Volume 6:2
April-June 2009 

       Branches@ATREE

For private circulation only
Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment
 


CISED Merges with ATREE


In an important organizational development, the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Environment and Development merged with ATREE on June 1, 2009. As a result of this merger, Shrinivas Badiger (hydrology), Smriti Das (development studies) and Sharachchandra Lele (interdisciplinary analysis of forest, water and energy issues) have joined the ATREE faculty and Anand S., Vartika Saxena and Ganesh T.K. have joined the administrative staff. CISED trustees, Dr. K.S. Jagadish and Dr. Nandini Sundar, are now part of the ATREE executive board.

From ATREE's perspective, this merger will strengthen the second E in 'ATREE' (Environment) by adding expertise in new sectors, strengthening the social sciences, and building ATREE's capacity to do interdisciplinary work. CISED approached this merger with the aim of developing a critical mass of like-minded and committed researchers working on the environment.

ATREE and CISED are historically linked: they share a founder-trustee in common - Prof. Kamal Bawa; and ATREE facilitated, administratively, the formation of CISED in 2000-01. CISED and ATREE have also served each other as resource for capacity building workshops and trainings, as well as academic collaborations over the years. CISED's mission 'to promote environmentally sound and socially just development by carrying out research, teaching and outreach on issues at the interface of environment and development' is expected to strengthen ATREE's capacity in the social sciences and to promote a more vigorous discourse between disciplines. This discourse has been flagged off with the intensive six day course on 'Social Sciences for Natural Scientists' (covered later in this newsletter) conducted by Sharachchandra Lele, Nitin Rai and Ankila Hiremath in the first fortnight of the merger.

ATREE is now restructuring its research programmes and research at the environment-development interface will become part of this restructured set of programmes.



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World Environment Day

The June 5th, World Environment Day at the new ATREE building in Bangalore was about introducing ATREE and its work to its new neighbours. It turned out to be an environment appreciation day - a day full of energy, colour and vitality. Students and teachers from three schools in the vicinity discovered, at first-hand, the differences between cormorants, herons and pelicans at Rachannahalli lake; looked at trees and shrubs around the place with new awareness of their finer points; found out about bio-control, dung beetles and silk worms, observed insect forms through a powerful microscope, and visited the resident termitarium.


The art competition saw students expressing themselves using paints and leaves, and applying their imagination to converting waste and scrap from the area around ATREE into miniature tableaux of everyday environmental issues - like dumping

waste, the excessive use of plastic, vehicle pollution, killing of snakes, birds crashing into glass buildings etc. It was difficult to decide the winners since here were many good entries. The students, though aware of textbook-learnt environmental problems, were not aware of the fact that they could be a part of the solution.

Three wildlife movies were screened: 'Mountain of the Monsoons', 'Living with Giants' and 'Nagarahole'. The exhibition on toys and furniture craft made with lantana sensitised the visitors to the use of the weed as a form of livelihood and craft.

The evening program started with Dr. Gladwin's welcome address, following which the chief guest, Mr. A.N Yellappa Reddy, IFS gave an inaugural talk on Environment Day. He emphasised the importance of green cover and carbon sinks. Dr. K.N Ganeshaiah, Founder Trustee, ATREE gave a riveting presentation on the value of conservation. To impressionable young minds, it was a performance with a lucid message.

It was a day of give and take - we learnt a lot from the kids too! We plan to repeat it and make it better in the coming years and invite suggestions from all.

Ramesh Kannan, Bangalore
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ATREE Seminar

This year, the ATREE Seminar (ASEM) was held on the 1st and 2nd of June 2009 at the new office in Bangalore. The seminar, comprising 38 talks and 8 poster presentations, was spread over two days and attended by about 70 participants. It was grouped into five thematic sessions: ecological monitoring; livelihoods and environmental governance; policy and environment; ecological processes and patterns; and conservation outreach.

