Dr. Valerie S. Banschbach   
Fulbright-Nehru Project Title: "Ecology and Conservation of Biodiversity: Active-Learning
and Inquiry-Based Pedagogy; Ants as Bioindicators to Assess
Impacts of Organic Farming"
Field of Study: Environment
Home Institution in US: Saint Michael's College, Colchester, VT
Host Institution in India: Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, Uttarakhand  
Start date/Month in India: July 2013
Duration of grant: Five months

Brief Bio:
Dr. Valerie Banschbach is a professor of biology at Saint Michael's College, where she researches the use of ants as bioindicators of ecosystem health. She is currently collaborating with local conservation organizations, the state of Vermont and the Vermont Army National Guard to study ant diversity in a threatened sandplain forest ecosystem, and ecosystem restoration via controlled burn experiments, on the Camp Johnson Army National Guard base. Dr. Banschbach holds a PhD in biology from the University of Miami and a BA in biology from Pomona College. She studied primate social behavior as an undergraduate in Panama, mating behavior of Cichlid fish as a research assistant in northern Mexico, tropical ecology as a graduate student in Costa Rica, and the evolution of social structure in forest ants as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Vermont and at Colorado State University.

Dr. Banschbach was a visiting assistant professor of biology at Davidson College before accepting a tenure-line position in the Biology Department at Saint Michael's College, where she became full professor in 2008 and was department chair from 2005-2010. She was also the first director of the College’s Environmental Studies Program, which she initiated and led from 2010-2013. Her development of undergraduate courses on more than 20 subjects and her curricular development work in environmental studies has led to the publication of peer-reviewed journal articles in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Association of Biology Laboratory Educators, the American Biology Teacher and the Journal of College Science Teaching. In her research program, she has mentored 19 undergraduate student researchers and has included eight of those students as co-authors on peer-reviewed publications or research presentations. Dr. Banschbach has also authored or co-authored 15 peer-reviewed articles in leading journals including Evolution, Animal Behaviour, Journal of Comparative Physiology, Oikos, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Annals of the Entomological Society, Psyche and Insectes Sociaux.

Dr. Banschbach's Fulbright project at Navdanya's Farm in Uttarakhand, India, will extend her program of research on ants as bioindicators to agricultural systems. She will survey ant species diversity on organic farms and nearby farms that employ synthetic chemicals as pesticides and fertilizers. For the insect surveys, she will use standard protocols for sampling ant biodiversity including pitfall trapping in open fields and Winkler sampling of leaf litter in orchards. The project will produce new data, specimens of use to scientists at the Wildlife Institute of India, and findings of use to scientists, farmers and Navdanya’s educational efforts.