The biennial congress is the official meeting of the ISE, providing a time and place to formally gather our diverse membership for ethnobiology exchanges and to conduct Society business.  It is the embodiment of the ISE’s core mandate to facilitate an “ethical space” where different worldviews can interact and share information across geographical and cultural boundaries, creating an interactive forum for respectful cross-cultural exchanges.

Bhutan1The upcoming 2014 Congress is hosted by the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE), a Government-based research and training institute that strives to foster better stewardship of Bhutanese natural heritage —land, water, air and species therein— through rigorous science-based research and transmission of cutting-edge scientific results to field practitioners, environmental leaders and policy makers. Learn more about UWICE

The ISE would like to announce the new Chair for the 2014 Organizing Committee, Sangay Wangchuk, and welcome him to the ISE Board. Sangay is the Head of the Sustainable Forestry Department and Program Director of Madanjeet Singh Centre for South Asia Forestry Studies at UWICE. In addition to teaching forest ecology, field botany and forest management, Sangay conducts research on ethnoecology and is currently studying the contribution of Cordyceps to the livelihood of alpine communities of Bhutan and the impact of Cordyceps collectors on the ‘pristine’ alpine ecosystem. He also has a deep passion for understanding historical climatic patterns and how they change through the use of dendro-climatology techniques.

We ask ISE members to join us in wishing the previous Chair, Thinley Wangdi, all the best in his PhD studies in Australia.

Congress Logistics

Bhutan2ISE congresses are held in different geographic regions so that all ISE members have easier access to attend the congresses in person on a rotating basis.  Hosting the congresses in different countries also offers unique opportunities to vary the “cultural flavor” of each congress, making them truly unique events— an aspect that ISE members have come to value as an inherent part of the congress experience. These distinct experiences also often bring different logistical challenges.

Deadlines associated with the 2014 Congress are earlier than what you might be used to from past ISE congresses. Really.

Some of the logistic challenges of hosting a congress in Bhutan were discussed in 2010 when the initial proposal was presented and then again during the 2012 Congress— including the long bus ride from the airport to the venue (details below) and the visa process which drives the need for early deadlines.

UWICE will be organizing the visa applications and the required route permits. More information will be provided once participant registration opens on 1 September 2013.

If you are attending the Congress, please do not apply for the visa on your own.

Many have also noted the extended length of the Bhutan Congress program (see Important Congress Dates).

Bhutan3The logistical reality is that (international) congress participants will most likely need to spend a night in Paro, the main arrival point in Bhutan, on either side of the congress. The congress venue is a 12-hour bus ride from Paro and most flights arrive late-morning to mid-afternoon —too late to make this journey all in one day.

The congress program has been set to allow a night and the better part of the following day in Lamai Gompa for participants to adjust to altitude, and recover from jet lag and the extended travel before the opening of the congress.

UWICE is working with DrukAir to coordinate options for Congress-specific group flights from specific entry points, and chartering buses for travel from Paro to Lamai Gompa (and return). More information about DrukAir flight options, in-country transportation and accommodations in Lamai Gompa will be posted on the Congress website soon.

Congress Registration

Registration for attending the congress will open in October 2013 and close at the end of January 2014. Another logistical reality is that the congress venue has capacity for a maximum of 500 participants.

As we are anticipating between 100-150 Bhutanese participants, registration for international participants will be capped at 350 and will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis once registration opens in October 2013. Once this fills, we will maintain a waiting list and add people in as we are able.

As with past congresses, registration will be held in three phases (NOTE that the dates have been updated and shifted since first announced!):


*There will be a different fee schedule for Bhutanese participants which will be announced soon

Not an ISE member or need to renew?  Click here!

For most of us, the opportunity to visit Bhutan is special. As with all ISE Congresses, the 2014 Congress will offer a unique experience for participants. While waiting for registration to open, we recommend that people maintain a flexible and open mind about Bhutan and what this Congress will be like, resting assured that it will be a full and engaging program and an amazing opportunity for all who attend.

Information about the Congress program:

UWICE and the ISE have been very pleased with the number and variety of proposals received for contributions to the Congress program. There will be pre-congress workshops, the in-Congress Program, and field trip options that will be held post-congress.

Bhutan4The main components of the in-Congress Program (1-7 June 2014) include:

  • Congress Opening (late afternoon Sunday 1 June)
  • Plenary sessions (two ISE general assemblies, a poster session, and a session for reports from the inaugural Biocultural Diversity High School Exchange project)
  • A maximum of four (4) concurrent scientific streams (oral presentations)
  • One (1) concurrent alternative format stream (called Sung),
  • Biocultural Knowledge Exchange Festival (Friday afternoon – Saturday, 6-7 June)
  • Closing ceremony (Saturday evening, 7 June)

Established at the Cusco Congress in 2008, an Indigenous Forum has become an integral part of ISE congresses.  While the manifestation of this Forum has evolved at each of the congresses since then, the initial intent remains: to provide an alternative space during the congress in which to address topics and themes of specific concern to the host community, as well as a different tempo of exchange which is less structured and slower paced.

At the 2014 Congress, the “Indigenous Forum” is being called Sung, the Dzongkha word for their tradition of storytelling and oral transmission of knowledge, often associated with the knowledge that is past from elders to younger generations.  Bhutan’s culture is built on oral traditions, Dzongkha is just one of some two-dozen languages spoken in the country, and there is concern within Bhutan about the diminishing perceived value in maintaining their oral traditions.

The program for Sung stream will feature story telling, talking circles, poetry reading, music and films.

Bhutan6Biocultural Knowledge Exchange Fair

A Biocultural Knowledge Exchange Fair is planned for the last day and a half of the Congress.  Modeled after typical festivals in Bhutan, where local community members sell their handicrafts and food products, we are furthering this idea by adding a dynamic hands-on knowledge exchange (through demonstrations and direct participation).

We anticipate activities including:

  • demonstrations on food preparation (preparation, cooking, tasting, discussion about the importance of certain crops);
  • music, song and dance (making instruments, playing, sharing different beats, dancing, talking about cultural and spiritual events related to different dance and music);
  • handicrafts (pottery, carving, weaving, etc. and discussion about the materials are collected and used, how the products are used, and how the artists learned their crafts);
  • and more!

While we anticipate that the majority of the stalls will be for Bhutanese, some stalls will also be made available to other congress participants.  In this way, the Fair becomes even more dynamic and cross-cultural. For example, musicians from many countries will share their knowledge with the larger public as well as fellow musicians— who may use different techniques, tunes, and rhythms, and the weavers will see how weavers from other countries utilize different materials, dyes and tools.

While part of the larger ISE Congress, this Fair will be open to the full community of Lamai Goempa, Bumthang.

If you are interested in having a booth at the Festival, please email a description to [email protected] with Congress Festival in the subject heading.