The seminar was an attempt to give researchers and students an opportunity to present ongoing work and elicit comments, clarifications and inputs from colleagues. It also gave presenters an opportunity to build and strengthen their capacities in communicating their work to a larger audience. It was seen as a great opportunity to know about the diverse range of issues/subjects that people in ATREE are working on. Presentations from members of Eastern Himalayas, North-east region and from ATREE's Community-based Conservation Centres brought in perspective, learning from these regions that are critical to the understanding of research and action across diverse geographic regions. It opened up opportunities to collaborate and know about each other's work.

An informal post-seminar survey revealed that while all were unequivocal about this being a forum for highlighting ongoing research and being hosted as a regular event, some questions remained which could potentially shape the organization and structure of the seminar in 2010 and onwards, and which might be of value if placed on record:

  • Is the seminar a showcase or a knowledge sharing session?
  • If it is about knowledge sharing - which is where most expectations from presenters and audience seemed to lie, how is a tightly packed two days justified?
  • Could the seminar be stretched, or topics contained to make knowledge sharing more possible and the time and effort spent productive and rewarding?
Jahnavi Pai and Sushmita Mandal, Bangalore
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'Valuation of Regulating Services of Ecosystems' Workshop

ATREE hosted a workshop on 'Valuation of Regulating Services of Ecosystems: Some Conceptual Issues' on 15th and 16th June. This workshop brought together around forty economists and ecologists from US, UK, Italy, Sweden, UNEP, Nairobi, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, and India.

The workshop provided scientists and economists common ground to share views on methods of capturing economic value of biophysical process of ecosystems, the application of which is in estimating value of environmental goods and services to facilitate decisions on public policy, evaluation of damages to nature, and resource allocation for conservation goals. Since the benefits that society derives from ecosystem services are left unaccounted and unpriced in the mainstream decision making process, linkages of livelihoods and economies to ecosystem services (among other issues) remain blurred to decision makers, and conservation strategy remains inefficient and unrealistic.

The workshop - organised by the SCAPES project (Strengthening Capacity to Alleviate Poverty through Ecosystem Services) - had the following objectives:

  • Methodological deliberation
  • Consensus building on approach, terminology and methodology
  • Sharing of practical experiences
  • Identification of data needs and knowledge gaps and
  • Future research priorities

The 2-day sessions covered methodological issues, illustrative cases and lessons learnt in valuing regulating services, followed by regional perspectives.

The workshop was first of its kind and was led by Dr. Pushpam Kumar of the University of Liverpool, UK and Dr. Jagdish Krishnaswamy, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE). It was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Department for International Development (DfID), the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

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'Social Science for Natural Scientists' Workshop

With the majority of ATREE researchers being ecologists and natural scientists, a course on basic social science theory on the environment was held for ATREE faculty, post-docs and senior research associates. The 'Social Science for Natural Scientists' course was conducted over six days from 8th June to 13th June in Bangalore.

The first day of the course was open to all ATREE staff, and sessions focused on the challenges of doing science in a social context. Talks over subsequent days moved to more complex perspectives on development and environment; the normative underpinnings of environment and development, including well-being and livelihoods, sustainability, equity, democratization, and cultural identity; environmental economics, institutional economics, political ecology and gender in environment. We were fortunate in getting a number of eminent social scientists, including Rajeswari Raina, Priya Sangameswaran, Ajit Menon, Vikram Dayal, Sudha Vasan, Amita Baviskar and Seema Kulkarni, as resource persons for different modules. The workshop was organized by Sharachchandra Lele, Nitin Rai and Ankila Hiremath.

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Vembanad Fish Count

The second Vembanad fish census was held on May 27th, 2009. 200 volunteers in 11 groups spread across the lake in the early hours of the 27th, from Muhamma boat jetty in Alappuzha. The volunteers, comprising research students and schoolchildren, scientists, environmental activists, fishermen, lake protection councils and others, had been primed for the survey the day before at St George's Parish Hall in Muhamma. Workshops were organized for the participants, where methodology was explained and species' identification keys were circulated. It is expected that this activity will generate awareness on conservation issues of fish in the southern part of Vembanad Lake.

