About

Hi, my name is Biraj Shrestha! I am a graduate student at the Coastal Science and Policy (CSP) Program at UC Santa Cruz. But my work interests are other than coastal. I am interested in freshwater biodiversity conservation issues, particularly management of river basins characterized by ecosystem services and collaborative decision-making that support effective freshwater systems.

I grew up seeing changes in the Rapti river and other tributary streams that sits at the heart of my hometown in Nepal (Hetauda). Now they are shallow, over dredged and flows erratically in the monsoon season. During childhood, we spent most our time in rivers for swimming, some engaged in fishing too but with rivers dying out rapidly in Anthropocene, it is high time to revisit our freshwater use decisions as freshwater habitats and species are declining more than ever.

I started my career exploring lesser wildlife forms that live near us, especially frogs in Nepal. But I have been fascinated by the world of amphibians and reptiles long before. The rumbling frog croaks on rainy nights used to be my lullaby which kept vanishing gradually with rising civilization as I grew up. After receiving my first master’s degree (Environmental Science) in 2013 from Nepal, I felt deterministic to focus my career path toward amphibian conservation seeing the catastrophic decline of amphibians around the globe and have been working on amphibian issues (research, conservation, policy, communication etc.) to date.

In 2018, I was involved during the planning and brief implementation of the capture fishery management project in the middle Karnali watershed that aimed to identify and empower fisher communities in sustainable fisheries management. This project gave me a fresh perspective to analyze one of the grave threats to conservation – resource overexploitation, resulting collapse of fisheries in many parts of the world. What I perceived eventually is the greater need to maintain an equilibrium of our social-ecological-systems! Translating science to action, good governance, participatory management that strikes the right balance between resource use and conservation.

Currently, I am doing my capstone project (fulfillment of the CSP degree) in Lao PDR learning about Fish Conservation Zones (FCZs) in the Mekong basin. FCZs are no fishing areas designated in river segments by the community in support of the government to protect the target fish species and its habitat from decline. The bottom-up approach of participatory fisheries management in Laos has been successful to gain momentum all across the nation with more than 1300 FCZs established until now.

After graduating, I am looking for a full-time position in organizations that have freshwater biodiversity conservation programs and to build a more excellent network with people of similar interests.

ExpertiSE

Biodiversity Research, Monitoring, and Conservation

Project Management

Grant Writing

Data Management

Policy Analysis

Environmental DNA

Science Communication

Experiences

Visiting Researcher at FISHBIO Laos

Oct 2019 – May 2020

Partnered with FISHBIO (US and Laos office) for my capstone year to support work under the project “Strengthening Community
Co-Management of a Mekong River Fish Conservation Zone Network
”.

Watershed Management Intern at City of Santa Cruz Water Department, Santa Cruz California, USA

July 2019 – September 2019

Developed guidelines for American bullfrog and Canada geese management at Loch Lomond Reservoir; Assisted with in-stream flow and water production-related hydrologic evaluation in the north coast watersheds; Supported fisheries population (steelheads) monitoring.

Project Manager and Research Officer at Resources Himalaya Foundation, Nepal

Apr 2018 – Jul 2018; Feb 2017 – Mar 2018

Developed and submitted proposals to funding agencies; Received one successful organizational grant (F.I.S.H. project) from DAI Global, USAID Paani Program; Supported the research project funded by ICIMOD on climate change; Facilitated the Policy Dialogue sessions and produced reports.

Project Officer at Friends of Nature (FON) Nepal

Oct 2013 – Sep 2015

Fufilled various components of the project ‘Green Schools in Nepal: Developing young leaders for a sustainable future‘ by implementation, monitoring and reporting.

Volunteer at SAVE THE FROGS!

Apr 2013 – present

Built capacity on amphibian research and conservation; Learnt new stragtegies of social marketing, communication and networking skills; Strengthened grant writing and submission skills; Celebrated annual Save The Frogs Day celebration in Nepal since 2013.