Travel

Travelogue: India 2019

In July I spent 10 days in India. It was beautiful and wet and green and challenging and I’m still not sure what all I learned because I think I was at max capacity every day and that a lot of things are still filtering through my brain. Here are some thoughts.

First, some context– part of the reason my blog has gone, shall we say, quiet in the last two years has a lot to do with me being in grad school. I started with Miami University’s Project Dragonfly in spring of 2017 (that’s Miami University in Oxford Ohio, not to be confused with U of M in Florida) as part of the Advanced Inquiry Program, or AIP. It’s a program meant to bring a wide range of folks into the conservation biology field from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds, with the idea that the field can benefit from all of our perspectives and knowledge. It’s been, shall we say, interesting to be in this program with a fine arts background, but it’s also given me a chance to pursue things that I’ve been passionate about since childhood and I cannot recommend it enough if you’re looking for a way to get a toe into science-world. 

AIP runs through partnerships with “Master Institutions” that host electives and the in-person portion of the otherwise online degree program, and my master institution is San Diego Zoo Global. (Cool, right?) 

But we were talking about India, right? So, for part of the program, we have the option of taking a course called an “Earth Expedition“– essentially an intensive 10 day experience to learn about conservation happening internationally through various themes explored in each site. Since my focus is on narrative and storytelling for conservation, visiting India was a great opportunity.

India is a fascinating place for conservation because of the presence of sacred groves, pockets of forest surrounding temples and sacred sites connected to the villages dotted across the country. These groves often provide the only remaining resource for native species and are considered* a key piece of conserving biodiversity in an extremely threatened habitat. In order to learn about the ways that cultural narrative and story have preserved these forest remnants, it meant going into India’s Western Ghats.

To give this post a little bit of a lens, I want to talk about it in terms of connections. I honestly think that was the biggest theme for me personally throughout the trip. The reason sacred groves work is, in large part, due to the connection between the local people and the land*. Their beliefs, their culture, their way of making a living is all historically connected to the groves and the land around it. This connection is their buy-in, as it were. But herein lies the rub: in a country where it can be challenging to make a living at all, land becomes a commodity. It can be difficult to persuade folks that standing trees are as valuable as the wood they provide. Long term vs short term investments and all.

This brings us to another connection– our in-country partners and hosts while in India, AERF, and the work they do. AERF has gotten to know the communities connected to the sacred groves and works with them to provide incentives to keep the trees standing. They make personal connections in the villages, train people to be forest protectors, promote conservation through traditional methods**, and more.

Finally, the last connection I want to discuss is a big one: the connection between humans and the other living things on the planet. I think we hear a lot about things like “food webs” and such (and in biology-land there are “trophic cascades” and other things), but the thing that hit me the hardest while standing in the middle of a forest in India, with rain pouring down on me while I looked up at a tree with a height I can only halfway fathom is how connected we all are. The big picture systems of our planet mean that none of this exists without the whole. Heck, there is research suggesting that the minerals that feed the Amazon rain forest come*** form the Sahara desert, halfway across the world. What might the trees in India’s Western Ghats be feeding? (Besides us, and the oxygen/CO2 cycle they help facilitate, of course!)

Want to know more about the Western Ghats as a biodiversity hotspot**** and what makes it so neat? Check out the links below!

Further reading:

*Bhagwat, S. A., & Rutte, C. (2006). Sacred groves: potential for biodiversity management. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment4(10), 519-524. (CLICK TO READ)

**AERF. (2019). Conservation on the ground. [Web page]. Retrieved from https://www.aerfindia.org/cg.html (CLICK TO READ)

***Koren, I., Kaufman, Y. J., Washington, R., Todd, M. C., Rudich, Y., Martins, J. V., & Rosenfeld, D. (2006). The Bodélé depression: a single spot in the Sahara that provides most of the mineral dust to the Amazon forest. Environmental Research Letters1(1), 014005. (CLICK TO READ)

****Gunawardene, N. R., Daniels, D. A., Gunatilleke, I. A. U. N., Gunatilleke, C. V. S., Karunakaran, P. V., Nayak, G. K., … & Vasanthy, G. (2007). A brief overview of the Western Ghats–Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot. Current science93(11), 1567-1572. (CLICK TO READ)

throwback, Travel

Travelogue 2015: April in Texas

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Last April (2015) I flew out to Houston to visit my friend Arielle and to check out some of Texas’s famous wildflowers. We had a lovely time visiting and hanging out at some of her favorite local places (including my second-ever trip to this awesome shave ice stand) and Did Texas Wildflowers.