This year's surprises were the discovery of the sucker catfish, an exotic fish ordinarily found in aquariums, in the Punnamada region. 62 fish species and 14 species of crustaceans and mollusks were found - an improvement to last year's count of 50 fish and 11 crustacean species. Water quality tested better than it had done at last years' census, possibly because of recent rains or the increased inflow of seawater from the open Thaneermukkam barrage.

ATREE's Community Environmental Resource Centre organized the Vembanad Fish Count 2009 with the intention of regaining participatory methods in lake management and to enhance cooperation between various stakeholders, government departments, NGOs and academic institutions, and to create awareness about the state of fishery resources of the lake. The Kerala State Biodiversity Board, Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS) of Kerala Agriculture University, Vembanad Nature Club and Kayal Samrakshna Samithys collaborated with this event. The College of Fisheries, Panangad, School of Environmental Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University, and the St. Albert's College, Ernakulam provided technical support.

The closing ceremony was held in the afternoon at the VIP island pavilion at Punnamada finishing point. Shri P. Venugopal, IAS, the honorable District Collector of Alappuzha, inaugurated the valedictory function. Kumarakom Agricultural Research Station Associate Director Dr. K.G. Padmakumar, Dr. Priyadarsanan Dharmarajan, Dr. Latha Bhaskar and representatives of the Vembanad Nature Club; College of Fisheries, Panangad; School of Environmental Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University; and St. Albert's College, Ernakulam were also present.

Krishna Kumar, Alappuzha
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New Staff

Faculty
Sharachchandra Lele, Sr. Fellow, Bangalore
Shrinivas Badiger, Fellow, Bangalore
Smriti Das, Fellow, Bangalore
T. Kannan, Visiting Fellow, Bangalore

Research and Programme Staff
Ierene Francis, Sr. Research Associate, Bangalore
J. Kannan, Field Assistant, Natham
Julie Gracy, Project Assistant, Bangalore
Krishna Kumar, Program Officer-Water Watch, Alappuzha
Krishnan H.M., Research Assistant,
Manjusha, Intern, Bangalore
P. Saravanan, Post Doc Fellow and Field Coordinator, Natham
R. Johnson, Field Assistant, KMTR

Richa Choudhari, Research Associate, Bangalore
Sheela, Field Assistant, MM Hills
Thorthai Goodden, Research Assistant, Northeast
Vadivel, Field Assistant, Natham
Veeramma, Assistant, BR Hills

Support Staff
Anand S., Finance Manager, Bangalore
Ganesh T.K., Administration, Bangalore
Ratna, Housekeeper, Bangalore
Sumitra, Housekeeper, Bangalore
Vartika Saxena, Accounts Executive, Bangalore

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Workshops Organized

Lele, S., Ankila Hiremath, Nitin Rai. 'Social Science for Natural Scientists', sponsors Jamshetji Tata Trust, 8-13 June 2009.

Krishnaswamy, J., Manisha Anantharaman 'Valuation of Regulating Services of Ecosystems: Some Conceptual Issues' organized by University of Liverpool and ATREE, under the Strengthening Capacity to Alleviate Poverty through Ecosystem Services (SCAPES) project, Bangalore, 15-16 June 2009.

Niphadkar, M., Nikhil Lele, Shuvankar Ghosh, Dr. John Kineman (visiting Fulbright Fellow) organized a workshop on 'Ecological Niche modeling' for PhD Students and staff at ATREE, 11-12 March 2009.

Niphadkar, M., Shuvankar Ghosh, Dr. John Kineman organized a workshop on 'Ecological Niche modeling' at the Center for Ecological Sciences, IISc, Bangalore. 16 March 2009.

Niphadkar, M. Planning, organizing and teaching sections GIS-RS basic course, for PhD students and staff of ATREE, 30 March to 3 April 2009.

