Plenary Speakers : SCCS-BNG 2018

Pilai Poonswad

EJ Milner Gulland

Sudhir Chella Rajan

Prithviraj Fernando

Ashish Kothari


Morning Sessions : Technical Plenaries

[For registered participants only]


She has an M.Sc. in Microbiology from Mahidol University and a Ph.D. in Avian Ecology from Osaka City University, Japan. Her field of expertise is Avian Parasitology and Avian Biology and Ecology. She begun her study of hornbills in Khao Yai National Park in 1978 and founded the Thailand Hornbill Project (THP) in 1979. She also founded the Hornbill Research Foundation in 1993. She is the representative of Thailand in the International Ornithologists’ Union. She has retired from her work as Professor of Biology at the Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand.
She conducted ground-breaking research on the breeding biology of hornbills, including their nesting behaviour, nest characteristics, nest plaster materials, food and feeding, and breeding success, with further studies continuing on home range, nutrients, influence of availability of suitable nest cavities and dispersal mainly at three long-term sites i.e. Khao Yai National Park (moist evergreen forest), Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary (mixed deciduous forest) and Budo-Sungai Padi National Park (tropical rain forest). Since 1994, she has worked with (and continues to this day) local communities to conserve hornbills by turning them from poachers into hornbill nest protectors and she received the 2006 Rolex Award for Enterprise from Rolex SA, Switzerland for her work there. Lately she has received numerous honors and awards for her scientific work and contribution to conservation including the Dushi Mala Medal for Great Eminence in Science from His Majesty King Bhumibol in 2007, the highest national award.

Technical Plenary Talk : <Title : Coming soon>
27 Sep (Thursday morning. Time - TBA)
ABSTRACT : <Coming soon>



EJ is Tasso Leventis Professor of Biodiversity at the University of Oxford. Previously she was Professor of Conservation Science at Imperial College London, and she has also held lectureships in Resource Economics and Mathematical Ecology. Her PhD, at Imperial College London, was on the wildlife trade, with a focus on ivory, rhino horn and saiga antelopes. Her research group is the Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science, which has a wide range of research projects within conservation science. These include developing and applying methods for understanding, predicting, and influencing human behaviour in the context of local resource use in developing countries. Her team also works on the illegal trade in wildlife and on designing, monitoring and evaluating conservation interventions in order to improve their effectiveness. She aims to ensure that all the research in her group is addressing issues identified by practitioners, and is carried out collaboratively with end-users.

Technical Plenary Talk : 25 years of saiga antelope conservation, through good times and bad
29 Sep (Saturday morning. Time - TBA)
ABSTRACT : Conservation is a long game, which requires patience and an adaptive approach both in research and in practice, if you want to make a difference. In this talk I illustrate this point with reference to the species I have worked on since 1990, during which time I have witnessed political and economic upheaval in the species' range states, and its populations have gone through a rollercoaster ride of massive poaching, recovery, devastating disease and faced a range of other threats. I chart my involvement in studying the ecological and social issues that affect this species, and in practical conservation action at the local and international levels, including my failures as well as successes. I hope thereby to illustrate how conservation science works in the real world, and inspire you to keep going whether times are good or bad.



Sudhir Chella Rajan teaches at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT Madras. His interests are primarily at the interface of political theory and the environment; in particular, on the new challenges that enter politics within democratic societies in the face of composite social and environmental encounters. Dr Rajan has worked on emergent policy dilemmas in automobile pollution regulation in California, the politics of power sector reform in developing countries, conflicts in relation to energy access and climate change policy, the patterns of social change needed in transport in the United States for fair climate policy, ethical approaches to addressing climate change and sea level rise, new interpretations of the resource curse in resource-rich developing countries, changes to the periurban landscape in South India and the shifting meanings of corruption in environmental and everyday discourse. He has authored or co-authored over 30 peer-reviewed publications, over 30 technical reports, and 2 books. He is currently writing a manuscript on the ‘big’ history of corruption in India under contract with Harvard University Press.

