Wading Through the Wilderness with SIU Biodiversity Cell

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A ‘diverse’ array of opportunities set SIU apart from any other University- one such brilliant initiative was introduced to the students of Batch 2023 by Ms. Shilpa Avate through the University Biodiversity Cell Orientation. Ms. Avate took the students through a virtual field trip, guiding them right from the initiation of the Biodiversity Cell to the remarkable milestones it has reached today.

Ms. Shilpa Avate, an avid bird-watcher and wildlife enthusiast, welcomed SCMC students on-board with her warm welcome address, explaining how big of a role media plays in the work she does. She began right from 2016, when a co-incidental encounter with Dr. S. B. Majumdar helped Ms. Avate highlight her passion towards wildlife conservation and she was asked to document her findings regarding the fauna on the Symbiosis Lavale Campus. Originally a Students’ Affairs Officer at SIU, she left her position to dedicate all her time to the compilation of this one-of-a-kind book. On July 4, 2018, this unique field guide of over 200 species of birds and animals was launched with the help of two other renowned and dedicated wildlife conservationists, Dr. Gurudas and Mr. Rao. Titled ‘Fauna of SIU’, this field guide was launched by Shri Siddhanta Das, Director-General, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India. This baby project undertaken by Ms. Avate inspired her and her colleagues to persuade the SIU administration to launch a Biodiversity Cell, which would entirely focus on the documentation and preservation of flora and fauna at the sprawling, beautiful SIU Lavale Campus.

As the torch-bearer of this unique initiative, Ms. Avate hence introduced the Biodiversity Club that SCMC students can be an active part of. Being a part of this club would expose them to a wide range of activities like conducting surveys, documentation of fauna in the SIU premises, and sensitisation of students and staff alike towards the importance of flora and fauna preservation.

Emphasizing on the field trips that Biodiversity Club members get to be a part of, Ms. Avate also talked about how expert Botanists accompany them on almost every trek to guide the students. Previously, student experiences have included installation of camera-traps for tracking new species, bird-watching to locate migratory birds and even ground work at locations like Bandhara where the introduction of vegetation saw an increase in the number of birds visiting the region. Ms. Avate also talked about how, apart from students and professors, even security guards and housekeeping staff have played a key role in the documentation of animals and plants in various hotspots, especially Bandhara.

As for the Biodiversity Club members, January 2020 saw them securing top positions at the Kirloskar Film Competition in events ranging from Debate to Wildlife Filmmaking. Ms. Avate encouraged the new entrants of Batch 2023 to volunteer for this initiative, as it not only provides a fun learning experience in the midst of the serene and beautiful Lavale campus, but also will expose them to field-based issues and learning how to tackle them. Until Online Classes are the norm, the Biodiversity Club has been hosting a Sunday Special Series featuring famous Wildlife Experts who interact with club members and provide them great insights on wildlife conservation. Ms. Avate concluded the session with an interaction with the students, answering their queries on the conduction and functioning of the Biodiversity Club. Her virtual tour of the Club and the opportunities it has to offer was an outstanding experience for students, making them more passionate and inquisitive about the preservation of flora and fauna.

 

Maansi Anand
Batch of 2023