landscape with body of water

Shivona Bhojwani

Research Q & A

What’s your hometown?

Pune, India.

What are you currently working on?

The first part of my Ph.D. aims to form a strong citizen science network in Gondia, Maharashtra, for documenting waterbird abundance in local agricultural wetlands, or “tanks,” as we call them in India. I kickstarted my project by hiring and training two individuals from local communities in Gondia and Sakoli to collect data on waterbirds and their habitat, more specifically field data on bird counts, aquatic vegetation and seasonality of wetlands. The Bell Museum grants ensured that I had funding to support basic equipment (binoculars), field travel and salaries for both staffers—Kanhaiya Udaipure and Mrunali Raut. Due to COVID, the Gondia Waterbird Network has only kicked off virtually, but once I get on ground in May–June 2020, I will focus my efforts on engagement with the citizen scientist network.

How are you working towards that goals?

While I have been at the U for an additional year due to COVID-19 related delays, it gave me the opportunity to conduct remote sensing work using Google Earth Engine to select wetlands for waterbird sampling as well as evaluate the influence of rainfall on tank seasonality. I have selected a total of 42 sites that Kanhaiya and Mrunali are diligently sampling for birds. We are also uploading compiled lists on the Ebird platform to motivate citizens to report their sightings. This added time will provide me some preliminary findings on whether waterbirds show preference for wetlands that follow certain seasonality patterns. These results matter in the context of climate change as Central India is projected to have pulsed rainfall with longer dry periods.

How did you get started/what drew you to your area of study?

I started my field work there as a Master’s student nested within an existing International Crane Foundation project led by Dr. Gopi Sundar and Swati Kittur. We recorded over 60 species of waterbirds in just 19 wetlands! I fell in love with the landscape and I received a lot of support from interested citizen scientists. Additionally, there were requests from local officials for information that would help them manage and restore wetlands more effectively. This experience made me see potential for my Ph.D. research in the district. In the past year, Gondia district has had some very interesting bird sightings like greater flamingos being recorded by locals for the first time in the last 100 years.

Where are you working on research/field work?

I am working in Gondia and Bhandara districts in Maharashtra, India. This geographical location falls on the Central Asian flyway and is home to the Southernmost range of the Sarus Crane (Grus antigone antigone) in India. It is also home to centuries old human-made wetlands called “tanks” that support waterbirds as well as subsistence livelihoods for vulnerable communities.

What would be the five-song soundtrack to your research work? What five songs do you listen to most while you work?

  • “Scars to your beautiful” by Alessia Cara
  • “Brave” by Sara Bareilles
  • “Patakha Guddi” sung by Nooran Sisters – Sultana and Jyoti Nooran and sung by AR Rahman
  • “Lasya” by Anoushka Shankar
  • “Desh Ki Zameen” by Shreya Ghoshal, Sunidhi Chauhan, Benny Dayal, Vishal Dadlani, Clinton Cerejo

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