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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Migratory Birds, Sam Pitroda and CDAC

Rainy winter keep migratory birds away

A wet November, changing crop patterns, pesticides and habitat loss have kept at least 80 per cent of migrating birds away from the wetlands of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra this year.

Usually, December is when birds from colder regions are spotted at several places. However, this year, almost 80 per cent have not turned up as yet, said bird watchers.

Ornithologist Satish Pande, who recently visited wetlands in the four states found that only a few migratory species had arrived. Traditionally, they come by mid-October. “The arrival of migratory birds this year at inland water bodies has been delayed by 45 days due to rain after the monsoon. Humid and cloudy conditions lead to low visibility, affecting the birds and their migration pattern,” said Pande. He added that several wetlands in Gujarat and Bharatpur are usually the first stop for most species. “Saurashtra gets the common and demoiselle cranes. Even their numbers have dwindled this year. So if birds have not come in large numbers there, not many can be expected in Maharashtra,” he said. Pande also visited Bharatpur in Rajasthan and Khijadiya in Gujarat for the global bird-watchers’ conference in November. “Khijadiya is an important migratory bird destination. Jamnagar has wetlands and coastal birds, but this year, the numbers had dropped,” said Pande.

`Higher education should reach to poor section'

Pune: Asserting that the country needs to improve upon the quality of higher education, Sam Pitroda, advisor to the prime minister on public information infrastructure and innovations, on Sunday said that it is also necessary to ensure that the poor sections of the society are able to get the best education possible.

Addressing the students at the seventh convocation ceremony of the Symbiosis International University, Pitroda said that one of the challenges is to expand the reach of higher education by having more colleges, teachers and seats.

“This is the time to act. If we are willing to deregulate, be flexible, open and trust our academic community, we will definitely achieve our goals. That’s what we did in 1991 to our economy and that’s what we need to do in 2011 to our education,” he said.

Observing that this is a critical time in the history of India, Pitroda said that the next ten years are going to dictate the destiny of the country. “The next big challenge is developing desired skill-sets for the twenty-first century. Despite having a population of a billion people today, our education system has not been able to produce enough qualified people in any discipline,” he said.

Pitroda said that by the year 2050, India would have a new model of learning and for rural development. “We do not have to be a super power. We just need our own people to live with respect and with proper sanitation, healthcare, food and water,” he said.

“The old model of education has to be replaced by a new model through which teachers can be mentors, and children can learn from each other and not only through teachers. Research scientists should be able to teach in colleges and universities. The government should support funding the research and development activities at universities and colleges,” he added.

The convocation ceremony was presided by president and founder director of Symbiosis, S B Mujumdar.

C-DAC to take telemedicine a step ahead

Pune: “With the National Knowledge Network getting ready, we are looking at further acceleration of solutiondriven research. The ultimate objective will not only be limited to cancer but will also include other diseases like AIDS,” said Hemant Darbari, executive director of Punebased Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC). He was speaking at the second meet on Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG™) that kickstarted in the city.

“We have already set up a connection between C-DAC’s PARAM Yuva supercomputer and caBIG™ and plan to take our telemedicine technologies to national level. The ultimate objective will not only be limited to cancer but include other diseases as well,” said Darbari.

George Komatsoulis, deputy director of Centre for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology (CBIIT), National Cancer Institute (NCI), USA, emphasised on the need for collaborative research to fight cancer at a global scale.

“Clinical research is a vital tool to shape the system in which we understand and treat this global affliction. caBIG™ seeks to create a worldwide web of cancer researchers with open principles of access, development, source and federation,” said Komatsoulis.

India has its own GARUDA grid and we are looking to set up a grid of grids integrating local and national infrastructure. Initially we will be connecting C-DAC’s Bioinformatics Resources and Applications Facility (BRAF) with caBIG™ for research on protein sequencing data.

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