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Homo sapiens, biodiversity and climate change in the Arabian Gulf

“In order to understand, I destroyed myself.”  ― Fernando Pessoa

For the past 4.5 billion years, the world we today call “Planet Earth” has been undergoing constant change since its formation especially in terms of climatic changes driving evolutionary change whereby species and ecosystems work on adapting to survive or face extinction.  This constant fluctuation between the climate being extremely cold and covered in ice to very hot and vice-verse has in the past 10,000 years come to equilibrium, thus, making the planet’s climate more stable.

This has led to the flourishing of diverse flora and fauna creating what we know as today’s biodiversity and subsequently to the explosion of the Homo sapiens species population. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) defines biodiversity as the variety of life on earth and the natural patterns it forms, this refers to ecosystem, species and genetic variation.

In the past approximately 650,000 years, temperatures and greenhouse gases such as CO2 and CH4 levels are known to have changed following cyclical patterns over a large span of time. However, over the past century following the industrial revolution, human activities have started affecting the natural climate balance negatively whereby COlevels have now reached 400 ppm in comparison to the 80 ppm rise in COconcentration at the end of the past ice age which took over 5000 years to occur.

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Climate change impacts are already being felt around the world with projections of dramatic shifts in the states of many ecosystems; climate change has also been linked to well documented changes in physiology, phenology, species distributions and others (Watson, 2012). Moreover, it is also seen to be one of the main contributors to the global loss of biodiversity and has already caused accelerated rates of species’ extinctions along with changes to ecosystems worldwide (Sala et al., 2000; Thomas et al., 2004; Pimm, 2008; Watson, 2012).

Known to host the world’s hottest sea, the Arabian Gulf in recent years has become an attraction hub for scientists, economists, energy experts and researchers from various fields due to the region’s interesting and challenging nature (Riegl & Purkis, 2012). Despite the harsh environmental conditions, the region harbours a rich biodiversity bringing together ecosystems such as coral reefs, mangroves, sea grass beds and sabkhas whilst being home to numerous endemic species. Moreover, the Arabian Gulf also fosters many migratory species of turtles, whales and other species and is considered to be of international importance in terms of biodiversity as it hosts the second largest population of dugongs following Australia and the largest breeding colony of the Socotra Cormorant in the world in addition to many other reasons…..Continued here

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Highlights of COP12

Last week marked the end of the CBD COP12 talks, which witnessed a number of memorable moments some of which are highlighted here. The 12th of October 2014 marked the entry of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) into force with 54 ratifying countries – hence marking the First Meeting of Parties to the Protocol (COP/MOP1). Furthermore, the negotiations witnessed the official launch of the fourth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO4) report. The GBO4 serves as the publication of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and is a periodic report that summarizes the latest data on the status and trends of biodiversity along with drawing conclusions relevant to the further implementation of the Convention. The report highlighted that the current work and efforts undertaken by world governments towards achieving the Aichi Targets was insufficient. In addition, it stated that the goal to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2020 would not be achieved at this rate.

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The CBD COP12 negotiations further saw the adoption of 33 decisions on various issues such as financial mechanisms, resource mobilization, marine and coastal biodiversity, ecosystem conservation and restoration, synthetic biology, biodiversity and sustainable development, improving the efficiency of the Convention’s processes, cooperation with other organizations; biodiversity and climate change, biofuels, Article 8(j) (traditional knowledge), sustainable wildlife management and invasive alien species (IAS).

The meeting also conducted a mid-term review of progress towards the goals of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011- 2020 and its Aichi targets whilst it also reviewed progress in providing support towards implementation, through capacity building, technical and scientific cooperation, and other initiatives.

Furthermore, a High-Level Segment (HLS) was held from 15-17 October 2014, under the theme “Biodiversity for Sustainable Development” which saw the adoption of the Gangwon Declaration. In this declaration, ministers and heads of delegation recalled the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets in addition to the Rio+20 outcome document whilst noting that progress towards the Aichi targets is insufficient, and reaffirming their commitment to mobilize financial resources from all sources for the effective implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020.

