

Leif Inge Magnussen, PhD

IFMGA Guide, President of the Norwegian Mountain Guides Association, President of the IFMGA Environment and Access Commission & Professor of Education, Ph.D.

Dr Leif Inge Magnussen, is a Norwegian IFMGA Mountain Guide, educationalist and a climber. Besides a lifelong commitment to mountaineering, Leif currently works within the field of leadership development and innovation processes at the University of Southeastern Norway. His research interest covers the fields of education for the unforeseen, emergency preparedness training and outdoor education. His PhD thesis dwelled around the potential “Bildung” and meaning making processes connected to learning in the outdoor adventures. His adventure research explores the movement between safety and risk, the familiar and the unfamiliar. Leif is President for the Norwegian Mountain Guides Association ( and the IFMGA Environmental and Sustainable Access Commission (

Marta Mills

Sustainable tourism specialist

Marta Mills has been working as a sustainable tourism and communications specialist for international development organisations and national and regional tourism boards for nearly 20 years, in several countries in the Caucasus, Western Balkans, Europe and Central Asia. In the last two years, she has researched the social and environmental impacts of mountainous expeditions for the Mount Everest Foundation, and conducted a sustainability review of the Mountain Protection Award for the UIAA.  She is currently working as a Senior Sustainable Tourism consultant at TOPOSOPHY, specializing in climate action in tourism.

Marta holds an MSc in Responsible Tourism Management (with Distinction) and has focused all her academic research on mountain and Protected Areas tourism in Georgia (Caucasus).  In 2015, she was one of four volunteers who started the Transcaucasian Trail project in Georgia and Armenia, and worked on the project for over three years, building partnerships, engaging with local communities and advising on sustainability.

Genevieve Schmoeker

Mountain Biodiversity Specialist at UN Environment Programme  

Genevieve is part of the Mountain Team at the UNEP Vienna Programme Office supporting flagship projects on sustainable development including the Vanishing Treasures Programme, which focuses on the effects of climate change on mountain communities and key mountain species such as the Royal Bengal tiger in Bhutan. Her portfolio also includes supporting the integration of mountains in the Global Biodiversity Framework implementation, as well as amplifying mountains within the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration such as through the recently announced Multi-Country Mountain World Restoration Flagship.  

With a background in environmental science from the University of British Columbia and previous working experience in the international NGO sector, combined with her love of the outdoors, she continues to be passionate about conserving earth’s ecosystems for future generations. 

Joop Spijker

Senior Researcher at Wageningen Environmental Research, part of Wageningen University

Joop Spijker born on the 9 December 1959 in Schiedam, The Netherlands, climbed his first summit in 1974 in Switzerland (The Rautispitz, 2284m). He began mountaineering in 1980 and guided mountain walking and glacier tours for the Dutch Federation from 1988 until 2009. Since 1991 he has worked as a volunteer for Mountain Protection in various commissions like the NMGA, the CIPRA, NKBV and the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission. In his professional life Joop works in the field of nature, forest and urban green management.

Marjorie van Strien

Tourism specialist

Marjorie van Strien has over 12 years of international experience in sustainable tourism and related value chains, with a focus on responsible business development, collaborative and inclusive management approaches, micro, small and medium entrepreneurship development and gender and social inclusion strategies. She has developed an expertise in sustainable development and management of mountain tourism across the alpine Asia and America.

Marjorie has been engaged as a tourism expert for international development organizations, including International Centre of Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and UN World Tourism Organisation and others under large development- and conservation-oriented programs, as well as different public and private groups in various countries in South and South-East Asia, the Americas and Europe.