4th Annual
Artwork & Poetry Contest

Snow Leopard, Guardian of the High Mountains

Kateryna Bielikova

Shrouded in the swirling snow, she magically appears, climbing effortlessly across the high ridge. Her presence is felt even when not seen. The humans who have gone in search of her know they are not alone. She is there – watching, guarding, unseen in her frozen realm of rock and snow.¹

About the theme – 

“Legends, symbols, and spiritual beliefs abound demonstrating the bond people have had for centuries with the spotted cat of the Asian mountains . . . Throughout history, the snow leopard has been regarded as a spiritual being. Since ancient times, it has been thought of as a totem animal or spirit guide and worshipped as lord of the celestial mountains. As a source of spiritual power, it represents a link between the spirit and the natural world.”² And though the snow leopard “is of great ecological importance, what resonates with local community members is its cultural and spiritual significance. Based on their beliefs that nature and religion are inextricably linked, they see the snow leopard as an overseer of the landscape – one that not only maintains the balance of its ecosystem but is a spiritual guardian of the plants and animals that inhabit it as well.”³



2022 Judging Panel

Suraj Upadhaya, PhD is a postdoctoral research associate with Iowa State University where he is using the socio-ecological framework to understand the conservation behaviors of landowners. He is conducting research and teaching in the areas of socio-ecological systems and the human dimension of natural resource management. Suraj is also actively participating in research in the Himalayas through his organization, Himalayan Conservation and Research Institute. As a youth, Suraj participated in Snow Leopard Rangers, a conservation education program in Nepal for elementary-age school children through 10th grade. As Suraj’s dream was to one day become a forest ranger, he completed undergraduate studies in forestry at the Institute of Forestry, Nepal, in 2012 and received a Master of Science in 2015 from the University of Kentucky. In 2019, he was awarded a PhD in Integrative Conservation of Nature and Forestry from Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia.

Carolyn MacKenzie serves as Secretary on the Conservancy’s Board of Directors. Carolyn always wanted to be a wildlife biologist. At age 20 she backpacked across Africa, India and the Middle East. She received her Master of Science degree in biophysics and a Bachelor of Science in zoology, both from the University of California, Davis. Along the way, her direction changed. She recently retired after a distinguished 40-year career in the field of Health Physics. Carolyn’s broad experience includes the development of a computer-based international radiation safety training course for onsite test ban treaty inspectors, securing and disposing of dangerous radioactive sources for the University of California, systemwide and for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in global source security.

Margaret Gee hails from Sydney, Australia. She’s worked in publishing for over 30 years, and for the last 20 years has been a literary agent specializing in memoirs and other non-fiction works focusing on nature, Himalayan cultures, anthropology, history, animal welfare, and wellness. Margaret has visited Bhutan eight times and travelled extensively in Nepal, India, Burma, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. She regularly attends the Jaipur Literature festival and went on her first snow leopard expedition in 2019. She will be returning to Ladakh to search for the Grey Ghost in January 2023. Margaret is the Snow Leopard Conservancy’s Australian Ambassador.

Althea K. Alton, PhD is Biology Professor Emerita at Western Illinois University. Dr. Alton received her PhD in developmental genetics from Cornell University Graduate School of Medical Sciences. She did postdoctoral work at the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Research Center and at Indiana University before joining the faculty at WIU. Dr. Alton taught Biology at Western Illinois University (WIU) for 25 years before retiring in 2012. While at WIU she also served as Director of the Liberal Arts and Sciences Program at the Macomb and Quad Cities Campuses. In retirement, Dr. Alton has been designing and creating jewelry.

Susan Leibik is a visual artist and writer living in Vancouver, Canada. Her work is inspired by mountain travel, and the lives of animals and birds. Susan was a contributor to the book Searching for the Snow Leopard.

Marcia Sivek’s passions in life lie mostly in two camps- animals and art. These were reawakened in 2015. After 12 years of dry corporate work in the environmental engineering industry and almost a decade supporting a struggling nutrition consulting and education practice, with her husband’s help, Marcia was able to fulfill a lifetime dream of traveling to Africa. This trip opened her eyes to the ways animals and people are challenged to coexist. She observed many good people working hard to overcome these challenges in a way that benefits people and animals. Two years after that life changing Africa trip, Marcia debuted her creation, BeProvided Conservation Radio, a podcast showcasing people who love our wild world. The people interviewed are working hard to educate others about the importance of coexistence with nature though conservation, art, writing and animal rescue/rehabilitation. The podcast is now in its fifth season and going strong. Marcia has also picked up her paint brushes and pencils again to paint the wildlife she loves. She is a proud member of the National League of American Pen Women (NLAPW), an organization that encourages the production of creative work of professional standards in art, letters and music and provides activities and educational, creative and professional support to non-members in those fields via outreach. Her artwork and podcast episodes can be found at www.beprovided.com.

Shavaun Kidd is the Conservancy’s Outreach Manager, maintaining their presence on a variety of social media platforms, and is the administrator of the Conservancy’s website, editor of the Conservancy’s online newsletter publication, “Snow Leopard Tracks,” and is the host of “Conservation Cat Chats,” an online program featuring guests who are involved in snow leopard conservation. In addition, she handles online fundraising sales and is the coordinator of the Conservancy’s annual Art & Poetry Contest. Shavaun also serves as a conservation educator, speaking to a variety of audiences about snow leopard conservation and responding to student and teacher inquiries. She was the editor of the book Searching for the Snow Leopard, Guardian of the High Mountains, co-authored with photographer Bjorn Persson. Shavaun completed her Master of Liberal Arts and Sciences degree at Western Illinois University, which was centered around a post-baccalaureate certificate program in zoo and aquarium studies, She received bachelor’s degrees in biology, music education, and elementary education from Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

1. Shavaun Mara Kidd and Bjorn Persson, Searching for the Snow Leopard, Guardian of the High Mountains, (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2020), xxi.
2. ibid, 99.
3. ibid, 103.