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. dissertation at the Academy of Sciences of USSR in Moscow. Professor Baghirov received approval of professorship from the Education Ministry of the USSR in 1990. In 1990 he was appointed rector of the Institute of Youth. In 1991 Professor Baghirov established Western University in Baku. In 1998 Professor Baghirov was awarded a Fullbright scholarship for researching and lecturing at Indiana University (United States). Professor Baghirov served as the rector of Western University until 2000 when he was 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) Simultaneously, he is the Chair Person of the Political Science Program of Western Caspian University. Furthermore, Professor Baghirov is a member of the Mountain Protection Commission of the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) and a global advocate of sustainable development. Professor Baghirov is the author of dozens of books and hundreds of academic articles.

Prof. Harshwanti Bisht

FRGS and Social Scientist

Her research is focused on tourism in high altitudes of Indian Western Himalaya. She has teaching experience of thirty years in the department of Economics and administrative experience of ten years in higher educational institutions of Uttarakhand, India. She has studied the impact of pilgrimage and mountain tourism in Gangotri glacier region of Garhwal Himalaya. Prof. Bisht has planted 15000 Birch (Betula utilis) trees at an altitude of 2800 meter and has been bestowed with Sir Edmund Hillary Legacy Medal in 2013. She is a keen observer of global warming and climate change on Gangotri glacier region.

In her small career of mountaineering (1977-1982) she has climbed many peaks in Garhwal Himalaya, including Nanda Devi (7817 meter) in 1981. She was member to the Indian Everest expedition 1984. She is life member of Himalayan club, Mumbai. At present Prof. Bisht is one of the Vice Presidents of Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) and Chair Person Environment Committee, IMF. By being the member of IMF she is Indian delegate to Mountain Protection Commission UIAA.

Jan Ivar Bøe

Media Relations

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 cottages. Since the late 1980 he has been a climber and ski-mountaineer. In his professional life, Jan Ivar works at the Viken County Council, where he is working with media and government relations.

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.

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).

Mike Maunsell

F.R.G.S. Mountain Geographer & Environmental Scientist

Mike has worked in mountain environments throughout the world for the past 40 years as a mountaineer, geographer, environmental scientist and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and has a M.Sc. in Sustainable Mountain Development. He is a Lecturer in Conservation and Biodiversity at the Faculty of Applied Sciences and Technology, Limerick Institute of Technology, Ireland.  Mike is Chair of the Board of Directors Mountaineering Ireland. He is a former Chair of the Federations’ Access & Conservation Committee. Mike’s research interests are in mountain ecosystems, citizen science, and science communication. Mike established Mountain Research Ireland to protect mountain environments through research collaboration.

Amin Moein

Air pollution engineer – mountain guide – alpinist

Amin, a member of the MPC since 2014, is a full member of the BMC and President of the Mountain Protection Commission of the Iran Mountaineering and Sport Climbing Federation.

His published work includes: Noshaq, a different peak 2010 (about his journey in Hindukosh); Climbing Dictionary 2016 (English to Persian mountain terms); Mountain Environment Protection 2018 (about mountain ecosystems and the ways of protecting the mountains). Amin also conducted a research paper ‘Assessment of SO2and H2S emission from Damavand volcano 5610m and its dispersion in south face’ in 2015/2016.

Amin founded Iran’s first mountain environment course which has educated some 4,500 mountaineers in four years.

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.

Mary Sanseverino

Research Associate, School of Environmental Studies, Mountain Legacy Project 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 past decade working with the Mountain Legacy Project (MLP) at the University of Victoria. As a research associate with MLP she explores 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 been involved in all aspects of MLP research including field work, grant 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.

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.


Björn Alfthan

Climate Change and Mountain Waste Expert

Björn Alfthan is the Senior Mountain Expert at GRID-Arendal (, a Norwegian foundation and collaborating centre of UN Environment Programme. He specializes in translating complex scientific work into accessible, environmental assessments that are used by government policy makers and others. He has worked extensively with ICIMOD and other mountain centres on climate adaptation, waste and biodiversity issues in the Caucasus, Himalayas, East Africa and Balkans. He was editor of the 2016 UN Environment report, “Waste Management Outlook for Mountain Regions” and is currently co-leading a global survey on waste in the mountains in collaboration with UIAA, IFMGA, the Mountain Research Institute, Kilian Jornet Foundation and UN agencies.

