Visiting Ashoka Trust For Research In Ecology And The Environment (Week 1 in India)


My ELP Journey has begun in India and it’s been a roller coaster ride. Adjusting to different culture and customs can, at the beginning, be unfamiliar and uncomfortable. I remember this initial feeling when I arrived in India in 2016: the smells are different and overpowering; the people and environment seem to operate in an organized chaos I don’t quite understand; and I continually wish I could speak the language to feel more included. In 2016 it took me ~ 10 days to adjust and become comfortable and feel like myself in this environment. After that, I truly began to love it here. It only took me 3 days this time and despite some of the setbacks I have experienced in the 5 days since my arrival, India continues to hold a special (at times conflicted) place in my heart.


I arrived on Sunday Nov. 10 in the middle of the evening to Bangalore and caught an Uber to where I was staying. It was very busy everywhere, even though it was 2 am, and the streets echoed with constant horns from the hundreds of cars that seamlessly weaved through the chaotic maze. From that evening I learned: don’t book an OYO house because they can just choose not to host you and don’t ever leave the airport without data. After a chaotic 24 hours which I won’t re-cap here, I was hosted with an extremely kind women who is affiliated with the research facility I am working at this week. Main point is nothing bad happened and my last five days have been absolutely amazing.


So where/why/what have I been doing this past week?

Where: I’m in Bangalore this week at the Ashoka Trust For Research In Ecology And The Environment (ATREE) learning from exceptional students and researchers. Students here learn interdisciplinary subjects from a diverse range of backgrounds and the faculty also come from a diverse range of interdisciplinary backgrounds. Specifically, I have been immersed with the Water, Land and Society (WLS) programme. From my own academic experiences, this program appears to be quite unique. Even after being here just a week, it is clear that the team works to employ a problem-driven approach to research and knowledge generation, focusing on generating usable insights and solutions to India’s water problems. I am extremely glad that I have become immersed with this wonderful group because they know far more about the systems I study than I do and it is my hope, that I can continue to collaborate and work with them to further my knowledge about ancient tank irrigation and water management practices in India.


Why: Well I have much to learn as a researcher working in a remote location I’m unfamiliar with and it’s critical that in order for my research on reservoir remote sensing to generate useful insights into future reservoir management and their functionality on the landscape, it is imperative that I learn from others and try to understand their operations from the ground. So thank you ATREE and to everyone who has been so wonderful and kind; it has truly been a pleasure to be apart of a great lab with such amazing lab culture and to learn from a group of students and researchers so passionate about what they do.

What: I have had a very productive week here at ATREE. Beyond meeting and learning from their expertise on tank structures, on Nov. 12, I presented a seminar on my research and received amazing feedback. I was quite nervous given that it was the first time I was presenting my research to an audience that has such a deep understanding of tank form and function on the landscape. After the nerves settled and were replaced with excitement, I was very grateful to discuss my research because it improved my knowledge and the discussion that followed was insightful. In addition to this, I have been able to join researchers in the field to get practical expertise on water management. We visited various field sites where research and data collection are underway, and it was extremely useful. Please read the post to follow if you want to know more about this and some of the technical details. I am going to spend a blog on the scientific insights drawn from these visits and how this informs my own research.

So, what fruitful collaborations has happened this week:

(1) Assisting in manuscript prep. for (1) remote sensing-based analysis of land use change in the Cauvery basin to inform water management decisions (with Dr. Veena Srinivasan and Ganesh Shinde) and (2) satellite-based siltation estimation for improved water allocation estimates (with Dr. Veena Srinivasan and Lakshmi Panutu). This will continue over the next few months and hopefully you can see this exciting research out soon.

(2) Improved my understanding of tank form and function on the landscape and it is complex! – (see next post on this)

(3) Became aware of various in-situ networks that may be useful for my work. This is very important because validation (AND reliable) data is challenging to locate so this is quite exciting. This includes some meteorological estimates and in-situ water level gauges. Also, maybe some in-situ Prosopis evapotranspiration estimates that I could apply for my ‘one day published Juliflora paper’, fingers crossed (one day published paper because it’s been in progress for 1.5 years).

I am looking forward to (hopefully) coming back to ATREE in April or May. But next stop is Anna University in Chennai. Here, I will work further with researchers who study tank systems. I look forward to updating you and (hopefully) it will be more frequent, so these posts don’t get boring with text.

Travelling to Anna University next.


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