The primary goal of this course to introduce UW students to India’s environmental policies pertaining to conservation and development. Through lectures, discussions and individual research, students will gain insights about how these policies were developed, put in place, and their outcomes.

This blog site highlights student accomplishments and travel experiences to India.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Human-Elephant Conflicts: A graduate student’s experiences in India

By: A. Nicole Reed
July-August 2017 Trip to Coimbatore, India

As I stepped off the plane in Coimbatore, India, I never imagined it would change my perceptions of the world any more than it had three years ago. This would be my second time in India and I thought I knew what to expect. Everything from the food and smells to what local farmers were experiencing on their land. However, each day was a new experience filled with new information and lessons learned.

Collecting stakeholders input on human-elephant conflict
in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India (August 2018)
This trip was for collecting data on people’s experiences and opinions about elephants raiding crop fields in and around Coimbatore District which will be part of my master’s thesis project. I traveled to small villages near and away from the forested areas and spoke to farmers about the conflicts they were experiencing with elephants. I visited these villages with my thesis adviser and faculty members from two colleges in Coimbatore. We interviewed about 100 farmers and other stakeholders and learned the difficulties they face to protect their crops and make a living. I also learned which mitigation efforts are more effective than others.

With students, staff and faculty at Kongunadu A&S College, Coimbatore (August 2018)
I stayed at two different colleges and met many people of different backgrounds and was fortunate to take part in a river festival with one of the college official’s families. This experience helped me better understand the culture in India and allowed me to make lasting relationships with many.

There were several opportunities for myself as well as my project to develop further, perhaps though, my biggest take away from this trip was the need for communication among professionals across disciplines as well as internationally. I was also asked to present on wildlife and land management in the United States. The exchange of information available could help us work toward solving global issues such as human-wildlife conflicts. This type of communication would allow each of us to learn from each other quickly and create better, well informed, decisions. Overall, my time spent in India was useful on several levels and allowed me to collect my data as well as learn more about the culture and history of the area. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Is genetically modified cotton responsible for the economic hardships faced by farmers in Central India?

William Baxter, Celia Karim, and Bryan McInerney presented their research on the genetically modified Bt cotton and its possible links to economic hardships faced by farmers in Central India. 

Protecting crops from pest infestation and diseases is one way to increase to reduce losses.  Genetically modified crops are promoted as one of the ways to increase crop yield by protecting them against pest attacks.

Bt cotton, a GM crop, was developed by introducing a toxic gene from a bacterium (Bacillus thuringiensis) into cotton plants to build resistance against the pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella), a major pest of this crop.

Bt cotton was marketed in India with hopes of higher yield and lower input cost.  However, the farmers did not understand that Bt cotton was susceptible to other pests and drought, which resulted in unexpected outcome.

Their presentation focused on the introduced of Bt cotton in India and its impact on the lives of farmers in Central India.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Impact of Prosopis Juliflora on the environment

By Andrea Weber
August 2017 trip to Coimbatore, India

In Spring 2017, I began my research journey with writing a literature review from newspaper and journal articles about an invasive tree species, Prosopis juliflora, known as seema karuvelai, in Tamil Nadu, India. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel to India in Summer 2017. My trip to India was amazing and exciting, but is hard to describe in more words. We stayed in a women’s hostel at a co-ed university. The girls were amazing and caring. They made us feel right at home, and shared their research journeys with us.

P. juliflora tree with ripe seed pods growing near Sulur Lake, Coimbatore, India.
While in India, my focus was to discuss an invasive species, Prosopis juliflora with the people, to really understand the impacts it has on the wildlife and humans. After talking with people from many settings, rural, city, mountain, scholarly, I was able to gather enough information to understand this tree from the ground, from the people using it and living with it.

A woman cutting juliflora tree for domestic fuel wood.

In terms of the work we conducted, I learned that knowing people within the field you are researching is extremely important. Things are not always laid out nicely, like they are in a lab manual. If you need information about a certain species of tree that is growing in the area, it is important to gather information from people who have studied it, and people that have lived with it. I learned that it can be difficult to communicate with people who don’t speak the same language, and that sometimes questions need to be worded or approached differently.

