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Today we traveled from Beijing back to Wuxi on the bullet train. Staff from the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences picked us up at our hotel and drove us to the Beijing South Railway Station. This was unexpected. Very nice of them! They were worried about us getting hung-up in the morning subway rush, and from my first-hand experience 2-days before, I know why. Again, the hospitality and thoughtfulness here are remarkable. Will make me re-double my efforts to be a good host for our future guests.

We worked our way through morning traffic for 30 minutes or so to the station, for me, another chance to look around and see Beijing one last time. I really liked this place, the energy, the mix of the modern with its rich history.

The Birds Nest, 2008 Olympic Stadium

Passing by the 2008 Olympic Village and a view of the “Bird Nest”.

Beijing South is nice. You walk in, the security check is smooth, the light from the vaulted ceiling is relaxing, plenty of seating and space for everyone to stretch-out and wait for the train, another example of China doing big things.

Beijing South Station

Beijing South Railway Station

Inside the Beijing South Railway Station

The train ride back to Wuxi was relaxing. Quiet. Everyone was tired from a long couple of days. But I had time to think about my trip and jot down some notes. I came here to learn new things about mussels and how to hold them in captivity. Which I did. Chinese biologists hold male and female mussels serving as their propagation broodstock closely together in either suspended nets in ponds or closely together in shallow raceways. Either way provides a setting for the males to fertilize the females in captivity. While simple, this set-up allows them to perpetuate their progeny and genetic lines generation after generation.

In the U.S., mussel hatcheries have made great progress in rearing mussels of numerous species to larger sizes. Sizes suitable for stocking and monitoring in rivers. Hatchery managers are even beginning to see young progeny grow to adults and become gravid at their facilities. Because of these advances, I am optimistic about mussel conservation efforts and what they might mean for the future, such as rebuilding small populations on the brink of extinction and using hatchery reared mussels to understand effects of pollutants in rivers. We have the opportunity and technology to close the reproductive life cycle for many species in captivity. Projects to study and control this process, to make it effective for conservation purposes, are now needed. For very rare species, such advancements may prove critical to their road back to recovery.

Jess

We were up early, around 4 am to catch a ride to the Great Wall. After sorting through some initial hang-ups with our drivers, we arrived at the Wall around 10:30 am. The section of wall we visited was in rugged, very mountainous terrain.

More of the Great Wall

The Great Wall of China

Located north of Beijing, it’s really hard to imagine how the Chinese people more than 2000 years ago built the Wall through such country. Climbing the Wall was a challenge, especially for someone like me who has bad knees. But I took my time and made it up to one of the first watch towers.

Jess at the Great Wall

Jess Jones at the Great Wall

I was very happy to be there… to have climbed a small piece of the Wall and to appreciate what the Chinese people accomplished long ago.

Our group at the Great Wall

Our group photo

Since heading up to Beijing, I have had essentially no time for writing my blog. Further, the internet connections have been very slow, so uploading my pictures has not been possible. So I am back in the U.S. now and plan to finish-up the blog with my next two entries, giving my final thoughts on the trip and what I learned here in China.

Jess

Our day began at 8 am with a 30 minute ride on the Beijing subway to Tiananmen Square. It was the morning rush hour, so at each stop the morning commuters piled into the subway, really packing themselves in. But just when you thought there was absolutely no way anymore people could fit into the subway car, another 10-12 would find a way to squeeze in. At one point I thought we lost Wen but then I spotted him right next to me buried in the crowd.

Where is Wen

Wen trying to survive in the Beijing subway

Our meeting with the administrators and scientists at the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences (CAFS) was scheduled for 2 pm, so our plan was to walk around the square a bit and then tour the Forbidden City in the morning. The Forbidden City is located at one end of the square. Tiananmen square is similar to the National Mall in Washington D.C., a place where people can walk around and see the national museums, monuments, government and other historical buildings.

Looking into Tian Anmen Square

Tiananmen Square

My first impressions of the Forbidden City was how big it was, layer after layer of walls, temples and courtyards. It is difficult to put into words how big the Forbidden City is…at first you are amazed at the 4-5 main temples and courtyards when you first walk through, each courtyard could fit more than half a dozen football fields inside of it, but then you start working your way through the smaller courtyards, gardens and living quarters, seeing the sculptures, state treasures and artwork,  when you begin to realize that everything you just saw was only about a third of the City. They call it a City for a reason and it is truly one of the the most magnificent places I have ever been to.

