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Coffee Shop Talk – Leopards, Tigers, and Monkeys. Oh my!


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By Shannon Allen


It is time for your early morning jog across campus, but instead of stumbling upon one of the famed Roanoke College squirrels, you cross the path of a leopard. This was almost a reality for one of our own professors.

On September 3, Dr. Valerie Banschbach, professor and chair of Environmental Studies, chronicled her adventures in India at the first coffee shop talk of the school year. A full crowd was drawn into Mill Mountain for coffee, chocolate pecan cookies, and the talk “From Ants to Tigers: Agriculture and Conservation of Wildlife in Northern India.”

Over the course of the hour, attendees were taken on a short, visual trip around India. Adventures included wild monkeys forcefully taking food from tourists, and being asked to stand in for stranger’s wedding photos.

Those attending also heard about issues in agriculture. Parallels were drawn between organic farms and farms that use chemicals as a means of production. Dr. Banschbach explained that her research is focused on social insects and that the number of and different species of ants found on a farm can help determine how healthy the farm is.

As promised, tigers were also a topic of discussion. Tigers are heavily protected in India, receiving several million dollars of protection and scientific attention from many sources. An issue that was brought to the audience’s attention is that poachers are poisoning tigers with pesticides that are readily available to the public. Dr. Banschbach is teaching a travel May-term to India this summer titled, “Animals of India: Conservation and Culture.” This course will visit many of the same places mentioned in the coffee shop talk. Applications are still being accepted at this time for that course.

The next coffee shop talk will be held on October 1 at 8 p.m. and will discuss the story of Cuba and America.