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Workshops attended

Niphadkar, M. 'Social Science for Natural Scientists' organized by ATREE, 8-13 June 2009.

Niphadkar, M. SCAPES workshop on 'Valuation of Regulating Services', organized by University of Liverpool & ATREE, Bangalore, 15-16 June 2009.

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Presentations

Hiremath, A. J., M. Niphadkar, S. Ghosh. 'Invasive Species Monitoring with Citizen Scientists' at a brainstorming meeting on invasive species organized by Panjab University, in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Chandigarh, 22-23 May 2009.

Mr Paramesha, M. participated in 'GCOE-INeT International Summer School 2009' organized by International Network and Training office (INeT), GCOE of Hokkaido University, Japan. Presented poster titled 'Regeneration dynamics of forest trees, a case study of Amla in BRT Wildlife Sanctuary, Western Ghats, India'. Sapporo, Japan, 14-20 June 2009.

Dhritiman Das participated and presented a poster on 'Structure of Forest Ecosystems of Manas National Park, Assam; India' in the GCOE-INeT International summer school, 2009 on 'Frontier of ecosystem ecology in northern forests' at Hokkaido University Sapporo campus and North Hokkaido Experimental Forests, Japan organized by International Network and Training office (INeT), GCOE of Hokkaido University, Field Science Centre for Northern Biosphere, Hokkaido University and Japan Long-Term Ecological Research Network (JaLTER) from 12-22 June 2009.

Kavitha A. Poster presentation on Human-Wildlife interface in Kanakapura Taluk, South India at the 1st World Social Science Forum, May 10-12, 2009, Bergen, Norway. Scholarship given by International Social Science Council.

Siddappa Setty R. made a poster presentation on 'Impact of hemiparasite on gooseberry trees and livelihoods in BRT Wildlife Sanctuary, South India' in an international conference on exploring dynamic relationships between health and environment held at American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA, 2-3 April 2009.

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Talks

Lele, S. 'ES, VES or PES: Issues in conceptualising, valuing and paying for forest ecosystem services', Department of Geography, Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK, 26 June 2009.

Lele, S. 'Environmental Governance', Brooks World Poverty Institute, University of Manchester, 24-25 June 2009.

Lele, S. 'Hydrological services of Western Ghats: lessons learned for integrated hydro-economic analysis', SCAPES Workshop on Valuing Regulating Services, organized by University of Liverpool & ATREE, Bangalore, 15-16 June 2009.

Shivanna, K.R., 'Reproductive ecology of flowering plants: its relevance to conservation and sustainable utilization of threatened species' at North-Eastern Hill University, under the UGC programme: Universities with Potential for Excellence Lecture series. Shillong, 8 May 2009.

Siddappa Setty R. gave lead talk on conservation and livelihoods and participated in the panel discussion at National Consultative Workshop on Holistic Strategies for Conservation of Biological Diversity and Livelihood Organized by College of Forestry, Sirsi UAS, Dharwad, 22-23 May 2009.

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Talks at ATREE

Kineman, John J., 'Re-Inventing ecological niche modeling for the ecologist: results of Fulbright Research at ATREE', ATREE, Bangalore, 15 April 2009.

Waring, Tim. 'Impact of local social diversity on the success of a traditional cooperative irrigation system', ATREE, Bangalore, 22 April 2009.

Dr Haugaasen, Torbjorn, 'Brazil nut seed dispersal by scatter-hoarding rodents in central Amazonia, Brazil', ATREE, Bangalore, 22 June 2009.

Dr Ashok, Tara Devi, ' Human genome variation and environmental interactions: an epigenetic view', ATREE, Bangalore, 23 June 2009.

Documentary
Kadur, Sandesh. 'Mountain of the Monsoons', Critically acclaimed documentary on the Western Ghats, ATREE, Bangalore, 20 May 2009.

