With the strategic realisation to initiate and sustain long term, interdisciplinary program on new frontiers, an interdisciplinary long term research program on understanding changes on the coromandel coast was launched in early 2018. The effort was encouraged by the present configuration of research expertise and interests available at the Departments of GeoSMIT, Ecology and Social Sciences within IFP. GeoSMIT’s expertise in studying coastal vulnerabilities, wealthy experience in spatial monitoring of vegetation changes in coastal and terrestrial ecosystems, running data and knowledge platforms, Ecology’s expertise on wetland conservation and management, socio-ecological approaches and management regimes, Social Sciences’ interest in exploring intangible heritage of the coastal communities in terms of practices and lived experiences, provided a nice bedding to launch the long term program. It was also substantiated by IFP’s existing collaborations with institutions from India, Norway and France.

A brainstorming workshop was held on early 2018 where around 25 researchers from diverse disciplines of ecology, social sciences, history, literature, spatial monitoring and information technology to define a scope and priorities for the program. As an ecosystem that is fast changing in physical, ecological, social, political spheres influenced by both policies and practices, it became imperative that a long term observatory with well defined research priorities would critically help inform the spectrum of stakeholders and relevant practices. The workshop resulted in identifying various sets of issues which were both disciplinary and methodological and highlighted the challenges in designing interdisciplinary programs.

In parallel, the interdisciplinary team within IFP was able to participate in a partnership that responded to the EqUIP call for collaborative research on sustainability, equity, wellbeing and cultural connections. The project entitled ‘Fishercoast’ being led by Madras Institute of Development Studies with participation from India, Norway, UK, Slovenia, France was successfully selected for funding and will officially begin on 1 January 2019 till 31 December 2021. IFP’s interdisciplinary team will contribute by studying aspects such as geo-physical and ecological changes, effects of industrialisation and changing discourses on heritage.

The fishercoast project will provide a fillip to IFP’s long term interdisciplinary program on Coromandel Coast. More efforts will be invested in expanding both the geographical scope to the entire Coromandel and research questions to cover ecological processes, social organisation, gender and power relations, technological interventions, conservation and development challenges along the coast.

Contacts: Balasubramanian D and Raphaël Mathevet