The Face of Fellowship

November is a month to reflect on what makes us thankful, and this month we are excited to share with you some stories of START fellows past and present. We are so thankful for our relationships with these fellows and the unique ways they are helping the world understand and adapt to climate change.

START Fellowships impact real individuals. Through your support, we offer life-changing opportunities and put high quality science into action on a local and global scale. Please help us continue to offer these high-impact fellowships by making a donation to START today.



The Face of Fellowship: Aparna

Aparna is a PhD student in her final year of studies on ‘flood risk vulnerability in peri-urban areas’ at CEPT University, Ahmedabad in India. She first learned about START’s Pan-Asia Risk Reduction (PARR) Fellowship program from her PhD advisor.

During her PARR fellowship in 2014, Aparna worked on a project exploring flood risk vulnerability in Surat city of Gujarat. Her PARR experience helped round out her research by incorporating disaster risk elements in urbanization processes. Aparna describes her PARR fellowship as “a very valuable experience because of the kinds of people it brought together from academics, policy and practice.”

The most beneficial part of the fellowship was her interaction with other PARR fellows and new institutions. She realized the benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration and how important it is to integrate disaster risk reduction into development. She notes, “The culmination meeting was so important to keep fellows connected. I now know people in Asian countries such as Japan, Indonesia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Taiwan as well as from within India at different institutions who are working on disaster risk reduction.”

Fund-a-Fellow FB postAfter she returned home from the fellowship, Aparna was grateful to receive a follow-on grant to continue her research with a new focus on flood risk vulnerability. Looking toward the future, Aparna knows she has a whole new network of colleagues and connections with institutions across Asia thanks to PARR.

Aparna is not only a START fellow, but also a START donor. When asked why she donated to START, Aparna explained that she wants to support organizations like START that build networks between different communities, disciplines and countries. She says, “There is a lot of value in PARR and START. START brings science to the people.”

Please help us continue to offer high-impact fellowships by making a donation to START today.


The Face of Fellowship: James Oladipo Adejuwon

Prof. James Oladipo Adejuwon has a distinguished career in the field of climate change that’s taken him all over the world and back home again to the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ife, Nigeria. He began as a professor there in the 1970’s studying rural energy and agriculture and advanced to Deputy Vice Chancellor by the 1980’s. His career path has intersected with START several times over the years, beginning in 1998 when he received a Visiting Scientist Fellowship from START to travel to the US and work with scientists at Penn State University to improve African cereal crop yields by developing a system to link seasonal climate forecasts to agricultural management practices. That work led him to collaborate just a few years later on START’s Climate Prediction and Agriculture (CLIMAG) interdisciplinary projects in Africa. About this time, Prof. Adejuwon was invited to participate in the 2001 report on climate change from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and he has been very involved with IPCC and other global initiatives ever since.

Fund-a-Fellow FB postProf. Adejuwon has participated in numerous programs with START, lending his climate change expertise to the very successful 2004 Assessments of Impacts and Adaptation to Climate Change (AIACC) Program, 2010 Nigeria Science-Policy Dialogue, and our 2011 Urban Agriculture Assessment in the city of Ibadan. Over the years he has also received prestigious research grants and worked with organizations around the world such as: FAO, Rockefeller Foundation, NOAA, IDRC, and SEI.

Prof. Adejuwon has a foot in the past and an eye on the future, and we are proud to call him a START Fellow.


The Face of Fellowship: Mzime Ndebele-Murisa

Mzime Ndebele-Murisa first heard and learned of START when she attended the 2007 Advanced Institute on water resources in Africa that START co-sponsored at the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education. Participants were invited to submit follow-on research proposals to the International Foundation of Science (IFS). Mzime’s proposal was funded, which helped her complete her field research for her PhD in aquatic ecology.

In 2009, Mzime received an African Climate Change Fellowship Program (ACCFP) fellowship that allowed her to travel from her home institution, the University of Zimbabwe to the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa that specialized in climate data analysis in support of her PhD dissertation research. Working with START, Mzime was introduced to a more collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to science through interactions with other fellows and networking at relevant workshops and conferences. She was researching dynamics of climate and Kapenta fish production in Lake Kariba (Zimbabwe) but she began to consider how her work affected the fishermen’s livelihoods and the broader economic and environmental impacts of climate change on the entire lake system. (You can read more about Mzime’s research in the ACCFP magazine.) START encouraged her to think beyond basic scientific methodologies to a broader research approach that included integration of climate modeling. “With ACCFP I had to think outside the box to other sectors since climate change is such a cross-cutting issue.”

In 2011, Mzime re-engaged with another START program, the CO-ordinated Regional Downscaling Experiment (CORDEX Africa), led by the Climate System Analysis Group at the University of Cape Town. The CORDEX group has a lot of experience in climate modeling but was seeking input from those outside of climate modeling to provide more relevant and useable data to end-users. Thus, Mzime was brought in to help understand how projected climatic changes impact ecosystems. Her climate change expertise was further recognized when she was invited to contribute to the IPCC Working Group 2 as a contributing author on the Africa chapter of the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report.

In less than a decade, Fund-a-Fellow FB postMzime has advanced through the ranks of PhD student to regional climate change expert at Chinhoyi University of Technology, and graciously credits the key role that START’s opportunities played in her success. Mzime has chosen to give a monthly donation to START for the past year. In her words, “My experience with START beyond the programs has enriched me as a researcher. I’ve seen great capacity built within myself and I would love to see many more young researchers have that opportunity… I give to START at a level I’m comfortable with. Instead of a one time significant gift, I prefer to partner consistently with START at a level I can afford.”


The Face of Fellowship: Suryakant A. Sawant

Suryakant is a PhD research scholar at the Centre of Studies in Resources Engineering within the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (India), working on a PhD thesis entitled “Sensor Web Enablement for Water and Pest Management in Horticulture (Citrus).”

Suryakant is one of our newest START Fellows having just completed remote sensing training in July-August 2015 through START’s Global Observation of Forest Cover and Land Dynamics (GOFC-GOLD) program. GOFC-GOLD Fellows completed a one-week data download training course at a US Geological Survey facility and then a two-week data analysis course at Boston University where they refined their techniques in data collection, classification and accuracy assessment. He notes the relevance of the event, “when we initiate any project related to land water resources monitoring and management the remote sensing data availability is always a major issue.”

By participating in the GOFC-GOLD Fellowship, Suryakant was able to: (1) advance his skills in satellite data processing for vegetation monitoring, (2) use more advanced data analysis techniques in his research of Citrus crop management and (3) establish a regional community in India to share data and provide continuing education opportunities. Of his Fellowship experience, Suryakant says, Fund-a-Fellow FB post“I am ready to facilitate a similar training in my regional GOFC South Asia network. This training has helped me to improve land use land cover classification and change detection module in an Image Interpretation Laboratory class at Centre of Studies in Resources Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay.
Thank you organizers (START, USGS-EROS, Boston University and others) and sponsor agencies for starting this initiative and supporting this training program. In my opinion the investment made by you both in terms of finance and time is really well utilized. Overall this training has facilitated to expand my research ideas over larger spatio-temporal scale.”