Flying Research

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Not many knew that a boy who used to chase dragon flies in paddy fields of Ganderbal will one day come up with research on them. The teenager’s fact-finding based on fun exercise might change the global understanding on dragon flies, reports Riyal Ul Khaliq

Suhail-Mehraj

A decade back, a fun-chase would repeatedly begin in farmland of Ganderbal’s Wayil hamlet. A kindergarten kid would be seen running helter-skelter after dragon flies. Then, the chase was a fascinating fun. Fast forward to 2016, and the boy is still chasing dragon flies – but now, for a different reason.

A 2000-born Suhail Mehraj’s love for the humming flies has now paved way to a research on the “lesser known” subject. He has been working on dragon flies for last one and a half year. The research driven by love and fascination is trying to understand the reproductive stage, breeding pattern/hatching, life-cycle, effects of environmental change ecology on these creatures. His hamlet’s rich vegetative diversity favours his undertaking.

Wayil—a sleepy, yet resourceful hamlet in central Kashmir is home to fresh water, wetland resources. Criss-crossing of river Sindh through the heart of Ganderbal helps breeding dragon flies in summers, says Suhail—as he prepares his project synopsis he intends to submit for getting grant. “Other than in Kashmir,” he says, “we can find dragon flies in humid temperate zones like Kerala.”

The endeavour began soon after he wisened to his inner cravings supported by his hamlet. And then, Suhail—son of a cop, began working vigorously to dig into dragon flies details. His supportive family equally flourished his research. Favourable treatment back home ensued that he could make choices close to his heart. Though still young, fresh class 10 passout – Suhail’s acumen cut a grown-up figure of him.

Behind his single-minded devotion, Suhail says, there is a virgin research scope on dragon flies. “Till now, not much research has been done on them,” he says. “So, yes, there is a huge scope of doing some exclusive work on them.” Once unearthing the fact, he transformed his interest into fact-finding. To begin with, he decided to study the flies, minutely.

For this tender researcher still in school, the study sample includes habitat, effects of environmental change on dragon flies. What began in class 9 for this boy still continues. To check his prospects, prognosis and progress – he went to Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Science and Technology, Kashmir (SKAUST-K) recently. “Scientists there acknowledged my work,” says Suhail, before hastens to put in: “However, they didn’t show any interest to help me, financially.”

SKAUST-K’s ‘silent snub’ was disheartening for the boy, whose works seems a departure from the usual.

After putting up gruelling efforts, Suhail has found that dragon fly (having a size between 5 and 6 cm) is fast/strong-winged insect having large multifaceted eyes besides an elongated body. The research further says that dragon fly’s eyes take shape of their head. “They are heavy-bodied having horizontal wings.”

Dragon flies, says Suhail, mainly feed on mosquitoes, rotten grass, moths, butterflies, and microorganisms (especially in their larval stage).  “They sever as predators in both stages of their life and play an important role in food-chain,” the research says.

But as true with most Kashmiri researchers, Suhail is a disappointed chap in the face of elusive financial support. The cold shoulder for him exists even after his research earned him both audiences as well as accolade at 2014 Indian International Science Festival at IIT New Delhi. Indifference exists, even director school education, Kashmir, wrote to department of Science and Technology department J&K to support him.

Perhaps, the chase will take some time before getting the prized reward.

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