Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Valedictory Function at Kolkatta (22 April 2015)

The WWF-India, West Bengal State Office conducted a 3 months pilot projects on documenting the status of 50 key species of trees, birds and butterflies as part of urban biodiversity documentation. 10 schools were selected from different corners of the Kolkata to get a overall picture of the urban biodiversity.

During these three months, the students collected 1196 records of species. On 22nd April 2015, during the valedictory programme, the participants from schools presented their finding and also shared their ideas with the experts . The programme was held in 'Asutosh Birth Centenary Hall' of Indian Museum, Kolkata. The valedictory programme was organised in association with Indian Museum, Kolkata under Ministry of Culture, Government of India. 

The programme was chaired by Dr. V.Shubhalaxmi, Ladybird Environmental Counsulting Founder & CEO/ Co-ordinator of Project iNaturewatch; Dr. Soumen Ghosh, Senior Research Officer, West Bengal Biodiversity Board, Government of West Bengal; Dr. Anirban Gupta, Professor, IIEST; Mr. Sumanta Bose, Senior Programme Officer, USIEF; Mr. Sayan Bhattacharya, Education Officer, Indian Museum, Ministry of Culture, Government of India and Dr. Saswati Sen, State Director, WWF-India, West Bengal. It was an excellent experience when the students explained how they used the iTrees, iBirds or iButterflies mobile application and how helpful it was for them to document and identify the species. 

It was interesting to know that the students from outskirts of Kolkata got an excellent data whereas the city centric schools got quite less diversity of birds and butterflies. The 'Sarangabad Jajneshwari Pathshala Girls' High School' won the 1st position with 466 entries and 'Beliaghata High school' got 2nd position, 'Mahadevi Birla World Academy' and 'St. Agnes' Convent School' jointly got the third position." 

Report by : Mr. Samya Basu, Education Officer, WWF-India, Kolkatta

Urban iNaturewatch Challenge Results are Out

iNaturewatch Mobile Apps
Last July, Dr. V.Shubhalaxmi, founder & CEO of Ladybird Environmental Consulting and her four alumni team members won the global funding competition from India- Alumni Innovation Engagement Fund announced by U. S. State Department. They were the sole winners of this prestigious fund which provides funding to the International Exchange Alumni to live their dream project. The funding of 25000 USD was made available to the team and their dream project was- Mobile Apps for Climate Change. The team developed three mobile apps; iBirds, iButterflies, iTrees as easy reference to 50 common species found in cities such as Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad and Kolkatta. The mobile apps were made available free of cost on Android platform after being launched last December in all four cities. 

With the launch an initiative- Urban iNaturewatch Challenge was also launched for city schools. The challenge was a citizen science initiative which encouraged schools to use iNaturewatch mobile apps to document their urban biodiversity. The highest records sent by a particular school from a particular city will be declared as winner by end of the challenge. For this task, the team partnered with NGOs such as WWF-India and Greenline.  

The challenge concluded in March 2015. It showed that 33 schools from all four cities had taken up the Urban iNaturewatch Challenge.  Students from standard 5-9 participated in the challenge. The schools gave special permission for students to use mobile phones for the project work. Some schools which couldn't allow mobile phones as a policy, provided students with species posters for ready identifications. In some cases the teachers gave their personal phones for students to use.

Altogether 1599 students and 48 teachers citizen scientists worked hard to document local birds, butterflies and trees from their locality. In a shortest span of 3 months, they collected 2963 records of sightings which were uploaded on iNaturewatch project website. The highest records were clocked by Hyderabad schools who collected 1257 records followed by Kolkatta 1196,  New Delhi 348 and Mumbai 162. The winning schools which fed maximum records from were Hyderabad Public School with a total of 350 records from Hyderabad, Sarangabad Jajneshwari Pathshala Girls' High School with 466 records from Kolkatta,  Springdale School, Dhaula Kuan with 106 records from New Delhi with and M.K.E.S High School, Malad with 97 entries from Mumbai. 