Entrance to the Forbidden City

Entrance to the Forbidden City

After our morning tour, we went back to the hotel to get ready for our meeting at CAFS. The headquarters of CAFS was just a 10 minute walk from our hotel. We walked over and made our way to a meeting room upstairs on the second floor. We were greeted by Professor Li Yingren, who is the Director of the Division of Academic Exchange and Cooperation for CAFS. He introduced himself and the staff in attendance and then gave us an overview of CAFS and how it is structured. The Vice President of CAFS Liu Qing then joined the meeting a few minutes later. She was on travel, had just flown back into Beijing and made her way to the headquarters for our meeting. Eric Hallerman introduced our group and then gave an overview of the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech.

Meeting at CAFS

Our academic exchange meeting at the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences

The CAFS is under the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture and was officially established in 1978. It has 22 research institutes and centers located across 11 provinces and municipalities, covering all major sea areas and river reaches in China. The FFRC is one of the research centers. The headquarters in Beijing provides the leadership platform for the academy’s management and research priorities. The CAFS priorities include: (1) Conservation and utilization of fishery resources, (2) Assessment and protection of the fishery ecological environment, (3) Biotechnology, (4) Genetic breeding, (5) Disease control, (6) Aquaculture, (7) Processing and product utilization, (8) Aquatic product quality and safety, (9) Fishery equipment and engineering, and (10) Information and strategic development studies. Further, each of these main priority areas has multiple priorities within it.

Our meeting at CAFS was very engaging. It was scheduled for one hour, from 2-3 pm, but we finished at 4 pm instead. We talked about ongoing fisheries projects in China, the possibilities for student exchanges, the listing of species on their National Protection Catalog (currently 80 species are listed on the catalog), the difficulties of protecting aquatic species in rivers and lakes, introduction of exotic species in China and the United States, conservation of cool water species such as the Amur sturgeon and the Hucho (Hucho taimen), their national water quality monitoring network which includes 42 stations around the country, and interestingly, using mollusks to monitor heavy metals in freshwater and marine environments and the role mollusks can play in carbon sequestration. For example, Professor Wang Xiaomei talked about monitoring heavy metals in mollusks in Taihu Lake, near Wuxi. Again, the conservation challenges here are so similar to our own, from rare species protection to monitoring water quality.

After our meeting at CAFS, we went to another part of Beijing to meet Professor Lei Guangchum and six of his students for dinner. He is the Dean of the College of Nature Conservation at Beijing Forestry University. They are studying conservation of wetlands, for example how some of the natural lakes downstream of Three Gorges Dam are being cut-off from the main river water supplies, and how dyke systems are diminishing smaller natural wetlands. However, he has had a wide ranging career, to include studying the remaining tigers in south China. Our evening with them was very enjoyable. Nice to see the passion his students have for conservation, to hear about their projects.

Jess

More of the days photos can be seen at:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/64913518@N04/

We were up early to catch the 8:30 am bullet train from Wuxi to Beijing. The Wuxi station is new, of modern architecture, to see the bullet train pull in here was impressive. We got on the train, it eased up to speed and then we’re going 200 mph. The track is elevated above the ground by about 30 feet, a railroad bridge across a large section of country, so the view of the countryside was great. Our ride to Beijing took about 5 hours, very enjoyable and another chance to see more of China. As you go north to Beijing, the climate becomes drier and the rice fields give way to cornfields and other crops.

Arrival of Bullet Train, Wuxi

Bullet train arriving at Wuxi station

A topic that comes up among our group and during our academic exchanges, is the accessibility of Chinese science. There is excellent scientific work being conducted here and much of it is being published in the leading national journals, such as the Journal of Fishery Sciences of China. However, it is difficult for non-native speakers to access this work. This situation is unfortunate because opportunities for information sharing are being prevented, thus hindering opportunities for international collaboration and learning. In talking with scientists here, you quickly understand that the scientific issues they face are similar to our own. For example, what are the best ways to study the transport and fate of pollutants in rivers and what is their effect on a fishery? Chinese scientists are currently conducting research to answer these questions in both freshwater and marine environments, including investigations on bivalve mollusks. Hence, their discoveries and methods are beneficial to the international community.

Since international journals are published in English, finding ways to assist in the outlet of Chinese science to such journals is important. Their top studies could easily pass the rigors of peer review based on novelty of the hypotheses being tested, experimental design, statistical analysis and so on, but sometimes the poor writing quality is a hang-up for many reviewers, hence leading to a high rejection rate. It is challenging for any scientist to write a high quality paper that will pass the scrutiny of peer-review. But to do that then convert your work into English is twice as hard. Solutions do exist, for example providing more opportunities for student training at English speaking universities or having an English speaking colleague review your manuscript before submission to an international journal, but ultimately reviewers need to recognize good science despite the presence of grammatical imperfections. They need to have the patience to work through the errors and provide constructive feedback. Otherwise, opportunities to see what our colleagues around the world are discovering will be missed.

