Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR)

Institutional Affiliation



Ph.D. Geography, University of Colorado, 1987

M.A. Geography, Syracuse University, 1979

B.A. Geography (cum laude), University of Colorado, 1975


Alton C. Byers, Ph.D. is a mountain geographer, conservationist, and mountaineer specializing in applied research, high altitude ecosystems, climate change, glacier hazards, and integrated conservation and development programs. He received both his B.A. (1975) and doctorate (1987) from the University of Colorado, the latter focusing on landscape change, soil erosion, and vegetation dynamics in the Sagarmatha National Park. He joined The Mountain Institute (TMI) in 1990 as Environmental Advisor, working as Co-Manager of the Makalu-Barun National Park (Nepal Programs), Founder and Director of Andean Programs, Director of Appalachian Programs, and Director of Science and Exploration. In 2015 he joined the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at the University of Colorado at Boulder as Senior Research Associate and Faculty, and currently works on a range of research, writing, and teaching projects in the Himalayas, Andes, Appalachian, and Rocky Mountains. His work has been recognized by the Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal from the Nepali NGO Mountain Legacy; David Brower Award for Conservation from the American Alpine Club; Distinguished Career Award from Association of American Geographers; Ecosystem Stewardship Award from The Nature Conservancy; and Honorary Lifetime Member of the Nepal Geographical Society. In 2016 he was received a Fulbright Specialist award to teach mountain geography at Tribhuvan University, Nepal, and has twice been shortlisted for the Rolex Award for Enterprise. He currently spends between three and six months per year conducting field work in remote mountain regions of the world, dividing the remaining time between writing, hiking, and organic gardening. Dr. Byers has published widely on a range of scientific topics, and is an author and co-editor of Mountain Geography: Human and Physical Dimensions (University of California Press at Berkeley, 2013). His most recent book is titled Khumbu Since 1950, a unique collection of historic photographs of the Mount Everest region that Byers has replicated over the years.

Research Interests

Climate change analysis and adaptation in high mountain environments

Alpine protection and restoration

Program design, management, and implementation

Applied, management-oriented field research (physical and social sciences)

Monitoring and evaluation methods

Parks and protected areas

Faculty Sponsor

Timothy Oakes, Geography

Term at CU

Alton C. Byers was a visiting scholar during the academic year of 2019 to 2020.