An agreement on the Pyeongchang Roadmap was come to in the aim of enhancing the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the achievement of the Aichi biodiversity targets. The agreement contained five decisions on the mid-term review of progress towards the goals of the 2011- 2020 Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, and the Aichi targets, biodiversity and sustainable development, review of progress in providing support in implementing the objectives of the Convention, cooperation with other conventions and a strategy for resource mobilization.

“All forms of life are interconnected and interdependent, helping all in mutual survival.”

Simultaneously, the 2014 Pyeongchang Buddhist Declaration for Life-Peace was released to coincide with the CBD COP12 talks in the weekend between the two weeks of negotiations, many delegates and participants took time to join the monks at the Woljeongsa Monastery to reflect, recharge and celebrate the announcement of the declaration which underlines every life is a universe in itself. Moreover, it stresses that all beings whether small or big have the right to live on this planet as all lives are equal, hence, humans should always be prudent and humble in the face of nature and life.

Evalutation Meeting

With the end of the negotiations, our GYBN delegation team came together to evaluate all that has happened during the negotiations period along with strategizing for what comes next following the launch of their “Global Voices” which was announced by GYBN at the opening plenary in its first statement. GYBN is currently working on summarizing the outcome documents of the CBD COP12 decisions and translating them into youth friendly language – so stay tuned!

2014 Pyeongchang Buddhist Declaration for Life-Peace

GYBN is proud to have been present on the day (the 11th of October 2014), the 2014 Pyeongchang Buddhist Declaration for Life-Peace was released to coincide with the CBD COP12 talks.

GYBN Thoughts: “Clear the mind, activate the heart and feed the soul”.

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2014 Pyeongchang Buddhist Declaration for Life-Peace

 -– All Beings are Buddha in Their True Nature –

 By viewing nature as a resource to be controlled and exploited, humans have largely destroyed the habitats of animals and plants, thereby driving them to the brink of extinction. This crisis comes back to us as in karmic form, posing in turn a threat to our very survival. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has played a significant role in preserving biodiversity. However, it should be noted that the Convention is ethically limited as it also assumes living organisms to be an exploitable resource for economic benefit

In Pyeongchang, the venue of the COP 12, Korean Buddhists are to repent for the life-destroying activities undertaken so far and instead strive to create the momentum to restore our oneness with all living organisms. By doing so, we should end the prevailing culture based upon violent domination over nature and build a civilization of the living, where nature and humans co-exist in peace.

Saving life in crisis is an urgent, universal task. The moment to commence the walk to this goal is now. We cannot afford the luxury of further delay. Through the daily activities of individuals as well as cooperation at the local, national and global levels, we should strive together to build a sustainable all-encompassing society of life.

Woljeongsa monastery in Pyeongchang, where COP 12 is taking place, is an ancient monastery extending back one millennium and containing the 40th Power of Vow, through which the Bodhisattva of Compassion aspired to purify the world by cooling all earthly fever. To seek the wisdom to live in harmony with all forms of life as well as cool the fever of Earth, Korean Buddhists promulgate the following 2014 Pyeongchang Buddhist Declaration for Life-Peace.

Every Life is A Universe.

The universe is the Indra’s net, where each bead sheds light all over the world. All in one and one in all exist as a great life that cannot be parsed. A life as small as dust remains a creature that the entire Universe works in unison to make, and nowhere is there a small being that does not shine across the Universe. All forms of life are interconnected and interdependent, helping all in mutual survival. All manifestations of life are inherently and innately noble and precious, regardless of their necessity or usefulness for humans. Therefore, we cannot put a price-tag on them nor should we abuse them as a means for production or profit. Without justification, they should be neither harmed nor killed. Humans should always be prudent and humble in the face of nature and life.

