ATREE PhD students receive degrees

Three PhD students of ATREE’s Academy for Conservation Science and Sustainability Studies successfully defended their theses and were awarded PhD degrees by Manipal University.

Madhushree Munsi’s thesis is titled, “Prioritizing freshwater habitats for conservation of biodiversity in India”.

Madhushree reviewed the framing of freshwater biodiversity conservation within the legal frameworks on India. Her study attempted to shift from “reserve creation” approach and developed a comprehensive protocol to identify high conservation value sites. She found rainfall, altitude, temperature seasonality and land use heterogeneity to be the most important factors in determining freshwater biodiversity distribution. Combining physical factors along with resource use and threats to freshwater systems with biological factors yielded a better method than existing “biodiversity only” protocols.

Madhura Niphadkar’s thesis is titled, “Mapping invasive species Lantana camara in a high-diversity tropical ecosystem of Western Ghats, India”.

Studying the invasive Lantana camara in the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve (BRT TR), Madhura first applied a bottom-up approach from ground information and existing vegetation type maps, and later a top-down approach using remote sensing data. Her mapping work is the first of its kind to map an invasive understorey shrub in the tropical tiered mixed forests of the Western Ghats using very high resolution remotely sensed data and a hierarchical object-oriented approach. She built upon long-term observational studies in this landscape, highlighting the possibilities of landscape scale monitoring for management purposes.

Hita Unnikrishnan’s thesis is titled, “The changing nature of ecological and social vulnerabilities within the context of an urban lake social-ecological system in Bangalore”.

Hita's research explored and established the range and heterogeneity of ecosystem services that communities avail from Bangalore’s lakes. She used an inter-disciplinary mixed methods approach wherein she combined archival data, oral histories, field observations, GIS, and ethnographic interviews. She explored the historical dependencies on the lake and open wells system that characterized the city and the factors driving alienation of traditional communities from the resource. She studied in detail the transformation of one specific lake (the Sampangi lake, now the Kanteerava stadium). She looked into ecosystem services derived from twenty extant lakes of the city, and perceived changes therein. Looking at one form of enclosure – privatization – she compared the ecosystem services provided by private and public lakes within the same network.