October 11, 2018: IRES Student Seminar
Speakers: Abhishek Kar and Zachary Sherker

IRES Seminar Series

Time: 12:30pm to 1:30pm (every Thursday)

Location: AERL Theatre (room 120), 2202 Main Mall


Is India’s Ujjwala program enabling a cooking energy transition? Analysis of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) purchase trends in rural India




Fifty million poor women in India adopted cleaner-burning liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) since May 2016 under an ambitious Indian government subsidy and loan program called Ujjwala. Analysis of the enrollment and purchase history of 25,000 customers from rural India provide three insights. First, Ujjwala beneficiaries and non-Ujjwala consumers used LPG for 25% and 50% of their cooking energy demand in the first year respectively. Second, as LPG consumption of pre-Ujjwala consumers does not change over the first few years, Ujjwala consumers would likely continue to depend heavily on polluting solid fuels in near future. Third, there is a strong seasonal variation in LPG consumption due to climatic and economic reasons. As the envisaged economic, ecological, societal and health gains from clean cooking are linked to usage, policies directed at incentivizing usage, including seasonal discounts, is needed. Ujjwala is only the first-step towards cooking energy transition.


Abhishek Kar



Abhishek Kar is a Ph.D. Candidate in IRES at UBC and was a participant in the 2018 Young Scientists Summer Program (YSSP) at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). He was previously a Research Fellow at the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), an Indian think-tank.

Over the last ten years his multi-disciplinary research experience (and published work) spans aerosols, human behavior, and policy analysis related to household air pollution in specific and energy access in general. His doctoral dissertation entails application of classical behavior change theories in conjunction with large consumer behavior datasets to better understand clean cooking energy transitions.


Pacific great blue herons may be impacting the recovery of threatened Pacific salmon



An array of opportunistic foragers (brown trout, sculpins, common mergansers, North American river otters, American mink, and Pacific harbour seals) are suspected of preying on juvenile salmon in rivers and estuaries—and may account for critical low numbers of Chinook salmon in British Columbia. However, there is another piscivore predator that has been left off the list of usual suspects—the Pacific great blue heron. We investigated the role that herons might be playing in the decline of salmon by estimating rates of mortality caused by herons on juvenile Chinook salmon tagged with PIT tags in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 (~10,000 tags per year) in the Cowichan River on Vancouver Island. We scanned three heron rookeries located ~10, 20, and 30 km from the mouth of the river using a Biomark IS1001 mobile array, and found 410 tags in fecal remains under nests. Most of the tags (406) came from the closest rookery with ~100 nests, and the remaining few were from the two smaller more distant rookeries (7 nests, ~30 nests). Predation occurred primarily in the lower river and was higher during years of low water flow. Recovering so many tags at heron rookeries was unexpected, and indicates that blue herons are a major predator of juvenile Chinook.  The location of heron nests relative to the distance to salmon bearing rivers is likely a good predictor of the impact on local salmon runs, and a potential means to assess coast-wide impacts of great blue herons on salmon recovery.


Zachary Sherker



Zachary is completing his MSc in the RES program at UBC investigating freshwater and estuarine predation on juvenile salmon during their out-migration from natal rivers. Prior to coming out west, Zach completed an interdisciplinary BSc in Aquatic Resources and Biology at ST. F.X. University in Antigonish, N.S. During his undergraduate degree, Zach ran field and lab experiments to explore predator-induced phenotypic plasticity in intertidal blue mussels exposed to the waterborne cues of a drilling predator snail. He also conducted biological surveys on lobster fishing boats and worked as a fisheries observer for offshore commercial snow crab fleet.

Photo Credit: Robin Harder, Postdoctoral Fellow at IRES