Biologist Kamaljit Bawa
Kamaljit Bawa, distinguished professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Boston and faculty fellow at the Center for Governance and Sustainability, received two notable honors in April 2012: the Royal Norwegian Society of Science and Letters’ first Gunnerus Sustainability Award, which is the first major international award for work on sustainability; and Bawa was also elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
A pioneer in tropical biology and international conservation, Bawa joined the biology department in 1974, and in 2006 he was recognized by his university peers as the recipient of the 2006 Chancellor’s Distinguished Service Award. He was cited for his service on and off campus, both for his work internationally in tropical biology and for his mentoring, program development, and sponsored research.
Bawa, distinguished professor of biology, explores the role of institutions and market-based approaches to conservation. He is specifically interested in the relationships among poverty, institutions, and community-based conservation.
True to his pioneer’s ethos 36 years after joining the university, Bawa writes: “I am interested in developing new paradigms of conversation that take into account the need to alleviate poverty in biodiversity-rich areas through sustainable use of biodiversity. I also remain interested in the sustainable use of ecosystem services including such provisioning services as non-timber forest products. My third distinct interest in sustainable studies is land use and land cover change and its impact on biodiversity.”
Bawa notes that there is considerable debate about the success of integrated conservation and development projects in meeting the twin goals of conservation and poverty reduction.
Bawa says that work on sustainable livelihoods at several sites in the Eastern Himalayas tests whether conservation and biodiversity can be enhanced while alleviating poverty, and his approach is to quantify changes in economic and social parameters resulting from economic and institutional interventions. Data are analyzed and findings integrated with results from other similar projects both within and outside South Asia.
Bawa is the founding president of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, or ATREE, a non-governmental organization devoted to research, policy analysis, and education in India. His accolades include receiving the highest awards from the two major professional societies in his field: in 2003, the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation bestowed on him its highest honor by electing him as an Honorary Fellow; and in 2009, the Society for Conservation Biology awarded him its Distinguished Service Award.
Bawa is a Giorgio Ruffolo Scholar in Sustainability in the Sustainability Science Program at Harvard University’s Center for International Development. He is also a Bullard Fellow at the Harvard Forest, which has served as a center for research and education in forest biology and conservation since 1907.