Thursday, July 21, 2016

International Fellow SpotLight: Karishmaa Pai

Each month, you can learn about one of the WFC’s visiting International Fellows who has been selected for a six-month assignment to collaborate with forestry practitioners here in the Pacific Northwest. The Fellows are passionate, engaged in their local communities, and committed to driving change in forest management practices around the globe.

Where are you from?
Mumbai, formerly called Bombay. On the west coast of India, Mumbai is home to 20 million people, which is six times the density of New York City! I am also from Singapore where I
Karishmaa Pai and Walnut Tree
moved to at age 11.

You’ve been here in the United States for two weeks so far. Tell us a little bit about your journey.
I flew from Bangalore to Frankfurt, Germany, and then Orlando to Portland. I have family in Orlando, so I stopped there to visit with them, see Disney World, and get rid of my jet lag! Before flying to the United States, I was in Bangalore for a few months consulting and doing research for three different organizations for an agroforestry and biofuel project. This is my first time being in the Pacific Northwest.

What attracted you to the World Forest Institute Fellowship Program?
My previous work in soil geochemistry with the National Parks in Singapore was very field-based and laboratory intensive. I am excited to delve more deeply into the management and policy aspects of science. This program fit that perfectly.

What’s on your wish list of things to accomplish while working at the World Forestry Center?
My research is focusing on the work of the Forest Stewardship Council (Forest Stewardship Council US) and carbon markets within the context of urban forests. In order to have more urban forests and parks, we need new funding mechanisms in place. Within the ecosystem marketplace, carbon is one of biggest opportunities. Water quality credits are another avenue we need to explore for generating corporate funding. I’m trying to identify long-term financial incentives for corporate social responsibility that can directly support the growth and sustainability of our urban parks and forests. Corporate social responsibility is no longer just about image and goodwill building. It’s truly impacting the bottom line.

Why are urban forests so important to you?
There are two big reasons. From an environmental angle, with climate change and the urban heat island effect, individual trees, parks, and clusters of urban forests make a difference in both capturing carbon, providing shade, filtering pollution, and offsetting rising temperatures. When you start to add up all the cities around the globe, which are expanding their urban forest cluster, that starts to become a huge cumulative impact.

From a social angle, people are getting more and more disconnected from nature. In modern society, it’s the forests and neighborhood parks closest to urban centers that people naturally tend to see and interact the most with. If people learn to appreciate trees and forests more, they will eventually want to care for, conserve, and sustainably manage forests. Proximity is an important advantage when it comes to influencing people’s values.

What’s one of your observations so far about Oregon?
In Oregon, people care so much about the natural world around them. In India, it’s just not a big focus. We have fires, severe drought, pollution, and flooding. There are so many environmental problems in India, but a much larger part of the population is poor and struggling just to make ends meets. It’s also so dense that nature isn’t as accessible and people need to drive further in order to access nature.

What’s on your personal wish list?
I’ve never been up close to a volcano before, so I have several good options on my list not too far from Portland. I’ve actually never gone camping properly, so I intend to pitch a tent under the stars this summer to finally have that experience. And of course, I want to visit Crater Lake National Park.

What else can you tell us about yourself?
I’ve traveled to 19 different countries. I love languages and different cultures. I speak five languages and have lived in five countries. My life-long goal is to visit a new country every year.

You can contact Karishmaa directly at

If you are interested in inviting Karishmaa to speak at your organization or event, please contact International Fellowship Program Manager Shadia Duery at

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