ATREE's TN Khoshoo, 2019 awarded to Meena Subramaniam


The award presentation and lecture event took place at the Bangalore International Centre and focussed on the theme of Science Communication. The awardee was artist Meena Subramaniam and the keynote speaker was Jonathan Baillie, the executive vice president and chief scientist of National Geographic. 

Meena Subramanium, artist and conservationist was awarded the TN Khoshoo Memorial Award, 2018 for her pioneering work in ecological artistry.

Instituted by Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) the award was presented to Meena in recognition of her work which portrays different aspects of the forested landscapes of the Malabar region and a scientific approach to detailing. Through her work, Meena has shown that artistic endeavours can appeal to one’s inner aesthetics while keeping intact the integrity of the subject. Meena’s work brings out the fantastic dimensions of both flora and fauna of the western ghats by using an immersive technique. At the same time, her precision in rendering the subjects make it an important scientific document as well. 

Talking about this Meena said, “My paintings are cohesive and associated with a particular area. The flora and fauna I paint are representative of that area.” 

Accepting the award, Meena urged the audience to engage with the natural world and eco-systems and to ‘create more space in our hearts to preserve, regenerate and restore what has been handed to us’. She also greatly believes that all education today should be focused on conservation.

Jonathan Baillie of the National Geographic delivers keynote at TN Khoshoo

Jonathan Baillie, VP and Chief Scientist at the National Geographic Society attended the TN Khoshoo memorial award to deliver the annual lecture.  He touched upon various aspects of conservation, and the activities that the National Geographic is doing to work towards a better future. The session concluded with Jonathan appreciating the reverence and respect India has for conservation. He found India, in particular, has a cultural appreciation for the natural world. He said It was stronger than many other parts of the world, which gives him hope that the people here will make the right decisions. ‘When you go to international conventions, it is the developing countries that are leading the environmental movements. We are seeing plastic bans in many developing countries. So, I personally see leadership coming primarily from these countries.'

The Academy celebrates 10 years at the TN Khoshoo Event

The Academy for Conservation Science and Sustainability Studies at ATREE completes 10 years in 2019. Although the first PhD cohort was recruited in 2007, it was two years later (in 2009) that the Academy was institutionalized expanding from its PhD programme, to include certificate courses, internships and Talks@ATREE.

The Academy’s PhD programme in Conservation Science and Sustainability Programme is today recognised for its unique blend of intensive and interdisciplinary coursework spanning the natural and social sciences. Our 26 alumni have joined nationally and internationally recognised institutions such as Krea University (Chennai), Azim Premji University (Bengaluru), Stanford University (California, USA), the University of Sheffield (UK), the Wellcome Trust and WWF-India among others. In all, our PhD scholars have published over 65 papers.

In addition to this, we have also conducted 10 certificate courses and skill-building workshops for over 100 students, researchers and conservation practitioners. On average we also hosted 35 speakers annually from globally recognised institutions and organisations.

The support of the Tata Trusts and The Royal Norwegian Embassy, New Delhi have been crucial in creating a vibrant Academy that looks confidently to the future. The Academy celebrated its ten-year anniversary  25-November-2019 at the Bangalore International Centre, Bengaluru, India. This celebration was organised alongside the 16th edition of ATREE’s TN Khoshoo award, which recognizes the distinguished contribution of a mid-career academician or a practitioner with respect to conservation and sustainable development. 


Academy artwork released at TN Khoshoo

The artwork was commissioned to commemorate ten years of ATREE’s Academy (2009-2019). A culmination of all the students’ work under the aegis of the Academy, the artwork is a representation of the diverse works undertaken by ATREE’s PhD scholars. Conceptualized by Artist Sangeetha Kadur, interdisciplinarity is embedded at the heart of this work. ATREE’s vision for its Academy was to develop a PhD program that would combine natural and social sciences while addressing complex environmental concerns.  The artwork itself is representative of the complex work undertaken by the PhD students (or research). The artwork works like a tapestry, weaving together various elements of all research to lend meaning to a landscape as a whole, wherein each element is a story of student research, and the tapestry the interdisciplinary approach that is incorporated in all research.