Jess

More of the days photos can be seen at:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/64913518@N04/

Today was a travel day from Shanghai back to Wuxi. So no news on our fisheries academic exchange. But before we left Shanghai, we stopped for lunch at a small shop that made traditional noodles, by hand the the old fashioned way. This kid about 14 years old took the dough, rolled it, worked it over and then tossed it around in the air until the dough separated into long strands of noodles. I watched him do this but I couldn’t really see how he turned them into noodles. It was all very fast, impressive, and the noodles were great to!

Streching out the dough

Making noodles in Shanghai

For the most part, we’ve been traveling from place to place in a minivan. You get see a lot of the countryside and cities this way and we’ve had some good conversations along the way. We’ve talked about the Yangtze River, its biodiversity, and the effect Three Gorges Dam will likely have on the fisheries and ecosystem over time. This topic is not taboo here in China. The scientists here talk about the dam and they are already documenting effects on certain fisheries and species. There is a dialogue and openness here on such environmental issues that has been nice to see. We are traveling to Beijing tomorrow, where we will meet scientists from the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences on Tuesday.

Jess

We traveled from Hangzhou to Shanghai in the morning to meet with Dr. Li Jiale and his staff at Shanghai Fisheries University. Dr. Li is a geneticist and Dean of the College of Aqua-life Sciences and Technology. His work includes sequencing the genome and identifying some of the major genes for Hyriopsis cummingii. They are interested in identifying the genes that control for pearl color and luster. His group also conducted a population genetics study on H. cummingii to determine how different some of the existing populations are in the natural lakes of the region. Eric and Dr. Li had a lot to talk about, sharing information on their respective genome sequencing projects.

After our meeting, we broke for lunch and then walked around campus. We saw the University labs, student dorms, many academic buildings and athletic facilities. The campus was completed in 2008 but some minor work remains, mainly moving additional equipment into the labs. Shanghai Fisheries University is one of about 6 major universities in China dedicated to the study of fisheries and aquaculture. China also has 10 fisheries research centers, to include the Freshwater Fisheries Research Center (FFRC) in Wuxi. The FFRC is only center in the country dedicated to freshwater systems though, the remaining research centers focus on marine fisheries.  Obviously China is invested in the study of fisheries resources. Fish are such an important part of Chinese culture and diet, and understanding their production and sustainability are very important here. Before we departed campus, I gave Dr. Li and his colleague Dr. Bai some pdf reprints of our scientific papers on the conservation genetics of freshwater mussels and some of our power point presentations.

Shanghai Fisheries University Campus 4

Campus of Shanghai Fisheries University

In the evening we walked around downtown Shanghai along the Huangpu River, a tributary to the lower Yangtze. Shanghai is one of the major port cities and financial centers of China, quite similar to New York. Tomorrow we head back to Wuxi before going to Beijing.

Jess

Shanghai at night

Downtown Shanghai at Night

More of the days photos can be seen at:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/64913518@N04/

Watch a video of boats on the Huangpu River:

We were up early to catch the boat to tour lake Qiandao. The lake is full of islands, and of course we visited a few. Each island was basically a small natural area park where you could walk around see the lake. We had lunch on the boat and then went back to town to depart for Hangzhou.

Qiandao Lake

View of Qiandao Lake

Hangzhou is a big city, I’d guess around 4 million people live there. A large river, the Qian Tang runs through part of it. We are working are way to Shanghai to meet with professors at Shanghai Fisheries University. But after traveling through eastern China for about week now, you are constantly amazed at the pace of life here, the new construction, big modern buildings going up everywhere, the diversity of the food,  each town has its own dishes, you never see the same dishes served again and again, some similarities yes, but always a bit different from place to place. The roads are new and very broad and spacious, and with greenery everywhere, shrubs, trees and and flowers all along the roadways. Even in the small towns you see the same sorts of things, new homes, road construction, etc.

People going to work in Hangzhou

People heading to work in Hangzhou

You get the sense that Chinese people are used to big changes. For example, a few years back the country converted over to using the electric scooter versus the gas powered scooter to cut down on air pollution and noise in the cities. This change happened quickly. Many of the old neighborhoods in the cities are being razed, torn down and new very modern buildings and entire neighborhoods take their place. You get the sense that whatever old China was, it will quickly be gone, at least here in the east. We will visit Shanghai Fisheries University tomorrow, but as another example, they moved the entire campus to the outskirts of Shanghai because the old campus was not big enough. They just  built a new campus to educate and house 40,000 students to study fisheries, the oceans, aquaculture, etc. Imagine that…an entire University dedicated to fisheries.

Jess

The days photos can be found at:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/64913518@N04/

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