Andrea Weber (left) and Mackensie Swift in a restaurant in Coimbatore, India
The information that I gathered from goat farmers, cow farmers, medicine men, and university scholars, were similar, in comparison to what the government newspapers were stating. Through this experience, I am much more aware of the challenges that research presents, such as working around obstacles in the field and with communication.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Savannah Hook and Ishan Patel presented their research on Zero Liquid Discharge

Savannah Hook and Ishan Patel reviewed the impact of Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) Policy on the textile industries and the environment in Tirupur, India.

ZLD required bleaching and dyeing units in and around Tirupur to treat their effluents before discharing them into the environment. They presented the current water quality issues of Noyal River after ZLD was enforced in 2011.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Experiences of a U.S. Science Educator in Coimbatore, India

By Sarah 'Katie' Guffey 
July-August 2016 trip to Coimbatore, India

With the population in the United States rapidly changing, it’s helpful for US teachers to understand educational systems throughout the world. Traveling to India allowed me to experience their educational system first hand. Perhaps surprisingly, our schools systems have many commonalities, including the types of schools, subjects offered, and teacher training programs.

While in Coimbatore (a city in Tamil Nadu state), I was able to witness the K-12 system and observe the primary school teachers. Overall, the education system in India and the US are quite similar. Primary schools in India (kindergarten & standards 1 through 5) are equivalent to US elementary schools (grades K-5). Similar to the US public, charter, and private schools, India has various types of K-12 schools including State Government Board, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), among others.

Tamil Nadu State Board schools use a card system to keep track of academic milestones. Teachers use this and supplemental materials as a curriculum guide.

There are Tamil medium schools where all subjects are taught in Tamil and English medium schools where subjects are taught in English.

The first school I visited was a Tamil medium school that was following the Tamil Nadu State Board curriculum. All students will enroll in an English language course however, but rest of the subjects were taught in Tamil.

The majority of students were from a low socioeconomic background. The teachers will have roughly 35-45 students in each class. There was no cafeteria on the school grounds so most students pack their lunch. Similar to the US, if a student’s family falls within a certain socioeconomic status, lunch is provided by the government each day.

On average, only 3 to 4 students miss school each day and it is the student and teacher’s responsibility to make up missed work and instruction. The card system allows the teacher to know exactly where the student was academically before he/she missed school.

The second teacher was from a CBSE, English medium school. All subjects were taught in English with students given the option to take an additional language (Hindu, Tamil, French, etc.). The majority of students are from a middle, socioeconomic background. Generally, teachers will have between 25-35 students in each class. This school differs from the state board school in that the students have access to computers. This allows the teacher to implement the use of a class website. In addition to the card system, students also have a textbook and a workbook. On average, 1-2 students miss class each day however, most teachers will receive notification from the parent if the child is planning to miss school. Individual instruction will be provided during the child’s physical education class to make up for missed classwork.

Visiting these classrooms and talking to teachers allowed to interact with many talented teachers and gain valuable insights that will help me to teach an ever-changing student population in the US.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Kathie Beasley presented her research on environmental pollution associated with a major Indian festival

Kathie Beasley presented an overview of the environmental pollution associated with Vinayakar Chadturti, a Hindu festival celebrated throughout India. At the conclusion of this festival, large and small statues of this venerated deity are immersed in standing and running water bodies.

The environmental pollution left behind from this annual festival is lasting due to the lead content in paint, and other materials used for making the statutes. Her research focused on the increasing demand for these statues and the impacts of decorative lead-based paints on water quality.

Anne Nicole Reed wins second place in the 2016 Best Undergraduate Research Projects award

Anne 'Nicole' Reed won second place in the Best Undergraduate Research Project award in 2016 Wyoming Undergraduate Day for her human-elephant conflict research in India. UW's chapter of Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) selected three student presentations to honor excellence in UW undergraduate Research. Nicole shared second place with another student Roslyn Fleming (English Honors Program).

Nicole presented her research findings and insights she gained from the field trip to India. After completing the literature-based research in spring 2015 on human-elephant conflict, she traveled to India in summer 2015 with Alanna Elder (BS Agroecology & ENR) to gain first-hand information about this problem, and how people and elephants are tolerating each other.

These prizes, according to Dr. Rachel Watson, were offered to research presentations that showcased the "interfaces between science and the human condition addressed in a nuanced way that shows understanding and not simply consideration".

Dr. Watson and a panel of judges reviewed 270 abstracts and selected 9 semi-finalists. Judges attended each of these 9 presentations and selected three winners. Nicole received this award at the banquet on April 30, 2016.