SEE-U India

India | The Western Ghats *New Field Site*
6 credits
May 31 – July 5, 2014.

Embark on a journey to explore India’s ecology in the Western Ghats.  India is globally recognized as a megadiverse country, containing 70% of the world’s biodiversity.  According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), India accounts for over seven percent of the world’s recorded species, containing thousands of animals and nearly half the world’s aquatic life. India is home to 3 of the world’s 34 global biodiversity hotspots – unique, biologically rich areas facing serious conservation threats. Rapid economic growth and urbanization have put significant pressure on the country’s diverse ecosystems.  These environmental concerns present a wide range of sustainable development issues which are addressed by the SEE-U program.

Participate in introductory lectures with ATREE faculty and invited speakers at the main headquarters in Bangalore. Gain insight into the ecosystems of the Western Ghats, conservation, the scientific method, Indian cultures, rural lives and livelihoods, and community development. Admire wildlife including Indian bison, sambhar deer, spotted deer, elephants, and dogs roam the landscape. Visit the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary (BRT), a protected tiger reserve located in southern Karnataka at the confluence of the Western and Eastern Ghats where you will participate in educational trips and activities that focus on a seasonally dry ecosystem, invasive ecology, conservation, community enterprise building, medicinal plants, rain fed agriculture, human-wildlife conflict, religious tourism, and more.

Learn about the Soligas, an indigenous tribal community who were traditionally shifting cultivators, hunters, and gatherers. Learn about invasive ecology and restoration and Investigate tropical wet evergreen forest biology, forest-village interactions, and religious tourism in the Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR), a global biodiversity hotspot and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Located near the city of Bangalore, the Western Ghats are a chain of mountains that run along the western coast of peninsular India.  Due to their proximity to the ocean, this ecosystem receives high amounts of rainfall throughout the year, resulting in a moist deciduous forest and rain forest.  Many species of the Western Ghats are found nowhere else in the world, including over 75% of amphibians and more than 60%  of reptiles.  The area is home to over 6,000 vascular plants, of which over 3,000 are endemic to the region. Many of the world’s spices, such as black pepper and cardamom, also have their origins in the Western Ghats.  The Agasthyamalai Hills, in the extreme south of the area, are home to over 450 species of birds , 140 mammals, 260 reptiles, and 175 amphibians.  Though the Western Ghats are rich in biological diversity, this ecosystem is facing extreme endangerment today.  SEE-U India provides an intellectually stimulating experience and serves as a platform for necessary debates on how to better integrate environmental preservation into India’s development strategy.

SEE-U India is offered in partnership with The Columbia Global Center | South Asia, which provides programs and activities involving students and faculty to focus on issues relating to the South Asian region. Southern Asia has a unique history and is at a critical junction of global importance and faces unprecedented opportunities and challenges across several sectors, including: business; health; environment; education; urban planning; infrastructure; economic development; and arts and culture. By leveraging world-class thought leaders, sharing resources, and conducting innovative projects using a multidisciplinary approach, The Columbia Global Centers | South Asia collaboratively examines and attempts to find solutions to these complex issues.