Jessica Bitsch

Consultant at UN Environment Programme

Jessica supports flagship projects dealing with sustainable mountain development. She provides scientific background related to ecosystem service assessment and Green Infrastructure, which was her main research topic, after completing her studies in Conservation Biology & Biodiversity Management at the University of Vienna. She gained practical experiences during internships in different countries, participating in the work of NGOs and local authorities in the environment sector. Furthermore, she gained working experience in the field of environmental law, mainly related with renewable energies.

Based in the UNEP Programme Office in Vienna, Jessica supports the team in various mountain-related projects, such as the Vanishing Treasures Programme, which is a UNEP flagship programme dealing with the effects of climate change on mountain species and mountain communities. Recently, Jessica became strongly involved into the Post-2020 process and its Global Biodiversity Framework, with the goals to raise the importance of mountains on the global agenda.

Jessica has a strong personal interest in human-nature interactions, mountain and forest ecosystems, regional sustainable development and the communication of science.  Link to Vanishing Treasures Programme:

Ansgar Fellendorf

Consultant at UN Environment Programme; Climate change adaptation and Governance Expert

Ansgar works with the mountain team of the UNEP Vienna office in the areas of mountain range governance, climate change adaptation and sustainable mountain development. Primarily, he supports the implementation of the Adaptation at Altitude: Taking Action in Mountains programme that aims to strengthen and mainstream climate change adaptation in mountain regions. Within the programme, Ansgar focusses on fostering regional mountain governance in the South Caucasus and Andes, promoting adaptation solutions and assisting policy processes.

Other responsibilities include supporting project development, as well as events and 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.

He graduated with a MSc degree in Environmental Technology and International Affairs from the Diplomatic Academy and University of Technology Vienna. In his spare time, Ansgar enjoys hiking and skiing and more recently paragliding. An expedition to Arctic Nunavut fostered his passion for working in environmental policy and sustainable development.

Stuart Gray

Mountaineer, Geographer, Businessperson

Stu lives in Auckland, New Zealand and has a longstanding interest in human impacts on mountain and wild environments. He is a geographer by training, FRGS (Fellow, Royal Geographical Society, London) and a past president of the New Zealand Alpine Club (NZAC). Stu is the Oceania Continental Representative on the UIAA Management Committee.

Most of Stu’s professional career was in the world of international business as an executive with Fonterra, a large dairy co-operative owned by New Zealand farmers. Fonterra 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 journeys in remote mountain environments. As well as spending as much time as possible in the challenging New Zealand back country Stu has climbed and trekked in South America, Tibet, the Himalaya (Nepal and India), Central Asia and Europe.

Anu Kumari Lama, PhD

Tourism Specialist ICIMOD

Anu K Lama is the tourism specialist at the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). She has over 20 years of experience of working in the fields of sustainable mountain tourism development, climate action and governance at policy, practice and science interface.

She leads the Innovation, Investment and Entrepreneurship Component, Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Capability for the Hindu Kush Himalaya Initiative and Tourism Pilot, Climate Service Initiative. She also serves as the faculty member of the Himalayan University Consortium Academy and Resource Person of the Thematic Working Group – Mountain Tourism and Cultural Heritage.

She is the first Nepalese citizen to receive the Humboldt International Climate Protection Fellowship for her research work on building understanding of climate change adaptation measures for tourism stakeholders in Mustang, Annapurna Conservation Area.

Leif Inge Magnussen, PhD

IFMGA Guide, President of the Norwegian Mountain Guides Association, and President of the IFMGA Environment and Access Commission

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 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 is a sustainable tourism and communications specialist with over 15 years of international experience. She has provided training and advised several international development organizations in the Caucasus, Western Balkans and Eastern Europe on responsible destination management, Protected Areas and mountain tourism development and sustainability communicationsIn addition to an MA in Sociology and an MA in Politics, Marta has recently completed an MSc in Responsible Tourism Management (with Distinction) and has focused all her academic research on mountain and Protected Areas tourism in Georgia.  

While she has climbed and trekked in Central Asia, Eastern Europe and north America, her passion and heart has been in the Caucasus mountains since 2001. In 2015, she was one of four volunteers who started the Transcaucasian Trail project in Georgia and Armenia, to build a long-distance hiking trail across the Caucasus and help protect the rich natural and cultural heritage of the region. She had worked on the project for over three years, building partnerships, engaging with local communities and advising on sustainability. Her work now focuses on trainings to improve sustainability in emerging tourism destinations and in Protected Areas, ideally in the mountains. 

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.

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, as well as different non-governmental organizations in various countries in South and South-East Asia, South America and Europe.