All Lives are Equal.

Life embraces not only sentient beings but also non-sentient beings such as sunlight, air, wind , earth and water. Based upon causal relations, they have temporal continuity from the past to the present and to the future. Therefore, they are equal, without either superiority or inferiority, and not being distinguished by good or evil. We must consider fairness for life not only in the present but also in the future. We should realize that equality is complete only through the ethics of mutual care and respect.

We Should Create A Culture that Sanctifies the Preservation of Life.

Buddhism, as a religion of the forest, has long been in communion with the natural world. In Korean culture, forests or mountains without temples are hard to imagine. From its origins, Korean Buddhism viewed land itself as life and built temples to revive the spirit of the earth, thereby laying the foundation for the forests of national parks. As such, tradition and culture in harmony with nature is the source for biological diversity and ecological abundance. A culture that saves lives should be based on the power of local people. Therefore, we should not forget that the cultural efforts of indigenous and local people to preserve biodiversity pave the way to biodiversity conservation.

Humans are Responsible for the Peace of All Life.

The crisis facing the existence life today is rooted in human civilization that has wrongfully divided and demarcated the world that inherently cannot be separated or disconnected from its nature. We, as members of humanity, have wrongfully perceived finite resources as infinite, ruling them as if we were lords of Earth. We should first repent for our having exploited all beings in existence to satisfy our desires. We should realize that we are able to live only by the grace of all living things and thus lead a “life of requital” to express appreciation for and return of their grace. All forms of life have the right to happiness and peace, and we as humans have a responsibility to uphold that right. We should restore the bonds that we have severed. We are responsible for establishing a sustainable eco-circular society by protecting the equality of and right to life.

The Reading of the Declaration
The Reading of the Declaration

 

Group photo of all the CBD COP12 Participants who were present at the declaration announcement. [Photo credit: Woljeongsa Temple Facebook Page]
Group photo of all the CBD COP12 Participants who were present at the declaration announcement. [Photo credit: Woljeongsa Temple Facebook Page]

GYBN’s Second Week at COP12

The current CBD negotiations in Pyeongchang are getting ready for a decrescendo as COP12 is nearing the end. On Monday (the 13th), the week began with a reminder from the COP President that the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) to the CBD came into force the day before – 12th of October 2014 – hence, declaring the start of the First Meeting of Parties to the Protocol (COP/MOP1). Following the official plenary, the negotiations divided into two working groups to discuss topics on financial mechanism, resource mobilization, global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanisms and cooperation with other conventions under the Nagoya Protocol along with compliance. The Nagoya Protocol offers a legal framework to ensure that the access and utilisation of genetic resources is fair and equitable under the basis of the ABS agreements. Moreover, prior consent is required from countries and communities that are providing such resources under the CBD – more than 50 parties are said to have ratified the Nagoya Protocol already.

High Level Panelists at the opening of the UNDB Day Celebration Ceremony
High Level Panelists at the opening of the UNDB Day Celebration Ceremony

Tuesday, the 14th of October 2014, marked the UN Decade on Biodiversity Day (UNDB Day), which was celebrated by the Japan Committee for the UNDB, the CBD Secretariat and other Partners. It aimed at focusing and showcasing the utilisation and promotion of the UNDB at both the global and national levels. In addition to contributing to the scale up of the implementation of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets whilst further elaborating on the Pyeongchang Roadmap 2020. GYBN was invited to contribute and participate to the panel, which consisted of high level delegates such as the CBD Executive Secretary Dr. Braulio, the Deputy Minister for Environment and Energy of the Maldives, the IUCN Secretariat along with a CITES representative and others.

