Science Programme to Mark International Biodiversity Day

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Sasthra Sameeksha, a programme to create awareness on science for school students was initiated by M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation with the support of Kerala State Council for Science Technology and Environment (KSCSTE). The one-week programme aims to create scientific temper on various aspects of climate change, biodiversity conservation and the artificial intelligence among the school students in Wayanad district. The programme will reach to more than 250 school students from the district and experts from all across the state. In addition to the technical sessions, practical sessions such as quiz, games and puzzles have also been included in the programme. Guided walk to the M.S. Swaminathan Botanical Garden which is a haven of Rare, Endemic and Threatened (RET) plant species of Western Ghats along with medicinal plant species and wild edibles was carried out. The programme initiated on the International Day of Biodiversity (May 22nd) and will continue through the week.

The programme commenced with the introduction of Saasthra Sameeksha and its objectives by Mr. Joseph John, Scientist. The technical sessions of the programme started with Dr. Sanu V. Francis (Assistant Professor, Mary Matha College, Mananthavady). While talking to the students, Dr. Sanu Francis said variations in the atmospheric conditions especially the temperature are making significant changes to the zooplankton communities of the water bodies in Wayanad district. The plight of the zooplanktons will be getting worsened by the excessive use of agrochemicals in farming that leached to the water and causing the water in life at peril, he added. There are many species of zooplanktons that can be considered as monitors or pollution indicators to measure the health status of the water bodies he added. Dr. Shakeela V., Director said the programme of this kind is the need of the hour and youngsters should have a scientific temper in every activity they are taking up. Programme of this kind could ignite the minds of youths and orient them towards sustainable utilization of resources she added.

The programme was inaugurated by Smt. A Naseema (Block Panchayath President, Kalpetta), presided over by Dr. Shakeela V (Director MSSRF) in which felicitation was made by Mr. Saji (Teacher GVHSS, Munderi). Mr. Joseph John and Mr. Sujith Maroth also spoke on the occasion.

Various sessions were conducted on biodiversity conservation, climate change, artificial intelligence throughout the week. Dr. Anil Zachariah, Director ATMA (Rtd) sensitized the students on the pertinent challenge of climate change faced in the Western Ghats. He shared the knowledge on the importance of weather and climate resilient practices. He also briefed upon the role younger minds can play and contribute towards adapting and mitigating to the effects of climate change. Dr. Archana Bhatt, Scientist and Sujith M conducted an interesting quiz focused on biodiversity & environment for the students over the week. Prizes were also distributed to the students who scored higher in the quiz.

A guided walk to the MS Swaminathan Botanical Garden was carried out by Salim Pichan, Para taxonomist who helped the students understand the vast diversity of various rare, endemic and threatened tree species in the garden.

Dr. Jithin Kandoth and CS Dhanya took over the sessions on Biodiversity and the need for conservation efforts and made the students aware on their role in conservation. They introduced the various RET species of the Western Ghats & their importance. There was also an informative session on invasive species in the region, their effect and the importance of conservation of native species. Mr. Eliyas KP, Popular Science Writer, KSSP delivered an interesting talk on the history and importance of time, methods of measurement and ecliptic cycle and agriculture.

Dr. Jaleel, Principal Scientist, IISc Bangalore and Binesh, MSSRF heightened the curiosity of the students with an interesting session on Artificial Intelligence (AI). Various AI tools and techniques like ChatGPT, Google Bard and more with their usage were made aware to the young minds with their application in student life. The advantages and disadvantages of AI along with the features of AI were also made known to the students. The programme also allowed convergence in the form of a one-day program in collaboration with H Square

The 5-Day Saasthra Sameeksha towards Science Orientation programme provided school students with a holistic understanding of the intricate relationship between biodiversity and climate change. By incorporating interactive sessions & garden visits, the program successfully engaged the students and encouraged their active involvement in conservation & climate action.