The spring semester is winding down here in Colorado.  Across campus, students and faculty are attending final classes, participating in thesis defenses, and scheduling some of the last regular meetings of the academic year. During this busy time of the semester, I tend to walk from one appointment to the other accompanied by my trusty travel mug, which I regularly replenish with coffee.

As is typical in mountain environments during the spring, we had a snowstorm last weekend.   The final field trip for my and Robin Reid’s undergraduate class “Practicing Sustainability” was scheduled for the weekend – we were planning to visit a local bison reintroduction and conservation effort, the Laramie Foothills Bison Conservation project.  Friday evening we canceled the fieldtrip.  On Saturday morning, I hesitated to open my eyes – had it snowed as predicted?  Or would I open my eyes to see a day that would be conducive to the fieldtrip I had planned and then canceled?  In fact, I awoke to a steady snowfall, low visibility, and high winds.  Feeling confident in the decision to cancel the fieldtrip, I chose to settle in to the morning and grab a warm cup of coffee and pondered… should I grind the coffee beans I recently bought in Peru?  Or those from the mountains of Ethiopia?  Vietnam? Honduras?

Coffee is an important mountain crop, with an estimated 25 million people dependent on coffee for their livelihoods; many live in tropical mountain areas.  Catherine Tucker, a co-leader of the Mountain Sentinels Collaborative Network, is in the process of working on the second edition of her book, Coffee Culture: Local Experiences, Global Connections which draws on her research with coffee growers in the mountains of Honduras.  You will hear more about this from her directly in a forthcoming post.


We at the Mountain Sentinels Collaborative Network have been thinking about ways to expand our engagement with the larger mountain community.  While we all travel quite a bit locally and internationally to interact with our fantastic colleagues, we are now launching a monthly, on-line, web-based conversation we are calling ‘Virtual Coffee’.  We will try to create a monthly virtual meeting space for reflection and conversation around mountain sustainability issues.  Each ‘Virtual Coffee’ session will focus on a specific topic that we will select and will be open to anyone who is interested in participating.  We will ‘meet up for coffee and conversation’ using the GoToMeeting software and will be hosting our first ‘Virtual Cofee’ on June 15 at 9 am MDT (15:00 UTC/GMT).  For our first meeting, we will explore transdisciplinary approaches to mountain sustainability.  This will follow up on a workshop we held in France last summer whose goals were to:

  • explore and evaluate best practices and principles for effective transdisciplinary research in mountain regions; and
  • highlight the best practices and principles across the different contexts of mountain social-environmental systems worldwide

Some questions posed for the workshop and we would like to ponder during Virtual Coffee include:

  • What are considered “best principles and practices” for conducting effective transdisciplinary research and practice in mountains and how do we evaluate them?
  • What are the differences and similarities in visions, goals, concepts and tools that different stakeholders bring to address mountain issues and what are effective ways to create synergies among these different skills and perspectives?
  • What concepts, processes, and methods best support communication, knowledge co-production, collaboration and decision-making among mountain stakeholders, researchers and decision-makers at local, regional (and, potentially global) scales?
  • What factors facilitate adoption of best practices and what factors pose barriers to successful use of best practices?

If you are interested in contributing to this discussion (or are just curious about the topic and want to hear more), please join us on June 15. You will need to download a little free software from and then you can join Virtual Coffee from your computer, tablet or smartphone at: You can also dial in using your phone: +1 (646) 749-3122, Access Code: 883-211-413.

If you are on the Mountain Sentinels list-serve, look out for an email from us within the next few weeks reminding you of this event. If you are not on our mailing list, please email us at [email protected].

For those of you who prefer to sip tea or some other beverage with your community, we welcome you to join us and we apologize for picking coffee as our unifying symbol for a lively, relaxed coming together with colleagues and friends near and far.

We look forward to sharing a cup of virtual mountain coffee with you all!