Bahar Dutt wins the prestigious AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award

Bahar Dutt, Associate Professor at Shiv Nadar University’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences has won the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Kavli Science Journalism Award. She bagged the Silver award for 2023 Video Spot Feature for her report titled, ‘Science in Action: Saving the Bhimanama.’

Dutt in her 11-minute report followed biologist Ayushi Jain on a quest to save the Asian giant softshell turtle, once found across South and East Asia and today on the edge of extinction. 

“The award is a very big deal for my team,” says Dutt. Regarding the story, Dutt said she was struck particularly by “the scale at which Ayushi Jain had been able to mobilise the community and energise the local forest department for the species. We are grateful to platforms like Roundglass Sustain that enabled us to shine a light on this unique species.”

Dutt shared the award with her team comprising Samreen Farooqui, Vijay Bedi, Anmol Chavan, and Ajay Bedi.

Cantor’s or Asian giant softshell turtle grows up to one meter in length and is the second largest freshwater turtle in India. Despite its size, it’s rarely seen.

While Southeast Asians refer to it as the frog-faced softshell turtle, the fisherfolk of Kanathur village in Kerala’s Kasaragod district choose to see beauty, calling it pala poovan since its nose and white bony belly plate resemble the shape and colour of the pala flower, a type of crape jasmine. Locals also call the turtle Bheemanaama, due to its sheer size.

The report shows how Ayushi with support from the local community and Kerala Forest Department officials ensured that the turtles got a fresh lease of life. Asian giant softshell turtle that once roamed the Earth along with dinosaurs about 140 million years ago is now listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List.

Angela Saini, a British science journalist, author, and judge of the award, said: “For me, this is an example of the perfect short science video. The story of the young conservationist and her passion for a much-neglected species, along with the local community who have come together to protect it, was utterly heartwarming and inspirational.”

The AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award is yet another feather in Bahar’s cap who has won the Ramnath Goenka Award (2006), UK Wildscreen Award (2006) for the film, ‘The Last Dance of the Sarus’, the Wildlife Film Award (2014) at CMS Vatavaran for the documentary ‘Saving the Ganga’, and the Sanskriti Award for Community Service work with snake charmers.

In 2023, Dutt and artist Sudarshan Shaw had written in the world-renowned popular science magazine Scientific American about how Shiv Nadar University had created maps using the Mughal art style to demonstrate campus biodiversity.