GYBN’s Melina Sakiyama addressing delegates and COP12 participants at the COP12 UNDB Day
GYBN’s Melina Sakiyama addressing delegates and COP12 participants at the COP12 UNDB Day

Yesterday (Wednesday), the 15th of October 2014, marked the official opening of the High Level Segment that brought together Ministers and high profiled politicians to the talks. GYBN proudly presented its intervention and presentation at the High Level Segment on the importance of youth participation whilst introducing its “Youth Voices” project urging governments to partner with youth and not use lack of funding and resources as an excuse to not engage. We must say, we are so proud of our North & South Focal Points (Christian Schwarzer & Melina Sakiyama) who have both done a wonderful job representing global youth!!! Moreover, GYBN presented a 10-minute presentation explaining how the “Youth Voices” project intends on translating GBO4’s findings into understandable language for youth and other members of the public to connect and easily understand the messages. Furthermore, they spoke about how youth are contributing globally to achieving the Aichi Targets – GYBN proudly stated that for the first time, in the short time since their establishment, they have succeeded in bringing together a delegation team that has a representative from every inhibited to COP12.

GYBN’s Focal Points: Christian Schwarzer (Global North Focal Point) & Melina Sakiyama (Global South Focal Point)
GYBN’s Focal Points: Christian Schwarzer (Global North Focal Point) & Melina Sakiyama (Global South Focal Point)

Moreover, our team along with NAYU also met with the German Vice-Environmental Minister Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter along with Carsten Träger and Klaus-Peter Schulze (both members of the German Parliament) as well as Elsa Nickel and Nicola Breier from the German Ministry for the Environment whereby GYBN thanked the German government for their continuous support of GYBN and resource mobilization to enable youth participation at the COP. This was followed by discussions on youth participation and Germany’s role in lending support to enable youth to raise their voice took place. Minister Rita stated that she is proud and impressed by GYBN’s work and encouraged the team to continue working towards achieving biodiversity conservation even though at times it might seem like a lengthy process with not much change. GYBN asked members of the German delegation to choose the species they are going to be represent at this COP as they made their way to the opening of the High Level Segment.

Front row from Left to Right: Frau Dr. Elisa Nickel, Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, Carsten Träger and Dr. Klaus-Peter Schulze
Front row from Left to Right: Frau Dr. Elisa Nickel, Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, Carsten Träger and Dr. Klaus-Peter Schulze

Lastly, NAYU in collaboration with the Japanese Youth Biodiversity Network (JYBN) and the guidance of GYBN delivered a great side event on youth’s contribution to ocean conservation bringing examples from three different networks based in three countries namely: Germany, Greece and Japan. Currently GYBN is getting ready in collaboration with the CBD alliance to conduct the Dodo award and also we are following the negotiations so that we can summarise and bring you the outcome decisions of this COP! Stay tuned as there is so much more to come!

GYBN at their daily co-ordination meeting past 9pm at the Alpensia Convention Center
GYBN at their daily co-ordination meeting past 9pm at the Alpensia Convention Center

Summary of GYBN’s First Week

The first week of the CBD COP12 talks has come to an end, its been hectic for our GYBN Team members who have been busy following the negotiations on various issues being discussed at this meeting.

Our GYBN delegation has within the short five days of the talks succeeded in delivering their opening statement at the opening plenary followed by interventions on each of the following items, namely: marine & coastal biodiversity, ecosystem conservation & restoration and stakeholder engagement (with particular focus on youth inclusion) in addition to submitting a written intervention on synthetic biology. Moreover, GYBN has sent an open letter to Mr. Martin Schulz the President of the European Parliament in regards to the next European Commission. The letter urges the EU to adopt certain recommended improvements to its next European commission’s structure and mandate.

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GYBN’s team members delivering their interventions at the negotiations

Moreover, GYBN has successfully launched its “Speaking for a Species” Campaign, which has witnessed a warm welcome by many. We were very pleased that the beautiful badges that has a photo of either a threatened or an endangered species, when presented to the delegates drew a smile on their faces. Of course, the first badge was presented to Dr. Braulio Dias, the Executive Secretary of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD).

