Students Conference on Conservation Science 2018

Location: J N Tata Auditorium

Dear All,

You are invited to the 9th Students Conference on Conservation Science, starting from tomorrow. It is a 4-day long international conference organized by students, which brings together young researchers in the science and practice of biodiversity conservation. Like every year, it is being held at the J.N. Tata Auditorium, IISc. The evening sessions are open to public. The plenary talks listed below will describe various practical facets of conservation. This year we will also have short-film screenings from students’ submission.

Day 1 : 27th Sep (Thu), 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Popular Open Plenary: Human-elephant conflict mitigation: wrong tools in the wrong hands?

Speaker: Prithviraj Fernando

Abstract : Human-elephant conflict (HEC) occurs mainly due to crop raiding by elephants. Crops are a vastly superior resource than natural fodder. Elephants mostly raid crops by choice rather than necessity and elephant biology and reproductive strategy makes crops highly attractive to male elephants. Agricultural expansion in areas with elephants leads to wider spread and intensification of conflict. Most traditional methods of crop protection are confrontational, leading to increased aggression by elephants and an arms race of escalating conflict. HEC mitigation by conservation agencies is largely based on restricting elephants to protected areas, but in many landscapes the majority of elephants occur outside protected areas. HEC mitigation by conservation agencies has been based on translocation, drives and barriers. While capture and domestication has been advocated as a HEC mitigation measure, reduction in elephant numbers does not necessarily reduce conflict. Elimination of elephants from a landscape by capture is seldom achievable and elimination by culling is not acceptable in the Asian context. Elimination is also undesirable from an elephant conservation perspective. In spite of great effort by conservation agencies over many decades, HEC continues to escalate across Asian elephant range. The geographic and temporal scale of HEC makes its mitigation by conservation agencies an unachievable goal. Effective HEC mitigation requires a paradigm change, with acceptance of human-elephant co-existence, people suffering from HEC and agencies tasked with people’s welfare taking the lead in HEC mitigation through non-confrontational crop protection.

Speaker Bio : ‚ÄėPruthu‚Äô qualified as a medical doctor from the North Colombo Medical College, but decided not to practice medicine but to pursue a career in¬†conservation biology. Subsequently he obtained a M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from the University of Oregon. The title of his PhD thesis was ‚ÄėGenetics,¬†Ecology and Conservation of the Asian Elephant‚Äô. He pioneered genetic analysis of Asian elephants using their dung and radio tracking of elephants in Sri Lanka.¬†Upon completion of his Ph.D. in 1999, he joined Columbia University New York, where he conducted research on Asian elephants and Javan rhinos. His work resulted¬†in the recognition that Borneo elephants were indigenous and not introduced to Borneo. In 2004, he returned to Sri Lanka and set up the Centre for Conservation¬†and Research of which he is the Chairman. The focus of CCR has been on conducting research and conversion of findings to policy and management to better mitigate¬†the human-elephant conflict and conserve elephants. He has conducted field work on elephants and human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia,¬†Borneo, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar. Dr. Fernando has been a member of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group since 2000. He is also a Research Associate of the¬†Smithsonian Institution USA and has received the Whitley Award for Nature Conservation and Sri Lanka Presidential Awards for Scientific excellence.

Day 2 : 28th Sep (Thu), 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Short-film screenings: submitted by students or amateur filmmakers, related to conservation science or practice.

Day 3: 29th Sep (Sat), 6:00 pm Р7:00 pm

Popular Open Plenary: Thinking out of the Conservation and Development Boxes

Speaker: Ashish Kothari

Abstract :¬†Wildlife and biodiversity conservation thinking and practice have begun to see a paradigm shift in the last few years, across the world. Seeing humans¬†as part of conservation landscapes, or conversely, conservation as part of biocultural landscapes; and considering human rights and community knowledge as part¬†of conservation approaches, are part of this shift. Such approaches are however still nascent in India and many other countries where colonial and neo-colonial¬†approaches remain dominant, as witnessed for instance in the continued exclusionary strategies used in official protected area governance.¬†The continued conflict between mainstream conservation approaches and the livelihoods of people living in areas targeted for such conservation, is considerably¬†exacerbated by the currently dominant model of economic ‚Äėdevelopment‚Äô. This model treats nature as a resource for exploitation in ways that can speed up¬†GDP-based growth, and people directly dependent on it as ‚Äėbackward‚Äô who need to be ‚Äėdeveloped‚Äô and brought into the mainstream (primarily as labour that can be¬†exploited). Such neo-liberal approaches are destructive of both nature and of nature-dependent communities.¬†Swimming against these dominant trends are a growing number of alternative initiatives, from agroecology to community-based ecosystem management to direct
democracy and localised economies, from struggles for gender and class and caste equality to alternative education, health and livelihood strategies. In this presentation I will argue that such alternative approaches to human well-being have to be embraced by conservationists, while human rights advocates have to embrace the basics of conservation, if we are to move out of the current situation of human-environment conflict, biodiversity decline, and socio-economic inequities. This will be illustrated with examples from across India, and elsewhere in the world, that show such alternative approaches to be eminently possible … and indeed, imperative if we are to make peace with the earth and each other.

