Be it the expert-level Open Air Ecolab research, waste management activities done by Young Instructor Leaders (YILs), or the check dams built to store water, conservation efforts at Agastya have been proceeding in full swing.
Open Air Ecolab
Initiated by Professor N.S. Leela, research on flora and fauna is progressing on-track to aid understanding and conservation of the multifarious plants and animals living on campus. The following research methodology is adopted during field studies:
- Plants: Create checklists
- Insects: All-out search and hour count
- Amphibians: Create checklists and grid transects
- Reptiles: Create checklist and grid transects
- Birds: Create checklists and hour count
- Mammals: All-out search
- Monthly field visits for one year
Here are some of the facts and figures of flora and fauna found in Agastya’s Kuppam campus (correct as of January 2012):
- 600 species of plants
- 50 species of spiders
- 70 species of butterflies and 80 species of birds
- Insects such as the golden turtle beetle, termite hill and bamboo mantis
- Reptiles such as snakes, geckos and rare skinks
- Mammals such as the jungle cat, slender loris and sloth bear
Research on spiders
Three graduates from Denmark visited Agastya’s Kuppam campus one summer for an in-depth study on social spiders species that are found only in India and South Africa. The three graduates were, Ms Lena Grinsted and Ms Marija Majer, PhD students, and Ms Virginia Settepani, a final year M.Sc student. The Kuppam campus was chosen due to the commonality of these special species as well as the substantial natural vegetation available (as compared to other sites surveyed).
The main topic of the study was on the ecology and behaviour of social spiders including prey availability and prey capture success rate. At the end of the review, researchers found up to 50 different species of spiders and attributed the success of the study to the extensive protection Agastya has provided for spiders.
Rebudding of the Banyan
A reaffirming development at Agastya has been the budding of life in the stumps of several banyan trees that were axed down along the state highway and transplanted onto the campus in March 2009. Since then, the trees have been blossoming and adding much aesthetic and ecological value to its surroundings.
In 2008, 10 check dams were built along the valley with the help of Jain Irrigation Systems for the purpose of water harvesting. These small dams retain excess water flow in a small catchment area during monsoon periods and the pressure created in this catchment area forces the impounded water into the ground.
The purpose of building these check dams is to store rainwater and recharge water levels in nearby groundwater reserves and wells. By doing so, villagers living near the Kuppam campus will be able to use the water for irrigation when the dry season or drought arrives.