The students presented their data during a valedictory function held at respective cities in the month of April. The data collected by students showed the commonest bird, butterfly and tree for Hyderabad was Rock Pigeon, Common Jezbel and Neem, for Kolkatta, it was House Crow, Pyche and Banyan, for New Delhi it was Rock pigeon, Striped Tiger and Peepal, and for Mumbai it was House Crow, Indian Palm Bob and Banyan respectively.

The winning schools received momento while students and teachers received their certificates. Many schools expressed their desire to continue the project work for next academic year. The Ladybird Environmental Consulting will continue to maintain the website and mobile apps for benefit of many other schools. 

With the end of the challenge, the project has entered into the last phase, where all data collected by students will be analyzed against the weather data for each city. Trends such as whether butterfly and bird sightings have changed with any weather changes, whether there has been any change in the leaf fall/flowering/fruiting pattern among the trees. The results will be published in a form of report which will be released on the eve of World Environment Day i.e 5 June 2015.

 This happens to be the first project wherein schools have used mobile apps to document local biodiversity and it has been revolutionary in times where gadgets are not allowed in schools and parents do not like their children spending time with their gadgets. The feedback from students and teachers has proved that this project has been successful in reversing the trend that gadgets might be keeping our children indoors. On the contrary, this project proved that with this type of apps, students could be drawn outdoors too. More than the team and partners, the students seem to be the happiest as they had finally found an app for their project work!

Project Team: Mr. Isaac Kehimkar, Dr. Swayamprabha Das, Dr. Anirban Gupa, Dr. Ashutosh Richarriya
Partner Team: Ms. Farida Tampal, Ms. Karishma Pradhan, Ms. Anushri Sharma, Dr. Saswati Sen, Mr. Samya Basu, Mr. Kaustubh Bhagat
Project Leader: Dr. V.Shubhalaxmi

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Urban iNaturewatch Challenge: Valedictory Function at New Delhi

Urban iNaturewatch Challenge Valedictory function: The valedictory function for the Urban iNaturewatch Challenge was held on April 13, 2015 at the WWF-India Auditorium. Eight schools from the Delhi region participated in the function. Each of school was represented by five students and one teacher coordinator.

Dr. B.C. Sabat, Senior Scientific Officer, Department of Environment, Government of Delhi and Ms. Shailey Tuker , Alumini Affair coordinator from the Embassy of United States of America were the esteemed chief guests for the function.

They all motivated and appreciated the students for their contribution towards the project. Dr. B.C. Sabat encouraged the audience to work towards their society and uplift species awareness among the students from the urban societies.  Ms. Shailey Tucker and Dr. Swayamprabha Das inspired the students to step out and cherish the natural beauty around them. 

Dr.V.Shubhalaxmi, the Founder & Director of the Ladybird Environmental Consulting, acknowledged all the students present along with their teachers for their valuable contribution towards the challenge. She accredited the students for taking out time and helping in the development of the database for the project. She was pleased to see the students appreciating the apps and their effort to bring the students nearer to their environment and experience the natural pleasures. 

The students not only presented their data that had been uploaded on the apps or the website but also shared their experiences during the project. They all accepted the fact that earlier they were not paying much attention to the environmental issues and the species around them but now, along with 
appreciating the nature, they also pledged to broaden their knowledge and continue to upload data in the apps by motivating their peers as well. They all felt that the challenge was a great way for the techno-savvy generation to look beyond their gadgets and move closer to nature. They were surprised to find the biodiversity surrounding them and were curious to explore more.

The day ended with the prize distribution ceremony. Dr. V. Shubhalaxmi presented the appreciation certificates to all the participating students and the supervising teachers along with two WWF India posters and a book on Writing Outdoors. Ms. Saba Qadri from Springdales School, Dhaula Kuan was given a special certificate and WWF-India goodies for her outstanding performance in data collection. 

Three schools were presented with the first, second and third prize. Springdale School, Dhaula Kuan attained the first position followed by Bluebells International at Second and ASN Sr. Sec. School at third position. The schools were thrilled by their victory and promised to work harder towards biodiversity
 The program concluded with a vote of thanks and lunch at WWF-India. The Urban iNaturewatch challenge impelled the students to connect, share, question, learn and re-invent the future through the three apps – iBirds, iTrees and iButterflies. 

