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Columbia Undergrads Exploring Ecology in Mumbai

June 06, 2014

Columbia Global Centers | South Asia is now hosting 10 students in the Summer Ecosystem Experiences for Undergraduates Program in India, a six-credit course that commenced on May 31 and will continue until July 5.

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Ten undergraduate students from Columbia University are enrolled in the program, which is run by a regional partner organization, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, which is based in Bangalore. The students are working with expert guest faculty identified by the trust at projects designed in the field sites of the Western Ghats.

The Mumbai Center and the Earth Institute's Center for Environmental Sustainability had explored launching a summer program in ecology located in India and identified four potential sites to consider, the Western Ghats being one of them. Sudakshina Mallick Gupta and Carrie Bronsther, program officers at the center, were actively involved at various stages during the preparatory and launch phases of this new and exciting program in India.

India is globally recognized as a mega diverse country, containing 70 percent of the world's biodiversity. According to the United Nations Development Programme, India accounts for seven to eight percent of the world's recorded species, thousands of animal species, and nearly half the world's aquatic life. The country is home to three of the world's 34 global biodiversity hotspots, which are biologically rich areas facing serious conservation threats.

The Western Ghats were identified as the field site for the program due to its unique biophysical and ecological processes. It houses a minimum of 325 globally endangered flora, fauna, bird, amphibian, reptile and fish species. The project sites are based in two spots, one- the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary, a protected tiger reserve located in southern Karnataka at the confluence of the Western and Eastern Ghats; second,  the Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reservea global biodiversity hotspot and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Mumbai Center and the Earth Institute's Center for Environmental Sustainability has been involved in discussions with the Ashoka Trust in Bangalore regarding operationally coordinating the program, supporting engagement with the partner organization, providing logistical support, interacting with the students and connecting to alumni networks.