Celebrating the “R” in CERS

By Dr William V Bleisch, Luang Namtha, Lao PDR

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CERS has been dedicated to promoting front-line scholarly research in remote areas right from its inception in 1986 as the China Exploration & Research Society. CERS has always had a core group of dedicated research scholars on our staff, and has hosted the best and brightest researchers from the network of scholars interested in the people and environments of the borderlands of China. Over the years, an impressive body of work has been contributed to the world heritage of academic knowledge. The benefits of this work do not just go to the careers of a few scholars. CERS sponsored research has been part of the foundation of the CERS experiential education program and village development projects, as well as being a guide and rationale for CERS’s program of exploration.

Several themes set CERS research apart from the usual output of research institutes. First, most CERS research is carried out in extremely remote and hard to reach locations – such as at high elevations on the Tibetan Plateau far from the nearest road, or deep at the bottom of a vertical shaft, the only entrance into a karst cavern, or on outer islands in the Sulu Sea many hours from shore. This kind of work is only possible because of CERS’s expertise in off-road travel, logistics, navigation, spelunking, etc.


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Secondly, many CERS research projects break the mold of academic research by following topics over many years. Unlike so many development interventions or research fellowships, CERS’s projects are designed for the long haul, which makes it possible for us to collect to make long-term comparisons that would not be possible with any other organization. For example, CERS in Lao PDR now has a data set of wildlife records from camera trapping that extends back to 2013 when the project began, allowing us to record the results of natural “experiments,” like the disappearance of tourists after the CoVi2 outbreak in January 2020.

Finally, CERS is able to translate research findings into innovative interventions, because research is only part of what we do. Research on wildlife led naturally into projects to promote conservation, like the innovative endangered species playing cards that featured student paintings of the wildlife of the Tibetan Plateau, or the introduction of bamboo rafting tourism so that the Batak tribe could make badly needed income by hosting tourists to float down the Maoyon River in Palawan in the traditional way.

Below is a partial list of publications that resulted from research sponsored by CERS, starting with its first wildlife research project in 1987, a survey of gibbons, the long-armed singing apes of the forested mountains of Yunnan, and continuing up to latest results from our newest research project carried in the jungles of Bhutan studying a little-known tribe of forest-dependent people. For reprints or to learn more about how you can support our research, please contact CERS as JLIB_HTML_CLOAKING .


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