About The Project
Bhutan is carbon negative and has committed to remaining carbon neutral, yet it is not spared the wrath of climate change. For Himalayan countries such as Bhutan, erratic weather patterns, fast receding glaciers, and the risk of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) have now become stark reality. Climate change, if left unchecked, can become one of the biggest threats to humanity. However, climate science often remains abstract, especially when explained through complex computer models and simulations that are difficult for the ordinary person to understand.
The Himalayan Environmental Rhythms Observation and Evaluation System (HEROES) Project
It is important for communities to understand climate change in a manner that they can relate to, so that appropriate mitigation of the causes of climate change (namely reduction of greenhouse gases) and adaptations to changes in climatic conditions can be devised accordingly. The Himalayan Environmental Rhythms Observation and Evaluation System (HEROES) project, implemented by the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute of Conservation and Environment (UWICE) in partnerships with schools and nature clubs across Bhutan, employs a combination of weather data collection (through a network of weather stations) and citizen science to help understand climate change. While the high-tech weather stations provide an uninterrupted flow of weather and climatic data (temperature, humidity, and wind speed) across Bhutan’s varied ecological and elevation gradient, the citizen science component of the project encourages hundreds of students to actively engage in observing their immediate environment to detect changes in how plants and wildlife respond to climate change.
Using Citizen Science to Collect Climate Data
In its second year of implementation, the HEROES project has already succeeded in mainstreaming plant phenology observation and climate change as a topic in the high-school environmental science curriculum. Bhutanese students will soon be learning about this very important topic that affects us every day. The project supports a network of 23 weather stations (20 in schools, and 3 in remote mountain locations). Some 34 teachers and 340 students have been trained and are now participating in the project. The numbers continue to grow.
Bhutan will be one of the few places in the Himalayas to have a comprehensive set of climate data that will be vital for helping understand climate change. This will be supplemented by an understanding of how key plants and animals respond to a changing climatic pattern over time. In the process, hundreds of students will gain first-hand knowledge of how climate change affects us through our surrounding environment. Thousands more will understand climate change though local lessons in school.
May 15, 2020
Due to the restrictions in place, all 20 schools under the HEROES (Himalayan Environmental Rhythm Observation and Evaluation System) program are closed.
Although phenological data collection is on hold, weather data through the weather stations are still being collected. In addition, our partners at Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research (UWICER) are using this time to fix any issues with current weather stations as well as planning and understanding how the data collected can be utilized.
February 1, 2018
Since 2014, a total of 17 schools across Bhutan have been implementing the HEROES. The UWICER has now selected four new schools from Paro, Punakha, Zhemgang, and Trongsa where students will soon start implementing the program.
August 31, 2017
The Bhutan Foundation signed a one-year grant agreement with the Bhutan Ecological Society (BES), a civil society organization in Bhutan, to expand the HEROES project to six highland schools. The project 'Schools at the Edge- Climate change adaptation and responses of high altitude schools' will ensure comfortable classrooms and quality learning as a response to harsh climate conditions, reduce the dependency on the use of sparse alpine forest resources through intervention of modern electrical appliances and engage students in the science of phenology observation and climate change.
November 4, 2016
Her Majesty Gyalyum Tshering Pem Wangchuck, co-chair of the Bhutan Foundation, granted an audience to the students and teachers of Jakar Higher Secondary School in Bumthang. Her Majesty visited the school to interact with the students and teachers who were members of the Himalayan Environmental Rhythms Observation and Evaluation System (HEROES) project at the school.
Jakar Higher Secondary School is one of 21 schools in Bhutan engaged in observing and recording the seasonal lifecycle of plants at their campus. Currently, about 30 students in Jakar are actively involved in the program monitoring plants regularly and submitting data to the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE).
During the visit, the students and the faculty presented a comprehensive overview of the HEROES project and their findings to Her Majesty. The students shared how the project has positively affected their lives and their understanding of climate change. As a result, the students and teachers also shared some of their initiatives to create public awareness about climate change through community services and road shows.
Interacting with the students, Her Majesty shared her appreciation and insights on the importance of learning from nature. Her Majesty also made field visits to different plant locations at the school and listened to students’ findings about the plants.
February 3, 2016
From February 3rd-5th, 23 participants including focal teachers from 17 schools and representatives from the Ministry of Education attended the annual Bhutan Phenology Observation Workshop. The workshop further reinforced the phenology observation skills of focal teachers and students participating in the HEROES project. In addition, this workshop provided an opportunity for the participants to provide feedback, refine existing observation methods, and resolve any issues related to project implementation.
December 30, 2015
Three additional weather stations were set up in Eastern Bhutan, increasing the total number of weather stations to 23.
November 25, 2015
Board members of the Karuna Foundation visited the HEROES project site in Nobding Middle Secondary School.
October 30, 2015
Climate change and the phenological observations were included as part of the high-school environmental science curriculum.
July 1, 2015
The highest weather station for Bhutan was established as part of the HEROES project, at 4900 m in Jigme Dorji National Park. This is managed by a local yak herder.
June 1, 2015
UWICE operated Bhutan’s first conservation drone over Bumthang, taking aerial photographs of Chamkhar town. The drone will be used to monitor forest cover, glacial extent, and other land cover changes.
This project is implemented by the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) in partnership with nature clubs from selected schools. The weather data collection is implemented in partnership with the Hydromet Department, and the citizen science part of the project with public schools throughout Bhutan. Support for this project is provided by the Karuna Foundation.
How You Can Help
For the first time, a wide ecological and elevation gradient will generate climate and phenological data to better inform climate change models. This will give a realistic and much better understanding of how climate change could affect our environment. Equipped with this knowledge, policy makers and citizens can make better decisions for climate change adaptation and mitigation responses.
Your support plays a critical role in Bhutan’s response to climate change: