Claudia Bashian-Victoroff, PhD student in the Department of Biology and Holden Arboretum, is the co-founder of the International Congress of Armenian Mycologists (ICAM). In addition to her research, which focuses on forest ecology with a specific interest in mycology and mycorrhizal ecology, Bashian-Victoroff is a proud member of the Armenian diaspora, the motivating factor behind ICAM.
From September to November, 2020, Armenians faced a violent conflict over a contested region, Nagorno-Karabakh (or as many Armenians refer to it, Artsakh). While Armenians have inhabited this land for thousands of years, it is internationally recognized as a part of Azerbaijan. In the aftermath of the war there has been a great sense of loss among all Armenians, but also a great push for unity.
“Many young Armenians in the diaspora considered how we could contribute our expertise to rebuild Armenia, devoting an aspect of our careers to the benefit of our ancestral home,” Bashian-Victoroff explained.
That’s when Bashian-Victoroff connected with fellow Armenian mycologists to establish ICAM. This group seeks to build science capacity in Armenia by:
- collaborating with the nation’s already successful scientists through shared grants, co-authorship and resource allocation;
- providing financed scientific mentorship to Armenian youth;
- gathering biological data that can be used in the protection of land and life.
Bashian-Victoroff shared that the history of genocide means many Armenians are disconnected from their ancestral homeland and culturally isolated and the ongoing conflict leaves many Amrmenians feeling powerless.
“This group was born out of that struggle as a means to build connections among Armenians within the country and in the diaspora around a shared passion for mycology, ecology and lichenology,” she said.
Prior to returning to Cleveland to study at Case Western Reserve University, Bashian-Victoroff received her Master of Science in Mycology and Forest Pathology degree from the State University of New York and her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science degree from Loyola University.