Yale Himalaya Initiative

environment | livelihood | culture


Members of the Yale Himalaya Initiative are involved in a number of research partnerships with colleagues around the world, including with the following organizations:

Seto Lab: Urbanization and Global Change

The Seto Lab researches the linkages between urbanization, global change, and sustainability. We are interested both in understanding fundamental processes to advance academic knowledge and in crafting rules of thumb for policy application. While many of our studies are at a global scale, we focus on China and India, the regions undergoing the largest urban transitions in the world. We undertake local case studies to understand ground-level urban processes and regional differences in urban change. Many of our studies employ remotely sensed satellite imagery, data which provide a synoptic, global record of urban change and expansion over the last 40 years. Our research also relies on geographic information science (GIS), socioeconomic indicators, statistical analysis, interviews, and historical assessments to understand why and how urbanization has and will occur worldwide.

Lutheran World Relief

While many humanitarian organizations are moving to implement interventions for enhancing community resilience and adaptation to climate change and natural disasters, measurement approaches for resilience remain a challenge. Adaptive capacity and resilience are abstract, diffuse concepts that pervade all aspects of livelihoods, and are therefore inherently difficult to quantify. Measuring resilience impacts in development practice becomes even harder for organizations with limited resources. The Yale Himalaya Initiative (YHI) and Lutheran World Relief (LWR) have partnered on a project to tackle this challenge, by developing and piloting a measurement tool based on the sustainable livelihoods framework (SLF). This tool takes a holistic, systems-based view of resilience, in which six different forms of capital (social, financial, human, natural, physical, and political), moderated through processes and institutions, contribute to the resilience of households and communities.

Center for Trans-Himalayan Studies
Yunnan Minzu University, Kunming, China

Yale Himalaya Initiative (YHI) is the first interdisciplinary initiative in North America that looks at the Himalayan region as a trans-regional whole. YHI has partnered with the Center for Trans-Himalayan Studies at the Yunnan Minzu university to jointly teach a summer school in Yunnan Minzu University in Kunming, China. The summer school is focused to provide an interdisciplinary understanding of Himalayan issues across different themes and to provide a good base for disciplinary approaches to engage with each other. The first international summer school was organized in July 2015. Following the success of the summer school, the next summer school will focus on the theme of water in the Himalayas.


Since 2009, Yale faculty have been consulting with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests of the Royal Government of Bhutan to plan and implement its National Forest Inventory. In 2010 F&ES and the Ugyen Wanchuk Institute for Conservation and Environment jointly signed a letter of intent to foster inter-institutional cooperation and collaboration. Yale faculty are also in the initial phase of pursuing collaborative research projects on Bhutan’s temple art, partnering with local academics to undertake site documentation and related visual and literary analysis.


Tibetan Autonomous Region, Yunnan Province, Sichuan Province
Members of the Yale Himalaya Initiative maintain extensive informal relationships with academics and researchers working in the TAR and other Tibetan areas. These include the Tibetan Academy of Social Science, Tibet University, and Southwest University of Nationalities. Ongoing projects focus largely on Tibetan literary and religious traditions, although there are also close connections with environmental and educational NGOs operating across Tibetan cultural regions.


Western and Eastern Himalayas
In Sikkim, Yale faculty have maintain strong links with the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, a state-level government-sponsored research institution, as well as the Gangtok office of the NGO Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE).

In West Bengal, initiative members are in regular conversation with colleagues at North Bengal University’s Centre for Himalayan Studies, and are connected with the Darjeeling office of ATREE.
Across India’s northeast, we are developing relations with environmental historians based in IIT Guwahati, social scientists of Northeastern Hill University, Shillong, and  projects on conservation and sustainable development being carried out in the Indian Northeast with the support of Tata Trusts.
In Uttarakhand, our lead partners in the western Himalaya are CEDAR, who work across hill and terai regions of Uttarkhand, and through them we work with many key researchers based in Kumaon University and other regional centers, as well as several research institutes in Dehradun, including Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, Doon Library and Research Center, Doon University, and CHIRAG. In August 2011, led by CEDAR, members of the Yale Himalaya Initiative steering committee met with many local researchers and NGOs based in the western Himalaya at a workshop on research priorities in the Himalaya held in Dehradun on the campus of the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing and also visited the campus of the Indian Council for Forest Research and Extension.


Yale faculty members have strong existing links with both academic institutions and NGOs in Nepal. At the national Tribhuvan University, we maintain relationships with the Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies, the Department of Linguistics, the Department of Sociology/Anthropology, and the Institute of Forestry. We are also involved in ongoing conversations with independent academic institutes such as Martin Chautari and Social Science Baha, as well as working with NGOs such as Educate the Children (ETC) and the Asia Network for Sustainable Agriculture and Bioresources (ANSAB). Faculty members also have longstanding partnerships with institutions and scholars focused on religious and literary traditions in Nepal, including the Nepal Research Centre and the Nagarjuna Institute of Exact Methods.