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GYBN members presenting the badges to the delegates

Moreover, our team members are currently working along side the CBD Alliance on preparing for the Dodo and Busy bee awards – which are two awards started by the two networks as a way used to recognise good work and shame poor work by governments participating in the negotiations. The Dodo award is usually awarded to countries obstructing biodiversity conservation whilst the Busy Bee is given to countries that take positive action. Moreover, our team has been busy updating GYBN’s social media accounts on both twitter and facebook in addition to keeping the blog posts coming! They have also been working with the CBD Alliance contributing towards putting together the ECO newsletter through translation and writing articles. Moreover, on Friday the 10th of October 2014, GYBN has launched its “GBO4 -Youth Voices” Project whereby it organised a successful side event bringing together youth voices from around the world that showcased examples of how youth globally are working on implementing and achieving the Aichi Targets.

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On the same day, Dr. Braulio Dias took time to meet with all youth delegates to discuss the role of youth in the negotiations along with answering many of our questions. Dressed in a traditional Korean costume, provided by our partners from KCBD, Dr. Dias said that “We need to change the attitude of people and it is good to start working with you.”

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As the first week of the negotiations came to an end our team headed towards Woljeongsa Temple, which is located within Mt. Odaesan National Park. The group was treated to the generous and overwhelming hospitality of the Koreans especially of the KCBD members who organised an unforgettable and priceless experience through the temple stay. The team witnessed the Odaesan Culture Festival, which kicked off on Saturday the 11th of October 2014 – also known as the culture & biodiversity day, the day also marked the 2014 Pyeongchang Buddhist Declaration for Life-Peace which was released to coincide with the CBD COP12 talks. The team spent the rest of the day in reflection and meditation as they immersed themselves in nature and all the benefits that come with it. Hiking through the mountains of the national park, experiencing a tea ceremony, listening to traditional Korean music which all contributed towards relaxing the mind and feeding the soul. The team made their way back to the convention this morning recharged and ready for what will be a hectic yet exciting second week!

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“Speaking for a Species” Campaign

Today, the 9th of October 2014, GYBN launched its “Speaking for a Species” Campaign by giving the first badge to Dr. Braulio Dias, the Executive Secretary of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD). Speaking for a Sp with Secretariat Lemuel (Mexico) presenting the species badges to Dr. Braulio Dias, the Executive Secretary of the CBD The campaign aims to get party negotiators to represent a species for the entire duration of COP12. This is to serve as a reminder for the reason of their presence – which is not just to represent their countries, but also to represent these species. Moreover, that their decisions during the COPs is what will determine the future of species who are a crucial part of the planet’s biodiversity. GYBN is collaborating with the ECO newsletter who has given us the space to daily publish a fact accompanied by an image of a species for seven days. This is to aid in raising awareness of our campaign whilst affirming our presence and participation. In addition it will help us get our message across to all the readers and those who are in a position to influence the negotiations. In the next couple of days, our team will be cruising the halls and convention grounds, connecting negotiators to species whilst shedding light onto what their decisions will be impacting – so check us out! Launch of Sp4sps

CBD COP12 Kicks Off

The sounds of the beating drums echoed loud in the heart of the Pyeongchang mountains in Korea on the 6th of October 2014, which marked the official opening of the Twelfth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP12) under the theme of “Biodiversity for Sustainable Development”.

Despite the loud beats of the drums from within the conference hall, the voice of the people of Pyeongchang rang loud as they stood outside the conference venue in protest of the Korean government’s decision. This decision is currently in process and will result in the wiping out a 500 year old forest that has been part of this region for centuries for a 3 day event, this comes as part of the development plans aligned with the preparations to host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Ironically this comes at a time when biodiversity’s future is being held in a host country that is about to destroy a forest habitat to rare and endangered species.

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Inside the venue, the conference commenced with India handing over the COP Presidency to Korea as delegates from 196 countries gathered to discuss the future of biodiversity along with inter-governmental organisations, members from civil society in addition to many other representative groups such as youth, indigenous people and women.

