With her tone and tenor dowsed in respect for her fellow researchers, this 25 -year-old science postgraduate, Delhi born and bred effervescent girl, extremely decisive of her career, completely immersed in the realm of forest, currently Project Fellow at Centre for Ecology Development and Research (CEDAR) is all set on a spree of promoting nature and its conservation. Misha Bansal, fondly called ‘little dove’ by her mother has a profound connect with Forests. She talks zealously to Curious Hounds about her work and her concern over habitat loss and the need to protect these forests. She says, her raising up was in a manner that brought her closer to nature and consequently, she has undeniably become drawn to contribute towards ecological restoration. Her advice to people is; to be aware of their surroundings and be in oneness with nature. Do read further to know how this young, passionate and ambitious girl earns her extra pocket money with the vast array of knowledge on Forest culture and Ornithology. The zealous conversation with her made us fall in love with the forests and its importance as habitat for animals, birds and plants.
When did you foresee your future in the domain of forests?
In the early part of my life, it was all about environment, saving water, not to burst crackers on Diwali and usual common things to conserve nature. During my under graduation, I got involved with an ongoing Black Kite project, where we would tag and map more than 100 kite nests manually as well as camera trap and GPS tag them all over Delhi and monitor those nests, bringing the chicks down, measure their beak, body and claw size, monitor their growth and health just to see the nesting success of kites in various landscape contexts, like a nest in urban set up vs nests in green spaces vs nests near dump sites which have more access to food. Later, another researcher introduced me to the community of bird watchers where I learnt about various landscapes in Delhi. This intrigued me and I was completely bowled over. After my Masters I wanted to study birds and conservation in the Aravalli Bio Diversity Park in Gurugram.
Please tell us about how your “Nature Walk” trips in the Aravallis start?
During my dissertation in MSc., I got introduced to the Aravalli Biodiversity Park which is a restored forest. For two winter surveys, I studied the response of birds to restoration. Here, I started organising Nature walks to earn some extra pocket money promulgating to people about the park, birds and the information on the research I undertook. Around the same time, I got introduced to Mangar Bani in Faridabad District and got in touch with an enthusiastic resident researcher, Mr. Sunil Harsana, fighting for the forest protection for past ten years. He had initiated a project called Mangar Eco Club in collaboration with the local government school. I got attached to this club and together, every Sunday, we took the kids of the school to Mangar Bani. My passion for Nature Walks now also involved these students – making them learn about the beauty of nature. We also hosted some nature based games and activities in their school. Thus, a strong bond with Mangar formed too. A lot of inspiration to create Aravalli Biodiversity park has been drawn from Mangar. This is the only native patch of forest left in Delhi NCR. Beyond this, Siriska in Rajasthan is closest. By this time, I got so intrigued to understand forests and how ecology works that I decided upon to get into nature education to achieve conservation.
How do you take your work in the modern competitive world where there are more lucrative opportunities? How does your family take your preference on it?
My Family is very supportive. In fact, my father wanted to name me Bulbul and my mother called me ‘little dove.’ More interestingly, my name Misha is derived from the Russian Olympics’ Mascot… Misha the Bear. It was clearly no surprise to them. Yes, they do get anxious with my frequent travelling involved and staying alone in the village for days together for my bird surveys. In this context there is an interesting anecdote I would like to narrate. I stay with my grandparents in Mehrauli as it is close to a lot of study sites and saves commuting from my home in Delhi. So, on one particular day when I came back from work trying to catch some kites, I dissuaded them from hugging me as I was smelling of meat. Upon their questioning, I told them about the Kite catching process where we set up a net with lot of meat tossed for their feeding. When they greedily scoop down to consume it, they are caught in the net and that’s how we catch them to GPS tag them. I had done a round of meat-tossing at Delhi Zoo and was smelling dirty. That was the only time my grandfather remarked, ‘Kahaan phans gayi cheel kauon ke beech mein (poor child is stuck with the kites and crows).’ But, they marvel at my determination of religiously getting up early in the winter mornings and following my work seriously. My family understands my passion and commitment.
Where do you want to reach in this field?
There are few things I have made clear in my mind in terms of what I want to achieve. But I am still trying to figure out how to achieve them. Majorly, there are three things. The first one is to learn restoration ecology. The success of Aravalli Biodiversity park has really inspired me and I feel there is lot of scope in recreating forests. The second one is to understand urban ecology, which is, how to optimize green spaces in the urban set up to support Wildlife in the most optimal way. On the third aspect, nature education, I am already working with a couple of schools and NGOs where I design nature based activities, nature based syllabi and curriculums to understand birds and wildlife through various experiential and interactive activities. I also disseminate knowledge about nature to urban people making them realize that they are not a part of the city but of a landscape which just doesn’t involve humans but also trees, insects, birds and other wildlife too. I aim at putting everything in perspective in terms of their being citizens of the earth and not just of a human dominant landscape.
How do you feel about the concrete jungles killing the real jungles?
Oh! it is extremely saddening. It breaks my heart to see such chaos. It is so flustering for the inhabitants of the jungle. More so, because I personally feel at home when I am in a jungle. My upbringing has a lot to be credited for.
Thanks for talking to us. Keep up the good work and keep inspiring the kids about Ecology. We hope you had a fun time talking to Curious Hounds
Certainly yes. First of all, it is amazing that Curious Hounds bring in interesting and incredible stories highlighting people and their work. I think lot of learning comes from inspiration and not from preaching. It is nice that you talk to people and dig in their understanding and expertise. I would like to thank Curious Hounds and the team.