Future foods initiative debuts at the TN Khoshoo Dinner 

The 2019 TN Khoshoo event was followed by a special dinner focussing on local and seasonal foods organised by the newly established Centre for Social and Environmental Innovation (CSEI), supported by Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies. 

About Future Foods Initiative (FFI) 

With India’s rich cultural and genetic diversity of foods rapidly disappearing and being replaced by generic hybrid varieties, knowledge of traditional foods is being lost. In addition to loss of agro-biodiversity, unsustainable forms of agriculture have led to soil and water degradation, and negative health impacts. 

The FFI approach from consumption to conservation is markets- and demand-driven, and considers changing community aspirations to achieve sustainable outcomes. 

As part of FFI, the TN Khoshoo dinner had posters, tent cards, and other creatives displayed, so guests could learn about the local and seasonal ingredients used, their common and scientific names, as well as what parts of the plants were utilised (seeds, fruits, leaves, roots or flowers). Guests also learned about the ingredients’ nutritional and medicinal properties, and their traditional uses by the Soliga community.

By encouraging and supporting local and seasonal food, FFI hopes to foster:

  1. Improved livelihoods

  2. Sustainable agriculture 

  3. Improved agro-biodiversity

  4. Better health and nutrition

The centre will host similar dining experiences and spread awareness about FFI through its upcoming website. Stay tuned!


ATREE Organises LakeBlitz at Singapura Lake

ATREE organised its first LakeBlitz on November 23 at Singapura Lake. The ATREE team comprising of naturalists and eight water and biodiversity experts was joined by 23 participants from Oracle India and members from the local community around the lake. 

The event blended scientific inventory and guided educational activities for participants to be part of citizen science while connecting with nature in a personally meaningful experience. 

Over the course of four hours, the participants engaged in multiple activities like Lake Asset Registry, Tree Census, Bathymetry and recording data for dissolved oxygen, nitrates and phosphates at various points in the lake. The participants got the opportunity to ride on inflatable boats, out onto the Singapura Lake. The lake water data was later used to generate some interesting heat maps which highlighted the spatial distribution of water quality and lake depth.

Also present at the event was the local Corporator from Ward 11, Mr Partibharajan and Mr Ramprasad, Founder, Friends of Lakes.


ATREE at The Water Future International Conference

The Water Future International Conference was held in Bengaluru (24th-27th Sep, 2019), based on the idea that “ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” (Sustainable Development Goal 6) without leaving anyone behind requires partnerships across academia, governments, intergovernmental, development organisations, foundations, and the private sector. The conference, organised by the  Sustainable Water Future Programme (Water Future) of Future Earth, aimed to support the creation of such broad coalitions, through integrating research, stimulating innovation, and building capacity in India.

ATREE faculty served on several of the scientific committees and participated in several panel discussions and keynote talks by Sharachchandra Lele (Values, Institutions and Power: Broadening the Water Governance Discourse), Priyanka Jamwal (Managing dissolved oxygen levels in human-dominated ecosystems: a case study of Jakkur Lake, Bengaluru), Jagdish Krishnaswamy (Sharing water between humans and nature for Indias ecological security), Veena Srinivasan (Interlinkages in Urban Water Systems), Shrinivas Badiger (Experiences and definitions of water security by mountain communities ) and Durba Biswas(Sanitation in future cities: Groundwater and sanitation interlinkages in periurban Bangalore ). ATREE students and researchers presented a total of 5 posters and 8 talks.

Additionally, ATREE fellows Veena Srinivasan and Siddhartha Krishnan co-organised a 1-day workshop on "Water Ethics" along with the Water Culture Institute and the Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India. The workshop, attended by 23 participants from across the globe, aimed to help participants understand the theory and practical implementation of ethics in planning and water-related decision-making.