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One of our stops was at a botanic garden, where they had a tiny fairy village set up along one of the trails. There were also dinosaurs roaming the grounds and it was a completely magical place. (And if I’d written this back when I actually visited it, I would remember the name of the garden without having to ask Arielle.)

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Part of the trip involved a short road trip into the middle of the state, and a hike at Enchanted Rock (above). Even though it was overcast, it was beautiful, and the smooth rocks made the plants seem to glow in the low light.

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We also passed entire fields of wildflowers that looked like someone had scattered paint across them. Of course I had to get a closer look.

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Gorgeous, no? The coral ones are called “Indian Paint Brush” and the yellows are Black-eyed Susans (or, that’s what I’ve always called them). We saw so many others, I could probably make a whole gallery of them.

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And then, of course, we had to find the Full Texas, aka a longhorn in a field of bluebonnets. We did a lot of other fun things, too, including Houston’s Japan Festival where we took part in a tea ceremony and ate some really good food.

 

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We also went strawberry picking (and made preserves) and ate at I can’t even tell you how many amazing places, from the Blue Bonnet Cafe to Cooper’s Old Time Pit Barbeque.

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So there you have it. My trip to Houston in a nutshell. Many thanks to Arielle and her husband for putting me up (and putting up with me!) and for hauling me all over Houston and hill country! ^_^

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The 2015 Travelogue

No, that title isn’t a typo. I realized today that in the last year I’ve probably flown more than in the previous three years combined, and that I’ve already got plane tickets (or plans to acquire them) lined up for a good chunk of this year, too. I also realized I’ve been woefully neglectful in recording my adventures. So here’s the plan: this year we’re going on adventures together, but before I take off again in a couple of weeks I’m going to try and catch up on some of the ones I had last year. It’ll take some piecing together for me (and going through photos I’m extremely behind on editing) but hopefully I’ll be caught up again before summer.

Here’s a small preview of The 2015 Travelogue!

January: Southern California

Selfie with Mickey

April: Texas wildflowers

Texas longhorn sitting in bluebonnets

May: Madison, Wisconsin

Capitol Building, Madison, Wisconsin

July: London and surrounding English environs

Tower Bridge, London, England

September: Minnesota

Minnesota Renaissance Festival 2015

September-October: New England autumn things

New Hampshire scarecrow

October: Springfield, IL

Route 66, Springfield, Illinois

December: North Carolina wedding

Bridesmaids

Plus bonus National Parking content!

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, national parking

So there’s a small look at the places I’ve gone in the last year. Some of them I was able to drive to, some of them needed plane tickets. Most of these snaps are from my phone, but I’ve got some fun stuff that I’m pulling off of my camera, too. Maybe I can get at least a post or two about each place I’ve been, but with other journeys approaching, there may be a lot of overlap. I’ll do my best to keep it straight. Until next time!

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Australia 2014: Heading south in Western Australia

Australia, WA open road

Welcome back for another installment of the Great Australia Travelogue of 2014! For the next leg of our journey, we packed up our friends’ SUV and headed onto the open road, south through WA and toward the coast and countryside.

Continue reading “Australia 2014: Heading south in Western Australia”

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Australia 2014: Arriving in Perth

Australia, Perth beach walk

The second leg of our journey took us to Perth in Western Australia, to meet up with old friends and see a different part of the country. Our first morning we got up and went for a walk along the beach, and a series of inlets and small lakes with lots of local birds.

Continue reading “Australia 2014: Arriving in Perth”

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Australia 2014: Starting in Sydney

Australia, Sydney Haymarket

So I’m finally getting around to getting some of my photos from our trip to Australia up and realizing I have a lot of them…. Over 3,000 actually, but as it was a three week trip, I guess that’s not too bad really. At any rate, I’m going to begin with our first stop on the journey: a three night excursion in Sydney.

Continue reading “Australia 2014: Starting in Sydney”

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Australia or bust!

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Hello!

I’ve been in Australia for the last two weeks but haven’t had much chance to really post anything simply because we’ve been so busy. Here are a few photos for now, with more to follow including a dailyish log when I have time to wort through all the photos. ^_^

 

In the meantime, why not check out my review of Muppets Most Wanted? Captain America will follow shortly, too.

 

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