CAFF mourns the passing of Dr. Evgeny Syroechkovskiy

May 18, 1968 - January 25, 2022

It is with heavy hearts that CAFF mourns the passing of Dr. Evgeny Syroechkovskiy.

Dr. Evgeny Syroechkovskiy was a long-standing and essential fixture in Arctic science, Russian ornithology and migratory bird flyway conservation. He was a world authority on bird conservation, and the world relied on him. He was instrumental in countless conservation successes in the Arctic and beyond.

Dr. Syroechkovskiy first became involved in CAFF over 10 years ago via its Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Programme. He served as CAFF Chair during the 2011–2013 Russian Federation chairmanship, the conclusion of which was marked by the successful release of CAFF’s Arctic Biodiversity Assessment, a seminal publication to which he also contributed his extensive knowledge. He spearheaded the development of CAFF’s Arctic Migratory Birds Initiative (AMBI), encouraging the Arctic Council to address the conservation of declining populations of Arctic-breeding birds. He knew the Arctic Council was in a unique position to bring together diverse actors with a common goal to protect species that connect us all.

“Evgeny had great passion, energy and perseverance in the conservation of Arctic biodiversity, and the skills, knowledge and networks needed to succeed,” said Mia Rönkä, CAFF Chair. “Evgeny’s presence and character made an unforgettable impression. He will be missed and remembered in CAFF, in the Arctic and beyond. His work lives on in Arctic biodiversity conservation, and we will continue his work.”

His contributions to CAFF built on his life’s work. Dr. Syroechkovskiy frequented the Russian Arctic, studying migratory birds and their breeding grounds for over 35 years, carrying on his family’s legacy of Arctic nature conservation. The rapid population decline in several species concerned him greatly. His passion, in particular, revolved around the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Spoonies). In the early 2000s, he and colleagues sounded the alarm on its dramatic population decline; over 90 percent gone in 40 years. He initiated field work in Chukotka to further investigate this small bird with the charismatic bill. The precious Spoonie would most likely be extinct if not for his efforts, not least to: help develop and then chair the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force under the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership; secure the species as a flagship for the East Asian-Australasian Flyway; and help develop in the “headstarting” program, where scientists keep careful watch over new generations of Spoonies to protect against the elements and predators. He helped build an international network of researchers and conservationists passionate about this species, with enthusiasts dotting the globe.

Dr. Syroechkovskiy was a giant in Russian ornithology and nature conservation. He was director general of BirdsRussia, deputy director of the All-Russian Research Institute of Environmental Protection, and advisor to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation. He implemented bilateral agreements between Russia and several Asian nations. Dr. Syroechkovskiy’s reach was truly global. CAFF Secretariat staff would catch up with him across time zones and countries, following his dispatches from across the world, as he worked across cultures and languages to rally scientists and politicians towards conservation.

“Evgeny was such a strong character, a great friend and a pleasure to know and work with. He had a huge presence, with enormous energy, commitment and passion for conservation, especially his beloved Spoon-billed Sandpipers,” said Tom Barry, CAFF Executive Secretary.

“Evgeny was a force. Watching him work and listening to him talk, you knew this man was doing exactly what he should be doing. He was passionate,” said Courtney Price, AMBI Global Coordinator. “I will miss him. He was a lot of fun to be around. I know I will look back with gratitude at the time I was lucky enough to spend with Evgeny.”

It is an immense loss to many at CAFF. Dr. Syroechkovskiy had boundless energy, a wonderful sense of humor, a big personality, and such passion for his work. In meetings and collaborations he was driven, ready with encouragement, knowledge and strategy to shape projects and their deliverables. Afterwards, he regaled with entertaining stories, heartfelt speeches, the occasional song, and always shared celebratory libations. His passing is a great loss to us all and we will all miss our dear friend and essential colleague.

We send our deepest condolences to his wife and scientific partner Elena Lappo, daughter Anna Syroechkovskaya, and his wide network of friends and family.

Dr. Syroechkovskiy’s family has set up a Facebook page where friends and colleagues may share photos and memories. Please feel free to share your memories of Evgeny here.