Speaker Bio : Founder-member of Indian environmental group Kalpavriksh, Ashish has taught at the Indian Institute of Public Administration, coordinated India’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan process, served on Greenpeace International and India Boards, helped initiate the global ICCA Consortium, and chaired an IUCN network dealing with protected areas and communities. Ashish has (co)authored or (co)edited over 30 books, and helps coordinate the Vikalp Sangam and Radical Ecological Democracy processes in search of alternative well-being pathways to globalized development. His latest books are Churning the Earth: Making of Global India (with Aseem Shrivastava), Alternative Futures: India Unshackled (ed., with KJ Joy); and his forthcoming book РPluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary.

Day 4: 30th Sep (Sun), 6:00 pm Р7:00 pm

Popular Open Plenary: Rediscovering traditional ecological knowledge through Barefoot Ecology

Speaker : Anita Varghese

Abstract :¬†Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) is associated with indigenous or adivasi groups for whom landscapes are repositories of history, home of¬†ancestors, sacred in memory ‚Äď sources of knowledge, practise and belief. It is in these lived landscapes that we seek to do conservation. Yet when we embark on
the long road to conservation we seem to miss the  rails of those who have lived along that road. Indigenous knowledge or TEK may hold some of the answers that conservation challenges seek to address. Indigenous ways of managing the forest, land and water has sustainability science built into it and has played a crucial role in maintaining and enhancing the quality of the ecosystem. Over the past several years we have tried to look at the conservation values within indigenous knowledge and how this can be integrated within scientific approaches to conservation. Barefoot Ecologists of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve are indigenous people who have been trained in scientific methods and combine this with their indigenous knowledge to monitor the health of their landscape. Through barefoot ecological methods, many indigenous youth, have rediscovered their TEK. Conservation requires many role players Рthe need to expand the canvas to make room for a diversity of approaches has been voiced by several experts. Through citizen science, ecotourism, conservation education and other related initiatives, we have gone all out to include non-experts on to this canvas. We need to make space and assign roles for indigenous views on conservation and in the process understand the crucial factors that keep TEK responsive and dynamic. For too long the discussions on TEK have revolved around its loss, erosion and need for protection and it is time for change.

Speaker Bio : Dr. Anita Varghese, is Deputy Director at Keystone Foundation. She holds a Bachelor‚Äôs in Zoology (Bombay University), Masters in Ecology¬†(Pondicherry University) and a Doctorate in Botany (University of Hawaii). Her long term work looks at the factors that mediate the relationship between people¬†and nature, specifically how the goals of conservation and development can be¬†harmonized.¬†Her interests are in plant conservation specifically on sustainable¬†use, non timber forest products, long term population dynamics of harvested species,¬†traditional¬†ecological knowledge, invasive plants, cycads, and forest trees.¬†She co-ordinates the field courses and research program, while anchoring the Field Ecology Center at Hasanur, Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve where indigenous¬†people are trained in ‘Barefoot ecology’ – a program that combines scientific methods and traditional knowledge to better understand changes that are taking¬†place in the forests. She is part of the team that runs the¬† Nilgiris Field Learning Center – a collaborative program of Keystone Foundation and Cornell¬†University, where indigenous youth and undergraduate students from Cornell go through a semester of academics and field research that brings theory and¬†practice,¬†academic and experiential learning into a classroom in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.¬†She is a member of the Plant Conservation Sub Committee of the IUCN,¬†Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group steering committee (CEESP/SSC- IUCN) and Cycad specialist group (SSC/IUCN). She is a founding member of the¬†Nilgiri Natural History Society (established 2010).

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