Being a student from FLAME University, Pune, currently doing a BA in Environment Science with a minor in Economics, Keystone Foundation was probably the most ideal organization to intern at. My two month internship with the Research and Conservation team was from 3rd May, 2017 to 30th June, 2017. The experience of working under the supervision of Anita Varghese, Deputy Director – Research, and with the rest of the team was very hands on and rewarding, and one that I really enjoyed. A majority of my internship was focused towards conducting a research project on ‘Traditional Forest Management Practices of the Irula People Living in the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve, South India’. The process started with a review of literature, after which a proposal of the research project had to be drafted and finalized. With the help of B.Mahadesha and Vijayan, my primary data was collected using thirty six household level, semi structured interviews and two focus group discussion over a span of three weeks, in two Irula villages in the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve, namely Guliyada and Arepalayam. The findings of this preliminary research were documented and presented to the members of Keystone. Apart from this, I was given the job of cleaning the Barefoot Ecology (BFE) data collected from several transects in Sathyamangalam. I help the team create bee displays for the Wayanad and Sathyamangalam centres and was given the opportunity to participate in the Conservation Education program with twenty five children from the indigenous communities is Sathyamangalam. The ‘Happy Valley’ garbage clean up in Kotagiri was another activity that I enjoyed taking part in.
Preethi has completed her Bachelors in Information Technology and after a short stint in the IT industry realised her passion lied in working with nature and children. She followed it up by working with Teach for India and then pursuing a work-study programme at Bhoomi College for Sustainable Studies in Bangalore. Post that she is currently pursuing her second year Masters in Ecology and Environmental Sciences from Pondicherry University. Her interests encompass Behavioral Ecology, Plant-Animal Interaction, Psychology, Machine Learning and Wireless Sensor Networks. She spends her spare time exploring the wilderness on campus, trekking, birding, painting or reading. A strong believer in the need for the sixth great extinction, she is currently using her time at the University to narrow down her broad interests in the field for pursuing a doctorate degree in the near future. She did a 2-week internship with Keystone Foundation working with Dr. Anita Varghese by conducting a preliminary survey of the Eco-tourism industry around the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve. The survey was carried out after setting base at the Arepalayam Resource Centre. It involved formulating a questionnaire that was addressed towards hotels and resorts. The questions encompassed, organisation details, types of indoor and outdoor activities and services, employee details, trekking and Safari, food and water sourcing, variety of animals sighted in the vicinity and instances of man-wildlife conflict, efforts to raise awareness among tourists, eco-friendly practices and views on tourism. The goal of this survey was to gain an understanding of the evolving tourism industry at Sathyamangalam and thereby establish measured to try and drive holistically towards a sustainable tourism option and prevent the mishaps that affected the vision of other wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves in India. This survey helped in uncovering motives, goals and beliefs among the people and resort owners, which would help in creating a personalised approach towards conservation in the context of Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve and its people.
Vinaya is a Resident of Kotagiri. an Architect with a Bachelor’s degree from the School of Architecture and Planning, Chennai. She had been working with an Urban Design practice for the last couple of years. Her interest is towards urban development. After discussing with the team at Keystone on the ongoing projects, she chose to work on the project on wetland conservation for a month (July ’17-Aug ’17). The project involves detailed analyses of 4 key wetlands of different characteristics within Nilgiris, among the various wetlands that have been discovered and mapped by the team at Keystone, in order to come up with strategies and interventions that help in the overall water conservation in the hills. She hopes to add value to the project through inputs from a perspective of a designer. She believes that her work at Keystone has added another dimension to how she will be perceiving urban development and design, henceforth. She is all set to pursue her Master’s degree in Urban Design starting Sept 2017 with a focus on urban ecology.
I interned at Keystone in April and May of 2017. I came to the internship as a part of the Urban Fellows Program, at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bangalore. The fellowship focused on introducing us to the multiple variables present when trying understand and intervene in urban processes, requiring us to undertake a 2-month internship. Unlike most of my classmates I chose a non-urban area to do my internship and was not directly dealing with issues linked to urban development or urbanization. With a background in sociology and urban studies, and with no fluency in any south Indian language, in many ways I was less than prepared to work with a conservation organization situated in the Nilgiris. However, in some ways that worked in my favour, as I was introduced to completely new subjects or was able to look at issues I had previously studied from a different perspective, and forced to build my skills in research methods I was generally uncomfortable with. As a part of my internship I worked with the conservation and research team, focusing on work relating to human wildlife interaction. While a new field for me, there were several aspects I was able to link to my work and studies in urban sociology. Getting the opportunity to add several more layers to my understanding of urbanization and how it takes place in and has varying effects on different contexts and landscapes. My work at Keystone was largely centered on human-wildlife interaction. I was able to experience and learn about the field, through the various work I undertook during the 2 months. This included editing existing reports on projects and stakeholder meetings conducted by the conservation team at Keystone. Highlighting the major focus areas and points of discussion, which came up during each of these. That may be used later on to write articles and reports on the work undertaken by the team over the years. Along with this, I also worked on interpreting data regarding the reporting of human wildlife interactions in newspapers. The data contained news stories from 3 Malayam newspapers covering human wildlife interaction in the Wayand region for a year. Ananlysing the data to identify patterns in the kind of stories picked up by the papers, the animals