The opening also witnessed the official launch of the fourth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO4) report. The GBO4 is the publication of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and is a periodic report that summarizes the latest data on the status and trends of biodiversity along with drawing conclusions relevant to the further implementation of the Convention.

COP12 is expected to adopt a “Pyeongchang Roadmap” to enhance the implementation for the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the achievement of the Aichi biodiversity targets. Following the opening ceremony, countries began their two-week journey by giving in their country’s opening statement. GYBN also delivered its first intervention where it urged parties to overcome differences and national interests and to work together to achieve the Aichi Targets to halt the loss of biodiversity.

COP12 will be discussing the mid-term review of progress towards the goals of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, development of further tools and guidance where necessary in addition to the review of updated National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs), biodiversity and sustainable development, resource mobilisation among other issues. The negotiations are now ready to begin with all geared up with what is expected to be a very hectic two weeks.

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GYBN’s members Reem Al Mealla (Bahrain) and MinJae (Korea) delivering the first intervention on behalf of youth at the opening ceremony

GYBN arrives in PYEONGCHANG

Amidst the mist and fog surrounding the ancient mountains of Pyeongchang in Korea, a beautiful youth movement has been getting ready to shine its light once again as it contributes towards protecting biodiversity for the coming generations. This youth movement comes under the family name of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN).

GYBN is an international network of youth organisations and individuals from all over the world whose common goal is to prevent the loss of biodiversity. As the official major group for youth in the negotiations under the CBD, GYBN aims to represent the voice of global youth in the negotiations under the United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD). Moreover, it aims to raise awareness among young people of the values of biodiversity in addition to connecting individuals and youth organisations, in order to build a global coalition to halt the loss of biodiversity.

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GYBN’s Youth Delegation filled with the spirit of the Korean Tigers during their Preparatory Meeting the day before the official opening of COP12

The idea of creating an international youth network to link young people in preserving of biodiversity immersed in 2008, however it wasn’t until the Tenth Conference of Parties (COP10) in 2010 that youth came together to announce their interest in starting a Global Youth Biodiversity Network.

GYBN was officially established at a conference hosted by NAJU in Berlin, Germany, which brought together 36 youth representing various organisations from 22 countries in August 2012. One of the many valuable outcomes of this conference was a position paper for the CBD COP11, which was hosted in Hyderabad. Two years down the line, GYBN had established a strong presence especially following the Montreal talks, which took place last June 2014. Four months later, within the short time since its establishment, GYBN succeeded in bringing together a youth delegation consisting of a representative from every inhabited continent to the CBD COP12 negotiations for the first time.

On the first day, despite the cold temperatures in Pyeongchang, the youth meeting room radiated with warmth erupting from the team’s excitement as they commenced their preparatory meeting for COP12. The CBD framework and decision making process was discussed followed by an overview of the COP12 agenda items and working groups. The team was treated to inspiring and wise words on how can youth influence the CBD process from a group of amazing panelists including Ms. Christine Von Weissäcker, Ms. Malta Qwathekana – the South African delegate, Mr. Horst Korn – the SBSTTA German Focal Point and Ms. Chantal Robichaud – a member of the Secretariat.

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Right to left: Ms. Christine Von Weissäcker, Ms. Malta Qwathekana, Ms. Chantal Robichaud and Mr. Horst Korn

The team also worked on defining youth positions on various topics along with their strategy plan for COP12 that covers various aspects such as interventions, campaigns, side events, press conferences and much more. After a long day of team building and educational sessions along with discussions around members personal goals and GYBN goals during COP12, and ways to achieve them; the generous Korean Council for Biological Diversity (KCBD) treated the team to a delicious Korean traditional style dinner. As the night took over and temperatures dropped lower, the team’s excitement soared as they looked forward to all that is to be experienced and gained in the next two weeks.