Deshpande: I Know Team Spirit is the Most Important Skill we Take With us Outside.
Updated: Feb 24, 2021
Shubhankar Deshpande is a Biologist from the Institute of Natural History Education and Research (INHER) in Pune, India. He is working under the guidance of Shauri Sulakhe and Dr Deshabhushan Bastawade, a retired scientist from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI). He is working with Shauri Sulakhe in the fields of taxonomy and phylogenetics. Other members of the team are participating in expeditions and helping in the statistical analysis.
Q.: Mr. Deshpande, you are working in the field of taxonomy. Can you explain to us what this research field is about?
A.: In this field, we are looking for the specific morphological characters of scorpions. After doing that we try to know how genetically different the species are to each other. We are also trying to describe new species from India.
Q.: How do you decide where the expeditions are going to be located and what are the factors in deciding that?
A.: We are having expeditions in different regions of India by studying the specific habitats in which they might be present. The important factors are the seasons, because we are spending our expeditions in the forest areas and also to reach areas that are defined as unexplored.
Q.: What kind of difficulties can appear during an expedition?
A.: There are many problems. It can be that we spend time finding scorpions that we are not looking for there might be a problem with the car, or roads can be bad.
Q.: Can you describe a situation like that?
A.: Yes of course. Well, the car failed once and we stopped in an unknown location for 4 or 5 hours. We realized that there was a village nearby and were lucky to find a mechanic there. We proved to have good crisis management. When the car failed, we were not afraid, a bit nervous maybe, but the situation resulted in a combination of good crisis management and team cooperation. We distributed the work amongst us and were trying to find a solution to it.
Q.: Your words are telling me that you are mentally prepared before any expedition, how do you achieve that?
A.: It is something we have to achieve. Knowing that the upcoming expedition will last 4 or 5 days, I know that team spirit is the most important skill we take with us outside. It is not only important for working well and achieving good research, but also a key point if a worst-case scenario happens.
Q.: But I am also sure you all have fun doing that job. Could you tell us a funny experience you had on the job?
A.: Once we climbed a whole mountain during the night and while getting down again, there were so many clouds that we were unable to find the direction we had come from, so we just kept walking crossing the same locations again and again and after a while, we realized that the correct location was nearby. I remember we were just happy to recognize it. Another time we saw a herd of elephants and that really amazed me.
Q.: So what have you achieved through these expeditions?
A.: In the last year, we discovered seven new species of scorpions. We realized this through a diagnosis of the already-existing species based on morphology and genetics. After that, we preserved them and deposited them in the National Depositories of India.
Q.: What kind of recognition do you experience after making your achievements public?
A.: Our scientific papers were published, for example, in international journals like Euscorpios which is a foreign journal from the USA or also in JBNHS (Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society). That makes us scientists especially happy. There were also articles in the newspapers and magzines. The species we discovered might be important in medicine as well. With the help of scorpion venom, there is a possibility of contributing to the fight against cancer.
Q.: Mr. Deshpande, I want to thank you for your time and for sharing your experiences with us, is there something more you would like to mention?
A.: I would also like to thank you for the opportunity to be here and also the readers of the Millennial Agora.
The Millennial Agora thanks Mr. Deshpande for this time. Mr. Deshpande would like to also thank other members of his team who makes his work possible: Nikhil Dandekar who is responsible for statistical analysis, Makarand Ketkar who is helping in the fieldwork and manuscript preparation, and the senior researchers Dr Anand Padhye and Dr Bastawade.