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International Fellow Spotlight: Karishmaa Pai

00Featured news, WFI_blog

Each month, you can learn about one of the WFC’s visiting International Fellows who has been selected for a six-month assignment to collaborate with forestry practitioners here in the Pacific Northwest. The Fellows are passionate, engaged in their local communities, and committed to driving change in forest management practices around the globe.

Where are you from?

Mumbai, formerly called Bombay. On the west coast of India, Mumbai is home to 20 million people, which is six times the density of New York City! I am also from Singapore where I moved to at age 11.

You’ve been here in the United States for three months so far. Tell us a little bit about your journey.

I flew from Bangalore to Frankfurt, Germany, and then Orlando to Portland. I have family in Orlando, so I stopped there to visit with them, see Disney World, and get rid of my jet lag! Before flying to the United States, I was in Bangalore for a few months consulting and doing research for three different organizations for an agroforestry and biofuel project. This is my first time being in the Pacific Northwest.

What attracted you to the World Forest Institute Fellowship Program?

My previous work in soil geochemistry with The National University of Singapore and the National Parks in Singapore was very field-based and laboratory intensive. I am excited to delve more deeply into the management and policy aspects of science. This program fit that perfectly.

What’s on your wish list of things to accomplish while working at the World Forestry Center?

My research is focusing on the work of the Forest Stewardship Council and carbon markets within the context of urban forests. To have more urban forests and parks, new funding mechanisms need to be in place. Within the ecosystem marketplace, carbon is one of biggest opportunities. Water quality credits are another avenue we need to explore for generating corporate funding. I’m trying to identify long-term financial incentives for corporate social responsibility that can directly support the growth and sustainability of our urban parks and forests. Corporate social responsibility is no longer just about image and goodwill building; it’s truly impacting the bottom line.

Why are urban forests so important to you?

For two big reasons. From an environmental angle, with climate change and the urban heat island effect, individual trees, parks, and clusters of urban forests make a difference in capturing carbon, providing shade, filtering pollution, and offsetting rising temperatures. When you add up all the cities around the globe that are expanding their urban forest cluster, that starts to become a huge cumulative impact.

From a social angle, people are getting more and more disconnected from nature. In modern society, it’s the forests and neighborhood parks closest to urban centers that people naturally tend to see and interact the most with. If people learn to appreciate trees and forests more, they will eventually want to care for, conserve, and sustainably manage forests. Proximity is an important advantage when it comes to influencing people’s values.

What is one of your observations so far about Oregon?

In Oregon, people care so much about the natural world around them. In India, it’s just not a big focus. We have fires, severe drought, pollution, and flooding. There are so many environmental problems in India, but a much larger part of the population is poor and struggling just to make ends meets. It’s also so dense that nature isn’t as accessible and people need to drive further to access nature.

What’s on your personal wish list?

I’ve never been up close to a volcano before, so I have several good options on my list close to Portland. I’ve actually never gone camping properly, so I intend to pitch a tent under the stars this summer to finally have that experience. And of course, I want to visit Crater Lake National Park.

What else can you tell us about yourself?

I’ve traveled to 19 different countries. I speak five languages and have lived in five countries. My life-long goal is to visit a new country every year.

You can contact Karishmaa directly at .

If you would like to invite Karishmaa to speak at your organization or event, please contact International Fellowship Program Manager Shadia Duery at .

RZ MC Ranch 2016 760

International Fellow Spotlight: Abiodun “Abi” Solanke

00Featured news, WFI_blog

Each month, you can learn about one of the WFC’s visiting International Fellows who has been selected for a six-month assignment to collaborate with forestry practitioners here in the Pacific Northwest. The Fellows are passionate, engaged in their local communities, and committed to driving change in forest management practices around the globe.

Where are you from?
I am a native of Sagamu, Ogun State but work in Lagos State. That is in the southwest – the Yoruba speaking part of Nigeria.

You’ve been here in the United States for two months so far. Tell us a little bit about your journey.
This is my first time in the U.S. and my first time being outside of Nigeria! Before landing in Portland, I travelled through North Africa and spent one day experiencing Morocco. Then I flew to New York, Philadelphia, Denver, and then finally made it to Portland. It was quite an adventure through six airports. 

What attracted you to the World Forest Institute Fellowship Program?
I’ve always been keen on affordability in housing as a fundamental right. Related to this, is the need for Nigerians to think outside the box; going beyond using conventional sandcrete, concrete, and rebar for construction. There are a lot of local resources that are untapped! While I was researching this on the Internet, I learned, through the World Forest Institute, about some other green building materials such as bamboo, Cross-Laminated Timber, and glulam and the construction innovations that are developed with these materials in the Pacific Northwest. I later discovered the opportunity to work with the Portland-based World Forestry Center.

What were you doing before you arrived in Portland?
I’m a licensed Architect back home. I develop client briefs, produce architectural schematic designs, work with consultants to make construction designs, seek approval from government agencies, and do site inspections. One of my famous projects is a 1,500-person capacity auditorium in Ogun State. I also recently designed and supervised a car dealership project in Lagos.

What’s on your wish list of things to accomplish while working at the World Forestry Center?
I believe that bamboo – which is a highly renewable resource growing in our local communities back home – is an incredible opportunity for ceilings, floors, and rain screens and in some cases wall panels in Nigeria. Utilizing this resource is paramount to improving the housing situation and making housing more affordable and economically beneficial to local communities. By the end of my fellowship, I want to have the practical, technical understanding of how to transform bamboo culms into laminated bamboo for construction – primarily for floor and ceiling finishes and lightweight timber construction for building construction. This is what I am most excited about implementing back home.

What’s one of your most exciting observations so far?
Two things. The emerging movement of 12-story building made entirely out of timber products. Second, American society is incredibly cohesive and a well integrated system. It has been shaped to function over time much like the system of the human body. Commuters have many options in getting around town. The MAX line is so functional and integrated with Google such that you can literally expect the MAX or bus to arrive in exact time as shown on the Google map. That is simply not possible in my country. I hope we get there someday!

What do you miss the most about home?
I miss my family – my two boys and my wife. My oldest son turns five in November. I promised him that I would be home in time to celebrate his birthday.

You can contact Abi directly at

If you are interested in inviting Abi to speak at your organization or event, please contact International Fellowship Program Manager Shadia Duery at .