ATREE wins the UNESCO Sultan Qaboos Prize for Environmental Conservation

An international jury nominated the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), for its substantial contribution to environmental preservation through an interdisciplinary approach. ATREE promotes biodiversity across India with a primary focus on the Western Ghats and Eastern Himalayas. 

The prize recognizes ATREE for its contribution to a participatory approach to improving environmental conservation, applied in its initiative in India’s northeastern Sikkim and Darjeeling regions involving conservation planning and the creation and promotion of sustainable livelihoods. The prize also recognizes significant contributions towards the discovery of new species in the Western Ghats, and exceptional outreach to raise awareness of India’s biodiversity and train environmental leaders.

Ranked among the top 20 environmental think-tanks globally, ATREE is dedicated to the generation of interdisciplinary knowledge, education, and policy for the environment and for socially just development. ATREE also contributes to the conservation of diverse environments throughout India, including the Eastern Himalayas, the UNESCO Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and the Western Ghats World Heritage Site, Vembanad lake, Kaziranga and Manas National Parks, the grasslands of Kutch, the wetlands of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and urban landscapes of Karnataka. 


Allocated every other year, the UNESCO Sultan Qaboos Prize for Environmental Conservation was established through a generous donation by Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said of Oman. ATREE was awarded US$100,000, a diploma and a medal during an award ceremony.


ATREE's  Nirmalya Chatterjee talks about the Carbon Benefits Project and how we can use the tool to delineate and quantify the C stocking/GHG footprint of the various projects that we design or run across the country.

 The Carbon Benefits Project (CBP) is an online tool for estimating the carbon stocking/loss in/from soil and biomass in tge terrestrial ecosystems as pertaining to a plot or points or a set thereof when land intervention projects are undertaken.

E.g. Imagine a long term wheat-vegetables-rice-fallow annual crop rotation conventional farming system by 200 marginal farms over 400 hectares in a district.  Such things lead to nutrient deficiencies and loss of soil C on full tilling (ploughing) before every crop. The prior crop residues left are collected and fed to livestock.  There is also 5x tons/ha/y amount of fertilizer applied over the annual period. This is costly and economically/ecologically not sustainable.

Now we design and implement a "project" over 5y to transition these farmers at a set acreage/y into an agroforestry system (long term or permanent trees, usually of native types mixed in with the crops). We can keep the annual crop types and acreages same with minor acreage changes to account for the planted saplings. We can also implement reduced residue removal bringing in managed on-field livestock grazing, mulching and rolling the remaining residues prior to planting the next crop,  and only do so with reduced-tillage levels. And use less fertilizer application (at a rate x kg/ha/y) now that mulching reduces runoff, organic matter along with keeping grazing dung on the field.

All these changes can be modelled on the CBP platform, giving both spatial and temporal data particular to the ecoregion, soil, weather etc. The platform can do a "simple assessment" based on crude numbers and generic emissions values taken from different published sources (IPCC base data on ecosystems from various ecoregions and geographies) or a "detailed assessment" based on even more detailed data that the project design or implementation folks can themselves gather particular to their own worksite.

The assessments can be run for the project duration or for shorter or longer time periods to assess progress or long term successes. The outputs are usually C stock changes and GHG emissions in the project on a monthly or yearly basis of choice. These reports and analytics that CBP creates can be directly used for project reporting, proposal ideas, and monitoring interventions and are globally accepted (CBP was funded under various UNEP, FAO and GEF monies).

The associated WOCAT (World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies) platform is an online database of various (>2000) sustainable land management (SLM) strategies implemented the world over mostly using multilateral fundings. Those management/interventions/outcomes data can be pulled from the WOCAT into CBP and modification made to quicken analysis and data input times.

Hope this gives you some idea as to what the platforms do, and how ATREE staff can use said tools to improve our project management,  design and reporting methods in land intervention programs and projects. The platform also provides Cost-Benefit analytics and DPSIR causal framework analytics for projects (though much more basic and functionality wise less developed than the C stock/GHG emissions analytics).

In the News

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