Pramod K. Jha, manager of a project managed by Virginia Tech in Nepal, has been appointed member of the World Academy of Sciences for his work advancing science in a developing country.
Since 1983, the academy has elected more than 1,000 fellows – some of the world’s most accomplished scientists and engineers, and many of them Nobel Laureates – awarding some of the most prestigious prizes and awards for work. scientists in the developing world. Fellows of the academy, a UNESCO based in Italy, have addressed a range of global issues, including hunger, disease and poverty.
In 2014, Virginia Tech Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management launched a project in Nepal focused on monitoring the spread of seven invasive weeds using satellite imagery and taking into account the impacts of climate change. Director Muni Muniappan has selected Jha, professor emeritus at Tribhuvan University in Nepal, to lead the project.
Jha is a pioneer of plant ecology in Nepal who has conducted research in areas such as high value medicinal plants, neglected mountain crops, climate change, and air and water pollution. He is a fellow of the International Society for Conservation of Nature and the National Institute of Ecology-India, and a recipient of awards such as the World Academy of Sciences Young Scientist Award and the National Education Award.
Working with the IPM Innovation Lab and other partners at the Biocomplexity Institute at the University of Virginia, Jha’s team found that the spread of all but one invasive weed had increased dramatically over the past 30 years. . This will have major implications for biodiversity and food security in Nepal.
“We know that climate changes such as temperature increases or erratic rainfall can exacerbate the spread of invasive species, so it is essential that we collect data on how fast they are spreading and where they are heading next.” , Jha said. “Being selected as a member of the World Academy of Sciences is a testament to the value of this work and the research I have done on land, plants and biodiversity throughout my career. This shows us that our research could be an example for other countries interested in meeting the challenges facing our planet. “
Nepal is home to one of the richest biodiversity in the world and is considered one of the five countries most vulnerable to climate change. Under Jha’s direction, the project-supported student researchers assess not only the increase in the spread of invasive weeds due to climate change, but also the impact of this increase on important native species.
“One of the biggest accomplishments of Jha and this Virginia Tech-run project in Nepal is the number of Nepalese students who have gained long-term mentorship, expertise and training through her support,” Brady said. Deaton, Acting Director of Center for International Research, Education and Development, which houses the IPM Innovation Lab. “It is a priority for CIRED to not only strengthen the strengths of students in Virginia, but also of students around the world. “
Sita Gyawali is one of Jha’s students who monitors the spread of the destructive invasive weed Chromolaena odorata, which impairs soil health and is toxic to livestock. Using satellite imagery, she showed that weed cover in Nepal has more than doubled over the past 30 years and extends mainly to the Midhill region, which encompasses the most fertile valleys of the country.
Student Dol Raj Luitel has found that finger millet habitat – a valuable food crop for resource-poor communities in Nepal – will decline dramatically in the future due to the increased spread of invasive weeds. Student Srijana Paudel discovered that the invasive weed Mikania micrantha, which prevents seedlings of other species from emerging, has spread more than 700 percent since 1990.
In the past six years alone, the IPM Innovation Lab has supported the graduate degrees of 27 Nepalese students spearheading invasive weed research across the country. Funded by the US Agency for International Development and part of Outreach and International Affairs, the program has been operating in Nepal for almost two decades.
The fellows of the World Academy of Sciences were announced during its General conference. This is only the fourth time that a Nepalese candidate has been elected.
Written by Sara Hendery