Technical Plenary Talk : Roads are scars… and we may yet make something of that
30 Sep (Sunday morning. Time - TBA)
ABSTRACT : Roads are scars on the surface of the earth. But they are only a special case of land intensification. Part of what I wish to demonstrate in this talk is that the transport problem cannot be seen to be different from what geographers generally term urbanisation. But I also want to emphasise that urbanisation, especially that which takes place well beyond city limits, can take multiple routes. I propose that conservation specialists need not feel like apostates if they were to try to accommodate these changes in meaningful ways.
This talk is divided in to three parts. First, I scan the scholarly literature on transport and biodiversity, a domain in which I have done no primary research. Second, I draw general lessons from a field that I have dabbled in, namely urbanisation and transport. Third, I describe an emerging phenomenon in many parts of the world, peri-urbanisation or extended urbanisation, the formation of city-like features far from the official borders of cities. This type of land intensification has gained in prominence with three technologies: widespread energy access, roads (cars in particular), and the internet.
The thoughtless expansion of the periurban is a severe threat to global biodiversity, climate, livelihoods and to living decent lives with each other. It is possible, however, and I am only following a long tradition of sustainability thinkers and practitioners to proclaim this, to change the terms of periurban expansion. I outline a few of these possibilities, but also the challenges we might face in exploring them.


Evening Sessions : Popular Plenaries 

[Open to public]



‘Pruthu’ qualified as a medical doctor from the North Colombo Medical College, but decided not to practice medicine but to pursue a career in conservation biology. Subsequently he obtained a M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from the University of Oregon. The title of his PhD thesis was ‘Genetics, Ecology and Conservation of the Asian Elephant’. He pioneered genetic analysis of Asian elephants using their dung and radio tracking of elephants in Sri Lanka. Upon completion of his Ph.D. in 1999, he joined Columbia University New York, where he conducted research on Asian elephants and Javan rhinos. His work resulted in the recognition that Borneo elephants were indigenous and not introduced to Borneo.
In 2004, he returned to Sri Lanka and set up the Centre for Conservation and Research of which he is the Chairman. The focus of CCR has been on conducting research and conversion of findings to policy and management to better mitigate the human-elephant conflict and conserve elephants. He has conducted field work on elephants and human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, Borneo, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar. Dr. Fernando has been a member of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group since 2000. He is also a Research Associate of the Smithsonian Institution USA and has received the Whitley Award for Nature Conservation and Sri Lanka Presidential Awards
for Scientific excellence.

Popular Open Plenary : <Title : Coming soon>
27 Sep (Thursday evening. Time - TBA)
ABSTRACT : <Coming soon>



Founder-member of Indian environmental group Kalpavriksh, Ashish has taught at the Indian Institute of Public Administration, coordinated India’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan process, served on Greenpeace International and India Boards, helped initiate the global ICCA Consortium, and chaired an IUCN network dealing with protected areas and communities. Ashish has (co)authored or (co)edited over 30 books, and helps coordinate the Vikalp Sangam and Radical Ecological Democracy processes in search of alternative well-being pathways to globalized development. His latest books are Churning the Earth: Making of Global India (with Aseem Shrivastava), Alternative Futures: India Unshackled (ed., with KJ Joy); and his forthcoming book - Pluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary.

Popular Open Plenary : Thinking out of the Conservation and Development Boxes 
29 Sep (Saturday evening. Time - TBA)
ABSTRACT : Wildlife and biodiversity conservation thinking and practice have begun to see a paradigm shift in the last few years, across the world. Seeing humans as part of conservation landscapes, or conversely, conservation as part of biocultural landscapes; and considering human rights and community knowledge as part of conservation approaches, are part of this shift. Such approaches are however still nascent in India and many other countries where colonial and neo-colonial approaches remain dominant, as witnessed for instance in the continued exclusionary strategies used in official protected area governance.
The continued conflict between mainstream conservation approaches and the livelihoods of people living in areas targeted for such conservation, is considerably exacerbated by the currently dominant model of economic ‘development’. This model treats nature as a resource for exploitation in ways that can speed up GDP-based growth, and people directly dependent on it as ‘backward’ who need to be ‘developed’ and brought into the mainstream (primarily as labour that can be exploited). Such neo-liberal approaches are destructive of both nature and of nature-dependent communities.
Swimming against these dominant trends are a growing number of alternative initiatives, from agroecology to community-based ecosystem management to direct democracy and localised economies, from struggles for gender and class and caste equality to alternative education, health and livelihood strategies. In this presentation I will argue that such alternative approaches to human well-being have to be embraced by conservationists, while human rights advocates have to embrace the basics of conservation, if we are to move out of the current situation of human-environment conflict, biodiversity decline, and socio-economic inequities. This will be illustrated with examples from across India, and elsewhere in the world, that show such alternative approaches to be eminently possible … and indeed, imperative if we are to make peace with the earth and each other.