We request a funding for establishing a high standing network for long-term exchange and collaboration on education and research between the University of Geneva and Astrakhan State University working in the field of aquatic sciences. Water is critical for human and planetary well-being, and water-related challenges are in the hearth of the quest toward sustainable future. Among the challenges water quality, monitoring and protection have been defined as a focal point of the network with two areas of excellence: water resource quality and pollution, biodiversity and ecosystem services. We will focus on the Volga-Caspian Basin, an exceptional and diverse ecosystem including the Volga Delta adjoining arid territories, semi-desert landscapes of the Peri-Caspian Lowland and the unique Caspian Sea-Lake. This basin is very rich of natural resources, numerous endemic species of animals and plants, thus representing a unique “natural laboratory” to explore the structure and function of large water bodies and their watershed basins. It is very rich in oil and gas and thus dominated by the petrochemical industry. The increased economic use and intensification of the local economic activities induced different alterations, imposing negative effects on its natural ecosystem and thereby potentially putting it at risk. These alterations were the “drivers” of recent efforts for the monitoring, analysis and prognosis of Caspian Sea Basin conditions. All these different aspects of ecology, biodiversity and potential environmental impacts on Caspian Sea Basin water resources will be therefore considered via the educational network activities. The planned activities includes set up a standing interactive Swiss-Russian field summer school (at ASU) for gaining knowledge on the Caspian Sea ecosystems and hands-on research experience participating in field observations, knowledge exchange of water quality monitoring practices and fostering the practical skills and water quality assessment (at UNIGE) as well as activities related with the long-term extension of the educational network. The Educational Network for Sustainable Water Resources will provide very favourable environment for personal development of young and talented researchers at PhD level and a unique opportunity to obtain an interdisciplinary training experience with an integrative approach to a societal and ecological issue representative of current challenges humanity faces worldwide on its quest to the development of a sustainable future. It will also enable the young participants to conduct comparative studies between Caspian Sea and lake Geneva, as well as to provide them first networking opportunities for future transboundary collaborations, an essential skill for prospective environmental science specialists. The setting up educational network for sustainable water resources and related activities corresponds to long-term plans for the development of the Department F.-A. Forel for environmental and aquatic sciences (UNIGE) and Chair of Biotechnology, Zoology and Aquaculture (ASU) and fosters the already existing institutional agreement between the two universities.
Prof. Dr. Vera Slaveykova
University: University of Geneva
Départment: Deprtament F.A. Forel for environmental and aquatic sciences
Prof. Dr. Mikhail Egorov
University: Astrakhan State University
Départment: Department Biotechnology, zoology and aquaculture