An Indian scientist who danced in mid-air to explain her research on tornadoes, has won the top prize in the 2014 Dance Your PhD contest. The study is the PhD research of Uma Nagendra at the University of Georgia in Athens.
The result will be officially announced on Monday morning. Tornadoes are destructive events, ripping up the surface of the Earth, crushing buildings, and tossing automobiles in their path.
This is the 7th year of the contest, sponsored by the journal Science, the Association for the Advancement of Science, and HighWire Press, which challenges scientists around the world to explain their PhD research in the most jargon-free medium of all — dance. Nagendra’s circus aerial extravaganza was chosen as the winner by an expert panel of scientists and artists from these 12 finalists.
When Uma isn’t out in the forests gathering data, she spends a good deal of her time hanging upside down on a trapeze. “I got into aerial circus as an undergrad,” she says.
“Windstorms and natural disturbances have always been a big part of my life. I grew up on the Gulf Coast of the US, where hurricanes are very common. When hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, I was fascinated by the ways in which the forest was transformed — and wanted to know the mechanisms driving the recovery of that ecosystem. That event is what first brought me to disturbance ecology. I’ve since learned how large of a role these storms (tornadoes, hurricanes, fire) play in shaping ecosystems-- in terms of diversity, structure, composition, and more,” Uma told Hindustan Times.
The biggest challenge- she said was bringing together lots of people from different backgrounds.