Shwetha Nair (India): from a scientific background working with wildlife to seeking the opportunity to learn about management and policy

October 9, 2018

Please describe your professional and educational background, and what brought you to MESPOM?

I found out about MESPOM on an alumni’s FB post. Having a few years’ experience working in conservation, I had realised that I lacked skills that needed to translate the research I was doing to policy or conservation measures. My academic focus had been in the sciences (zoology and wildlife) and MESPOM offered me an introduction to management and policy which I was looking for.

After graduating from the University of Otago, New Zealand, I worked with a few NGOs in the field of wildlife conservation in New Zealand and India. At WWF-India I was involved in the phase IV monitoring of tigers in the Uttar Pradesh Terai which was part of a larger project that studied the tolerance of tigers to humans. My work with Dakshin Foundation involved in developing community-based catch monitoring tools for the pole and line tuna fishery in Lakshadweep Islands. Lakshadweep’s tuna fishery is interesting as it is a traditional and sustainable fishery within fragile coral ecosystems. Unfortunately, variability in tuna stocks, rising costs and inadequate access to suitable markets has started a steady transition of Lakshadweep pole and line fishers towards the ecologically more sensitive reef and lagoon fisheries that are known to have deleterious effects on coral reef ecosystems. My work tried to prevent this changeover using multiple approaches like research, awareness, governmental networking, markets and supply chains etc. While working with WWF (Terai, India), and Dakshin Foundation (Lakshwadweep, India), I learned through detailed field studies and experience that populations of endangered species can co-exist with surrounding human communities when permitted access to suitable habitat and sufficient resources.

This raised the question for me: what is a viable model for conservation, in a crowded place, and when people depend heavily on forest/ ocean resources? I hope to be able to probe and engage with this question both intellectually and empirically at MESPOM.

How do you expect MESPOM to impact your life?

MESPOM has already made a positive impact on my life in the three months I have been here. I feel very inspired being around most of my classmates and gained a sneak peek to different aspects of conservation from different parts of the world. This view to different worlds simultaneously has not just highlighted the differences but also the similarities in issues we have faced. It has helped build a sense of solidarity. I look forward to collaborating with multiple people from my cohort in the future.

MESPOM has already given me some friends for life. I think I will have a couch to crash on at least ten other countries in the world in the future

This 'current student story' was written by Shwetha Nair (November 2016) during her first semester as a MESPOM student.'18