Catalysing cross-boundary collaboration in conservation for the Indian subcontinent

The Indian subcontinent is a biodiversity-rich area that is also home to over a billion people. The Himalayas, which encompass nine countries of the subcontinent, are a precious source of water for hundreds of millions from its glaciers and mountains to the seas. One of the key challenges for conserving wildlife biodiversity and in the region, especially large mammals such as tigers, leopards, elephants and rhinos, is that their distributions cross international boundaries, requiring coordination and collaboration to achieve effective conservation. 

Multidisciplinary collaboration

In 2019, Professor Salit Kark, CBCS Deputy Director, established a collaboration with Dr Dibesh Karmacharya, Chair and Executive Director of the Centre for Molecular Dynamics Nepal, on an international project that aims to enhance action-based conservation by addressing the impacts of changing environments on large wildlife in the Indian subcontinent. The team includes scientists, practitioners, and NGO and government representatives from Nepal, India, Bhutan, Australia, Israel and other nations of the subcontinent and beyond. The project is funded by The University of Queensland’s Global Strategy and Partnerships Seed Funding Scheme.

Salit and Dibesh led two successful workshops in 2019 in Kathmandu and Brisbane, where they brought together multidisciplinary international experts, including conservation scientists, economists, public health experts and spatial scientists, to discuss collaborative conservation research and actions that cross boundaries and disciplines. The workshops discussed opportunities and challenges for conservation in the Himalayas, highlighting not just biological but also sociopolitical, policy-based, and management data for conservation.

 

Key opportunities relating conservation to public health, climate change and trans-boundary issues were discussed. The collaborative projects enhance the use of innovative technologies and big data for conservation, discussing how to foster educational and academic prospects for conservation efforts with students and fellows from around the world.

Conservation across boundaries

Key outcomes of this continuing work will include collaborative work between Nepal, India and Australia to bring together academia, NGOs and industry to provide novel approaches to biodiversity conservation across boundaries in the populous and growing regions of the subcontinent.

The project is advancing several joint outcomes with mutual benefits to the partners:

  • Enhanced conservation and research collaboration
  • Exchange of researchers and other experts
  • Training and mentoring of students and early career fellows and researchers
  • Joint publication of scientific papers
  • Future conferences and workshops
  • Technical and information exchange
  • Joint programs in rural areas and villages of the subcontinent
  • Collaboration in conservation across international boundaries in the Himalayas (e.g., India, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh)
  • Further avenues for collaborative funding and student exchange between India, Nepal, Australia and other countries
  • A consortium to produce newsletters and magazines
  • Hosting Masters and PhD students and ECRs in India, Nepal and Australia.

Leadership and members of the project also collaborated with the UQ Idea Hub and presented at the joint launch event of UQ’s Social Entrepreneurship program as part of the UQ Ventures program, whereby UQ students will visit colleagues in Nepal and be hosted by Dibesh, a social entrepreneur who delivers technological, environmental, conservation and healthcare platforms in less economically developed countries. 

Photo: The photograph above shows CBCS Deputy Director Salit Kark (centre) with students, fellows and multidisciplinary expert attendees at an international workshop in Kathmandu in April 2019 funded by the UQ Global Strategy and Partnerships Seed Funding Scheme. The workshop discussed opportunities and challenges for conservation in the Himalayas, highlighting biological, ecological and also sociopolitical, policy-based, and management data for conservation, providing an outstanding educational and academic experience for student participants. This collaboration contributed to the launch event of UQ’s first Social Entrepreneurship program with the UQ Idea hub and UQ Ventures program in August 2019.

Project members

Professor Salit Kark

ARC Future Fellow
School of Biological Sciences
Deputy Director
Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science