We asked speakers at the 2022 Global Biodiversity Festival to share their story of how they ended up in their current career.
Moumita Chakraborty is a conservation biologist, specializing in birds and mammals. She is associated with the ZSL EDGE of Existence Program and a National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow. She’s currently pursuing her PhD from Wildlife Institute of India, working to understand how anthropogenic and environmental factors control changes in red panda distribution in Sikkim in northeastern India. In work in Sikkim focuses on conserving red pandas through various research, education and communication activities, where conservation attention is very negligible.
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
Being an EDGE Fellow allows me to study and conserve my dream species, the Red Panda, the weirdest species in the world.
I believe job satisfaction is the only thing that can get you to the highest level. My favorite thing about my job is the opportunity to work for mother nature, and many threatened species. Dedicating myself to researching and conserving my favorite animal gives me a great sense of peace. Another fun part is that I have had the opportunity to work with different people and connect with their culture and traditions. I believe that multiple voices, perspectives, and personalities can give rise to out-of-the-box thinking that always helps me choose the right path for my steps.
When did you know you wanted to pursue the work you’re currently doing?
Since my college days, I've visited many forests to see birds and butterflies and tried to identify the species. I have been dreaming of going to the deep jungles of the Himalayas since my childhood. Through my core research, I explored the deepest Himalayan Forest, but never came across wild Red Pandas at that time except in zoos. I have some fun childhood memories of Pandas. When I first saw one at the age of 7, it was a strange but beautiful creature in my eyes. I still remember I asked my day many questions, so many he became frustrated to answer all. We still laugh at these thoughts while discussing my research-related talks.
I was always fascinated with research on elusive species, so I finished my master's and joined as a research scholar at the Wildlife Institute of India. I started my career researching Himalayan birds and aquatic birds before moving to the Red Panda. Interestingly, I came to know about the nature of wild Red Pandas through photo-documentation by a friend which made a deep impression on my mind. Gradually I became connected to this endangered species and the compassion which drove me to study this lonesome creature whose existence is at risk.
Currently, I am working on Red Pandas conservation in the Sikkim Himalayan landscape as an EDGE Awardee (Nat Geo Photo Ark EDGE Fellow). In my doctoral research, I also study Red Panda's ecological and behavioral aspects to find out the anthropogenic pressures that govern their distribution pattern.
Was there an educator or mentor who inspired you when you were young?
My childhood was rich with wildlife. I was born in a small town on the outskirts of Kolkata and privileged by the beautiful greenery that creates a strong connection with nature. I believe this is the first step in developing a nature-loving mindset. The first impressions came from my father in terms of nature, the wilderness and my interest grew very quickly. Eventually, I was able to draw a line between my subject and the environment and that makes me very happy. When I jump into a vast tank of ideas about biodiversity and its conservation, I realize how difficult it is. This is not only the study of animals or plants, but also a huge battle to protect them from potential risk.
Having a mentor in life is a blessing because the mentor motivates you and gives you a way to move forward in your life by boosting your confidence. Now I am sharing the stories of my mentor that have inspired me to get to where I am today, that generous personality is my PhD supervisor, Dr. Ramesh Krishnamurthy. He is the only person who has given me the courage to work with the elusive Red Panda, which has helped me to start my dream project. Initially, it was really difficult to stick to my goal, but I was determined to work on this. Especially in the worst situations, his words help me to deal with difficult circumstances with a positive outlook and calm mind. Through my work, I have aroused the interest of many, especially young people, by increasing interest in research and conservation. I am fortunate enough to have other advisors too, who always inspire me to study more aspects of the Red Panda.
If you could go back in time, what is one piece of advice you would give to your 18-year-old self?
Focus on the path you think is most appropriate. Learn as much as possible because it will always help build new ideas. Self-awareness is very important for building a strong relationship with yourself. Spend time with nature because nature gives you a positive vibe to stand up for yourself. Last but not least is please patient and wait for the right time.
What advice would you give parents who want to raise children who care about climate change, conservation, and STEM?
My parents love of nature showed me it was magical and mesmerizing. I still remember my mother taught me first how to nurture a small tree to grow big. Maybe there were many scientific reasons that I was not aware of at that time but it was enough to increase my interest in nature. Connecting children with nature is essential for the conservation of our natural world. Every parent should raise awareness in the minds of their children to take care of our mother nature. For example, we can teach our child to turn off the lights when leaving the room or home to save energy or tell them how to save water, how pollution or other factors affect our natural resources. These small steps will encourage the youth to develop real feelings and connections with nature.
Red Panda on EDGE
Our project team, Red Panda on EDGE, is continuously working for ecological research and findings on Red Panda, species-habitat relationship, evaluate the current status of Red Panda across protected and non-protected areas of Sikkim, and community enrichment through public awareness and social media handlings, spreading voice at the local and national level and also supports our forest department to provide field training and practices.
To know more about our work on Red Pandas, please do follow us on our social media pages:
Image description: Moumita Chakraborty and her study subject: the elusive and fascinating Red Panda.