Yesterday was the final full day of our time at the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE), which had been our host and home for the past month. Students awoke early to take their plant identification and forest measurement quiz before breakfast. The quiz was held near the dormitory in a sacred grove of ancient blue pine trees, which contained most of the trees, shrubs, and herbs with which students had become familiar during our stay in Bhutan.
Students also wrote about some of their memorable associations with plants in Bhutan. For many, the knee-high aromatic Artemisia was the first plant name they learned on the course, and they enjoyed seeing this now-familiar herb in nearly every site we visited and learning about its local medicinal uses from Bhutanese friends. Others discussed the wild strawberries and rose hips that had become their common snacks along forest hikes. Several remain impressed with the contribution of pine resin to their campfire-starting efforts, and many have come to appreciate the wide diversity of Rhododendron species present in this region.
This morning, students presented the results from their directed research projects to an audience of 15 Bhutanese national government officials, academics, and cultural leaders. Their talks were extremely well received, with multiple officials praising the quality and scope of work the students were able to accomplish within such a short period for research, analysis, and writing. The director of the Department for Forests and Park Services thanked the students for their contribution and input on national priorities in land use, as well as insights and ideas into development of flood emergency preparedness systems in the central region of Bhutan.