Report by Ms. Anushri Sharma, Senior Programme Officer, WWF-India, New Delhi

Urban iNaturewatch Challenge: Valedictory Function at Hyderabad

Hyderabad, April 17th, 2015: ‘Mobile Apps for Climate Change’ an innovative initiative designed for today’s technology driven student body was launched on December 9th, 2014 by WWF-India and Ladybird Environmental Consulting (LEC) in association with the L V Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI). As a part of this initiative, a citizen science programme the ‘Urban iNatureWatch’ challenge was initiated wherein 600+ students from 7 schools of Hyderabad were engaged in documenting their campus biodiversity with the help of these mobile apps on trees, birds and butterflies. During these four months, students were uploading their data onto the inaturewatch website and at the end of the challenge, we received 1257 observations from schools of Hyderabad.

To begin the programme, Ms Farida Tampal, Director, WWF- Hyderabad Office presented her welcome address where she said, ‘WWF applauds the work and commitment of the schools for adopting this new pedagogy and the students for actively participating as student-scientists in the ‘Urban iNatureWatch’ Challenge’. She also mentioned, ‘Students should continue with their data collection and you will observe the variations in the occurrence and distribution of species in the three major seasons. We will analyze your data after 6 months and will felicitate the winning school during the Wildlife Week in October. We will also organize a trip to the nearby protected areas for five dedicated students from each school to expose them to the forest biodiversity and enhance their interest towards appreciating nature ’.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Taraprasad Das, Vice-Chair of LVPEI mentioned that, ‘By participating in these programmes, apart from being able to identify and record species, students also need to start developing innovative concepts that would support development that is environment-friendly and less harmful to the natural resources’.

This was followed by a brief project overview by Ms Karishma Pradhan, Education Officer, Hyderabad Office, WWF-India. She mentioned about the orientation and outdoor visits that were conducted for the schools and her observations on how the mobile apps had helped students develop an interest towards their natural surroundings. She also mentioned the enthusiastic support that she received from the faculty and students as a part of this challenge.

Post this, students from each school came forward and presented their findings, observations, methodologies and experiences of being a part of the ‘Urban iNatureWatch’ challenge. During their presentations, students of each school expressed their new found interest in connecting with Nature.

In the second session of the valedictory programme, we had the Guests of Honour Ms April Wells, Public Affairs Officer, US Consulate and Dr. C. Suvarna, IFS, Member Secretary Telangana State Biodiversity Board, Mr Anil Kumar V Epur, Chairman, WWF-Hyderabad Office and Ms Neha Kanitkar, Alumni Relations Coordinator - Public Affairs Section, US Consulate who joined us for the programme.

Each guest was invited to briefly address the students and they appreciated the initiative and motivated students to elevate their interest and contribute towards building an environment conscious society.
After the addresses, the dignitaries were requested to give away the trophy and the prizes to the winners of the ‘Urban iNatureWatch Challenge’.

The winners of the challenge are as follows:
The second runner up was Bharatiya Vidya Bhavans Atmakuri Rama Rao School with a total of 103 observations.
The first runner up was Hyderabad Public School with a total of 350 observations.
The winning school was Meridian School with a total of 615 observations.
The other participating schools were Bharatiya Vidya Bhavans Public School, Oxford Grammar School, Iqbalia International School and Chirec International School who also actively contributed towards this citizen science programme.

Dr V. Shubhalaxmi, Founder & Director, Ladybird Environmental Consulting in her concluding remarks expressed her contentment on the outcome of the project. She also congratulated Hyderabad Schools for standing out with the highest number of observations’. She has requested schools to continue this initiative in the upcoming academic year with the same zest.

The pilot phase of the ‘Urban iNatureWatch Challenge’ received a great response from Hyderabad and we hope to scale this up in the near future.  

Report by Ms. Karishma Pradhan, Education Officer, WWF-India, Hyderabad