A 2-day workshop using the training-of-trainers model was held at Keystone Foundation on the 20th and 21st of September 2017. The purpose of the training was to help the trainers to develop their knowledge on survey, mapping and use of Open Data Kit (ODK) forms through theoretical and practical learning that will help them deliver the course effectively. The instructors for the course were, Shiva Subramanya and Milind Bunyan from Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE). Besides them, Samuel Thomas and Anbuarasan form World Wildlife Fund (WWF), India, N. Mohan Raj- Honorary Wildlife Warden (Mudumalai Tiger Reserve), Venkitachalam from ATREE and Subash and Manikandan from Shola Trust-Gudalur and Keystone staff, were a part of the workshop.
The first day of the workshop was designed for more theoretical sessions in relation to Open Data Kit (ODK) – Introduction, Basics, and the process to design an ODK form. It was followed by a session that focused on the different methods of survey that will be adopted in due course of action. Earlier, in the first phase of the course, there were close to eighty species that were identified as invasive or alien species in the Nilgiris Watershed region. During the workshop, a final list of twenty-seven species was finalized by the group, depending on their density, growth rate and their negative impacts on the landscapes and biodiversity. They have also come up with a plan to produce a small booklet on invasive plants that will help as a field guide, by November.
On the Second day, trainees and trainers set out to the field (Kodanadu) to practically learn and understand plot transect, test out the methodologies and familiarize themselves with the ODK forms. The team has settled on the guidelines for the methodology, which will be shared with all groups.
In respect to the proposed geography, it is split into 4 zones. Each zone will be allocated to one group. ‘Zone A’ will cover the Western and Northern Landscapes- from Naduvattam and below going up to Theppakadu. Shola Trust, Gudulur will be involved to work on this zone. ‘Zone B’ will cover the Northern and North Eastern region (Sigur, Moyar, Bhavani Sagar, Galidhimbham, Aracode slopes). WWF will be working on this zone. ‘Zone C’ will have its focus on the Western catchments (Ooty plateau, Coonoor slopes, Konavakkarai slopes) and will involve Keystone. And the final ‘Zone D’ will focus on the Southern part of Nilgiris (Mettupalayam, Kallar, Pillur) in which the ATREE team will be involved to work on it.
Geographical Gridlines (10x10km) along three one kilometre long transect within each grid are drawn on the atlas of the Nilgiris watershed. The mapping and recording of invasive plants will be carried out on these transect. This will help to easily locate places and prioritize the focus area. The idea behind this to obtain a map that will depict each species, grid-wise, which will give us a clear sight of the spread and help in setting up priority in management. The team is looking to collaborate with the Tamil Nadu Forest Department and make them an active partner. Their personnel will be involved in this study according to their region and the zones allocated.
In the next phase, the trained personnel will put into action this methodology and begin mapping and recording of invasive plants. They will work along with the locals and residents of the region. This study will be carried out over three months, until December 2017.