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Publications

G. Ravikanth, M. Nageswara Rao, B. S. Deepali Singh, Chaluvaraju K. N. Ganeshaiah and R. Uma Shaanker. The tale of two important bamboo species in the central Western Ghats: Implications for in situ conservation. Journal of Bamboo and Rattan Vol.7, No.1&2

Peer reviewed journal article
Thomas, Bejoy K., Roldan Muradian, Gerard de Groot and Arie de Ruijter, 'Multidimensional Poverty and Identification of Poor Households: A Case From Kerala, India', Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, 10(2): 237-57, DOI: 10.1080/19452820902940968

Popular press
Lele, S. 'Should Environmental Approvals Be Speeded Up?' Business Standard, 19 June 2009.

Reported
ATREE research on 'Shift in pollinators and changes in the productive traits during domestication of cardamom', in Pour La Science. Fr by Loc Mangin. http://www.pourlascience.fr/ewb_pages/a/actualite-de-la-pollinisation-de-la-cardamome-20855.php

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Events organized

One-day interaction with the Pitchandikulam Forest Consultants (PFC) team on issues related to the 'Adyar Creek Restoration in Chennai', ATREE Bangalore, 12 May, 2009.

Vembanad Fish Count, Vembanad CERC team, Kerala State Biodiversity Board, Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS) of Kerala Agriculture University, Vembanad Nature Club and Kayal Samrakshna Samithys, Allappuzah, Kerala, 27 May 2009.

ATREE Seminar, Seema P., N. Phalkey, M. Niphadkar, Manisha Anantharaman. ATREE, Bangalore, 1-2 June 2009.

World Environment Day, organized by Bhaskar Acharya, Paramesh, Hetal Hariya, Joanna Griffin, Rashmi Shet, Liza Pinto, Mary Lourdu and Ramesh Kannan, ATREE, Bangalore, 5 June, 2009.

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Awards/ Recognitions

Siddappa Setty R. received 'Fulbright-Nehru Environmental leadership fellowship', for 2009.

Shivanna, K. R. UGC nominee to the Faculty of Agriculture, Annamalai University for implementation of UGC Assistance under Phase I - SAP programme.

Shivanna, K. R. Nominated as a Member of the Research Advisory Committee, Tropical Botanical Gardens and Research Institute, Kerala (2009-2011).

Institution equipment grant of Rs. 5,00,916/- from WIPRO, May 2009. This grant was used to purchase Desktops (7 units), Laptops (3 units), HP Laserjet printers (2 units) and 19 TFT monitors (18 units).

Offices

Bangalore: Royal Enclave, Srirampura, Jakkur Post, Bangalore 560 064, Tel: +91-80-23635555, Fax: +91-80-23530070

Eastern Himalayas: E2, Second Floor, Golden Heights, Gandhi Road, Darjeeling 734 101, West Bengal, Tel: +91-354-2259297

New Delhi: 2nd Floor, K-1 Commercial Complex, Birbal Road, Jangpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, Tel: +91-11-4375 0071

Governing Board

Advisory Board: Dr. R.A. Mashelkar, Dr. Peter Raven, Dr. Dan Martin, Dr. Jagmohan Maini

Executive Board: Dr. K. S. Bawa, Dr. R. Uma Shaanker, Dr. K. N. Ganeshaiah, Dr. Darshan Shankar, Dr. S. N. Rai, Dr. Surinder M. Sehgal, Ms. Rohini Nilekani, Dr. Jeta Sankrityayana, Ms. Seema Paul, Mrs. Pheroza Godrej, Dr. K.S. Jagadish, Dr. Nandini Sundar, Mr. A.N. Singh, Dr. Ganesan Balachander, Dr. Gladwin Joseph (ex-officio)

Executive Committee: Dr. Gladwin Joseph (Director), Mr. Suman Rai (Regional Director - Eastern Himalayas), Dr. Ankila Hiremath (Regional Director - Delhi), Dr. Priyadarsanan Dharma Rajan, Dr. Nitin Rai, Dr.Soubadra Devy, Dr. R. Ganesan, Dr. Robert Chandran

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