Top environmental award for Ramana Athreya of IISER Pune

Ramana Athreya, an associate professor at IISER Pune, one of India’s top higher educational institutions (on par with IISc and the IITs), has been awarded the Whitley Award, one of the most high profile “conservation” awards.

Indian Express reports that:

The prize includes a project grant of GBP30,000, donated by the Friends of the Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN). It recognises Athreya’s work with Eco-Systems India to unite Arunachal Pradesh’s culturally diverse communities, forestry staff and government officials to work together to safeguard the state’s scenic beauty and wildlife.

It further adds:

[WFN director Georgina] Domberger said in Ramana’s case, the judges were particularly impressed by his commitment to involve Arunachal Pradesh tribes-people in safeguarding and celebrating the glorious abundance of rare and special wildlife on their doorstep, and ensure that they share in the substantial yet sustainable economic benefits such an approach to nature conservation makes possible.”

L S Shashidhara, head, department of Biology, IISER, Pune, said, “Athreya’s award is a huge motivation for all the students as well as the faculty. His area of work, i.e. biodiversity consertvation is an area that is not ventured into by many. He is a trained radio-astronomy physicist and he began this work as a hobby, but now with all the institutional support he has taken it up as very serious business.”

Here’s some more information about Athreya from his wikipedia page:

Ramana Athreya is a birdwatcher and an astronomer at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research. In 2006, he described a new species of bird, the Bugun Liocichla from the Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in western Arunachal Pradesh, North-east India. This discovery has been described by Birdlife as the most sensational ornithological discovery in India for more than half a century. He was awarded the Pakshishree award in 2009 for this discovery by the Government of Rajastan. In May 2011, he was conferred the Whitley Award, one of seven awardees in the year for his work on conservation and involving communities in Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary.

The Telegraph has an interesting video about Athreya’s work.

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