Melissa Yule

27-year-old Mel Yule is a passionate social scientist, environmentalist and endurance athlete. From running the New York City marathon, to climbing high-altitude peaks in South America, to bike touring coast-to-coast across the USA and across the vast deserts and mountains of western China, Mel loves pushing herself to new extremes. School, work and a driving sense of adventure have launched her around the world to explore diverse cultures and cuisines, languages and landscapes. She holds a Master's degree in international development from the University of Guelph, and a Bachelor's degree in environmental sciences from McGill University, both of which widened her eyes to environmental and social wrongs in the world. As a result, she feels compelled to leave behind the comforts of home to confront such injustices firsthand in some of the harshest places on the planet, from the sun-baked Sahel to the frost-riven Andes. In her work and research, Mel combines community development with environmental science to study ecological impacts on human health. For her Master's thesis, Mel explored the vulnerability of subsistence farmers to climatic changes in northern Nigeria.

In the field she examined the gendered, class and ethnic dimensions of household coping strategies to better inform state and national strategies for climate change adaptation and mitigation. Since graduating, Mel has worked as a researcher with the International Development Research Center in Canada, where she studies rights and access to resources. For this work, she recently traveled to Jordan and Peru to evaluate the social and environmental impacts of a participatory plant breeding methodology that aims to provide farmers with greater access to resources, technologies and knowledge. Mel’s interest in the sustainable development of poor and marginalized populations provides the social dimension to this research. She looks forward to similarly exploring the socioecological impact of transboundary conservation on Silk Road populations.

Mel is committed to communicating her research and explorations, academic and otherwise. She has published a toolkit for West African radio broadcasters for the effective communication of complex climate change messages, as well as a book review on Environmental Communication in the Public Sphere. An avid amateur filmmaker, Mel loves documenting her adventures on video and sharing them with others. On the Cycling Silk expedition, she will employ her academic, social, and environmental expertise to research TBPAs from Asia to Europe, all while capturing the journey on film. She can’t wait to explore the past and present human geography of the fabled landscapes lining the Silk Road, and explore her own physical and mental limits in the process. This trip will also satisfy her love of pure adventure for adventure’s sake.

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