A Report from Kazakhstan
“What are you doing next week?” I was asked.
“I’m headed to Dushanbe [Tajikistan] to meet with donor organizations, government ministries, and USG agencies to talk about science and technology,” was my reply. I never thought that sentence would come out of my mouth, but exchanges such as these are typical for AAAS Overseas Fellows.
The AAAS Overseas Fellowships offer incredible, unique assignments for alumni of the AAAS S&T Policy Fellowships in postings at U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Missions for one to two years. Fellows serve in the U.S. Foreign Service as science and technology advisers, environment or natural resources management officers, or economics officers.
As the science and technology adviser/environment officer, I am responsible for these broad topics for five former Soviet Republics: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. My portfolio ranges from addressing issues around climate change to biodiversity conservation, university capacity-building, water, and air pollution. Each of these countries faces a diverse set of science challenges based on their geographic location. The region ranges from desert to high mountain, lush forest to wheat fields. Particular areas of interest include glacier melt, agriculture yields, carbon emissions, and vanishing rivers. To help these countries, I work with colleagues from USAID missions, State Department embassies, host country governments, donor organizations, USG agencies, and non-profit organizations. Of course, I work with myriad AAAS Fellows and alumni around the world!
Immediately upon arriving to my post, USAID Central Asian Republics, a scant six weeks ago, I immersed myself in Almaty, Kazakhstan life. Whether it’s photographing local culinary delights at the supermarket, learning the Russian alphabet, road bicycling south to the mountains, rock climbing at the local gym, riding the bus, or purchasing a bounty of fruits and vegetables at the very large Zelony Bazar (green market), I am finding great adventures in Almaty. In December, I experienced the very modern Soviet architecture of the new capital city Astana, and visited Tajikistan. I am looking forward to next month when I will travel to Ashgabat, Bishkek, and Tashkent to understand major science and technology challenges for each of these countries.
The AAAS Overseas Fellowship is an amazing opportunity for those of us with technical backgrounds to help countries develop sustainably, increase their science and technology capacity, and grow economies. I look forward to my work here, and to engaging with these cultures through public speaking opportunities, museum visits, and athletic endeavors.
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