focused on and the kind of interactions being covered. While at Keystone a large chunk of my work comprised of gaur monitoring and data collection on gaur behavior. This required me to go out during the mornings and evenings, looking for herds of Gaur that generally moved around the Keystone campus. Once found, I used to note details of the herd and their behavior and conduct scan samples of their activities. Going for these monitoring sessions with other members of the team, I was able to learn about how to carry out animal monitoring and proper quantative data collection regarding their movement and activities. This not only gave me an opportunity to take part in a very different kind of fieldwork than I was used to, but also allowed me to explore the landscape and understand the changes that have occurred in it over the years. The gaur, commonly known as the Indian bison though not actually a bison, is indigenous to the region. Although not much work has been done regarding it in the Western Ghats. This could possibly due to the fact that, they usually live in heavily forested areas, and being herbivores have never been a threat to the indigenous communities living in the area. While in other parts of India and South East Asia, where Gaur are found, they have been victims of poaching due to the consumption of their meat, in the Western Ghats this has not been the case. Rather it is only in the last 5-10 years that accounts regarding their interactions with humans have risen. In this time period there have been many more sightings and instances of Gaur coming out of the forest and being found in human inhabited areas. With daily sightings of them in various parts of Kotagiri in the last few years. Several reasons have been attributed to this shift in their living and grazing patterns. Discussing these with various people also exemplified the various attitudes people have towards the gaur and their interactions with them. The loss of forest cover in the area, and the decline of food and water available to the gaur was one of the main reasons to explain their venturing into the town. While the Gaur do not eat the major crop in the area- tea, they do graze and browse on many of the trees, grasses, shrubs, and vegetable crops. In order to deter the Gaur from coming into their property many residents and farmers had put up fences, which were often broken down or jumped over by the Gaur. This created an antagonist relationship between the animal and people, as people saw them destroying property and leading to economic losses. Making the animal seem like more of a threat. In the case of the animal, the fences coming up often blocked the paths used by them, causing them to either damage property or look for alternative routes that may go through someone else’s property or take them further away from water, food and shelter. For me this was a very interesting dynamic as it reminded me of the work done on gated communities in cities. On how the creation of walls and fences to keep one section of people out, further deepened class antagonism and had an effect on issues of threat perception and safety. The work, thus, not only introduced me to new concepts and ideas, but allowed me to think of things I had studied in a new light. Often expanding my understanding to different species and landscapes I hadn’t considered earlier. Along with, building a greater knowledge of different species and the need to consider them, when thinking about expanding urban spaces and their effects on those around.
Nithya R and Varghese George, 12th grade students from the Center for Learning in Bangalore interned with the Conservation Programme at Keystone Foundation from February 15th to March 15th, 2016. This was the first time that any programme in Keystone had school students volunteer with them and, that too, for this long a spell. It was a very positive experience for the conservation team as the two became instantly part of the team. Initially, the team did not have any specific tasks set out for Nithya and Varghese, so they shadowed Prudhvi, our Nature Educator at the NNHS, and Abhishek, who was solely managing the YELP program at Sathyamangalam. Within a week, the conservation team understood out that these two could be given a lot more on their plates than had been imagined. They took up tasks like documenting, photography, being efficient documenters of serious closed-door evaluations and being part of conservation education programs. Their willingness to do any task was the true spirit of volunteership that everyone in the team appreciated. Halfway through their time here, they were started to be given bigger tasks like incorporating the reviewer comments in Keystone’s newest botany field guide. All of which they did with willingness and efficiency. The team got along well with them and has even started to miss their quiet and efficient ways. All of us here at Keystone wish them well and hope that they will stay in touch.
Henrik Olsson Selerud was born in Sweden but spent his first five years in Sri Lanka after which he returned to Sweden before his family moved to Zimbabwe. He is at Livelihoods and Environmental Governance program as an intern from the Swedish organization The Swallows India and Bangladesh, a long time partner to keystone.His main task while at the organization is to provide video documentation of the program’s work. He will be at the organization until the end of January 2015. Henrik has an academic background in Human Rights studies and Development studies at Lund University and Uppsala University in Sweden. Additionally, he has a background in development and rights-based work in Zimbabwe. He has worked with issues concerning child rights and governance as an intern at Save the Children Zimbabwe in 2010/2011, in 2012/2013 he did an internship with UNDPand he has most recently worked with an organization aiming to strengthen capacity-build the Zimbabwean parliament. Henrik has long been interested in issues concerning human rights, gender, equality, and sustainable development, which is why he applied for an internship with Keystone Foundation. This is his first visit to India.
Ida joined the Livelihoods and Environmental Governance programme as an intern in September. She came through the Keystone partner The Swallows India Bangladesh and will be staying till January 2015. During her stay she will do photo and video documentation of the work within the programme. Fresh graduate from the Masters programme in Asian studies, Lund University, Sweden she is exited to learn more about Keystones holistic approach to sustainable development and livelihoods. She has a background in economic history with a main focus on women, work and livelihoods. Her former encounter with India includes an internship at UN Women’s economic empowerment unit in Delhi and a research visit to TISS, Mumbai. Apart from missing her four sisters this former school champion in shot-put is enjoying her time, observing and participating at the Keystone campus.
Keystone Centre, PB 35
Groves Hill Road, Kotagiri 643 217
The Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, India
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