Where do professors go every 7 years? Professor Shibani Chaudhury's sabbatical

Harvard Forest Sign

Dawn Bazely at Fisher Museum

Benson House, Harvard Forest

The biggest perk of being a tenured professor has got to be the sabbatical. Every 7 years, we have the chance to finish research, including writing papers and books, learn new things, meet new colleagues and find new collaborators. Often, given the hours that many academics work, their sabbatical is also a chance to breathe, and catch up on sleep. I've spent amazing sabbaticals in the United Kingdom, Sweden, and USA -- that's me at Harvard Forest in 2011. My beady eye is set on Australia for my next sabbatical.

Where do professors actually spend their sabbatical work time? Often, in the lab. of another professor. This year, I'm hosting Professor Shibani Chaudhury from Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, Bengal, India. This famous university was founded by Nobel Literature Prize Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore.

Shibani is an environmental scientist, who specializes in environmental toxicology. Together with colleagues in India and the UK, Shibani's BioCPV research, which is part of the Bridging the Urban and Rural Divide Project, has been aimed at bring reliable electricity to villages that don't have it, in India. Biomass from invasive plant species, such as water hyacinths and salvinia, produces the biogas, methane, through anaerobic digestion. The methane powers a generator, that kicks in when solar panels in the system don't work at night.

Shibani and I got talking about biofuels and invasive plants, when I met her socially in 2014, through her daughter, Aadita, who is very active on social media. When Aadita came to York University for graduate work in 2014, we had coffee, and discovered that we had friends in common. During my dinner with Shibani, organized by these friends, we discovered our shared research interests in invasive plants and biofuels, and started cooking up a collaboration.

One of our goals for Shibani's sabbatcal at York University, is to convene a group of colleagues interested in climate change adaptation in communities, alternative energy, and biofuels, to write a major review comparing policy, and technology between Canada and India. The team includes Powerstream Chair Christina Hoicka, and Dr. Kaz Higuchi, a retired federal climate scientist  from Faculty of Environmental Studies and Pofessors Nicole Klenk and Jim MacLellan from the University of Toronto Scarborough. We're chugging along. While at IRIS, I had worked with a team of post-docs, including Nicole and Jim, on policy issues at the intersection of climate change, invasive species and biodiversity, including biofuels. Shibani and I are also planning a workshop aimed at broadening the biofuel conversation in Ontario and Canada.

The other fun stuff about sabbaticals is doing things you don't normally do. Shibani came with me to do science with school-age children in summer daycare, in July.