Eco Warriors: Meet the marine biologist from Madras, Shreya Yadav
These women are spectacular. In our continuing series Eco Warriors, we talk to various conservationists from India who are working across the globe to bring balance back to the nature. They are determined, passionate and inspirational. Today, meet Shreya Yadav, a marine biologist from Madras.
From the beaches of Madras to those of Honolulu, Yadav has made a good long journey. Her fascination for everything underwater was triggered by a dive in the blue Andamans when she got eye to eye with marine life. For her Masters from James Cook University, she did a thesis on box jellyfish and spent hours every day studying them.
This is what nature does to you. If you stopped and looked around you even right now, you’d be surprised and curious about how life is evolving at this very moment. Yadav moved back to India in 2013 and was working in Lakshadweep until she moved to Honolulu for her PhD.
Yadav’s family has been supportive and encouraging in her decision to study and work with nature. Yadav knew what she was getting into and says “People aren’t in this profession for the money (because there is none)”
So how did she get into the field of conservation we ask. Yadav replies, “My most memorable experiences have always been in the wild, either in forests or mountains or underwater, on a reef. So I suppose I just tried to stay out in these places more.”
Many have inspired her along the way to continue her work in this field. The writings of Jaques Cousteau and Rachel Carson have been very educational to her. She adds, “I still get goosebumps when I look at the early photographs of David Doubilet and read about the explorations and adventures of Alfred Wallace in South East Asia, or Tim Flannery in the Pacific.” Within India itself, there are numerous writers, photographers and scientists that are doing some inspiring work with wildlife.
Understanding that nature does not have any “clock in” time, we ask Yadav about her work and her projects. She says, “In India I’ve worked mainly in the Lakshadweep islands. Most of my work has focussed on coral ecology – habitat choices coral juveniles make, how this influences their final survival, and what this means for the overall recovery of a reef.”
In the Lakshadweep, reefs are frequently and severely disturbed by climatic change, mostly rising temperatures, and so most of the work NCF (Nature Conservation Foundation) does there is tied to the larger question of coral reef resilience and recovery with change.
She is starting her PhD at the University of Hawaii in Manoa, where she will continue to work on questions related to coral ecology and reef resilience.
If this is what a regular work day of a conservationist looks like, no one will dare complain about their job!
While it is fun, it is also scary to witness nature change in front of your eyes. Rising temperatures, climatic changes are not just terms that we can avoid anymore. Yadav says, “If I had to pick out a specific problem, I would urge people to read about the river linking project that is currently underway in India. This can have unimaginably disastrous consequences for not only the people who live close to these rivers but for the entire landscape of the country.”
Being a marine biologist, I ask her for places that are a must visit on her list and she replies,
“To dive, snorkel, swim, and generally explore, I would recommend the Andaman islands and the Lakshadweep in India. Outside of India, but pretty close by, some of the best reefs are in Indonesia and Malaysia.”
There are many youngsters who are taking up conservation as their career choice, and Yadav has some words of wisdom for all of them. She says, “Volunteer widely and spend time in places you find interesting. But as Proust said, “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes”. Learning to look a certain way, or in many different ways, has been the most rewarding thing about being in this field for me.”