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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — From the choked air of Mumbai, India, to the mostly untracked rain forests of Ecuador and the Amazon River basin, UAH’s Ankur Shah is trying to find a sustainable balance between living a modern, high technology lifestyle and a completely sustainable, nature-connected lifestyle.

Shah will spend this summer working on a project evaluating the socioeconomic value of scientific research on the ocean’s twilight zone as an undergraduate fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s Marine Policy Center. The twilight or mesopelagic zone is the dark midwater zone of the ocean ranging from 200 to 800 meters below the surface.  A great variety of organisms — including weird-looking bioluminescent creatures like the lanternfish and cuttlefish — reside there. Unfortunately, this zone is under threat as fishing nations want to exploit its resources.

A junior in Earth System Science and Physics, Shah spent much of his youth in Mumbai, a city of India with more than 18 million people. There he saw first-hand that region’s “massive” air and water pollution problems, and people who suffered from pollution-related health issues.

“It was after I experienced and saw these issues that I became passionate about trying to solve environmental problems,” he said.

Last year he visited the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador, where he lived with natives of the Secoya tribe. He understood that the indigenous native lifestyle was in harmony with nature and was “truly sustainable,” if a bit short on technology and creature comforts.

“Serious issues, ranging from plastic pollution to deforestation, are really symptoms of the nature disconnection of our modern society,” he said.

His interest in environmental sustainability extends to his interests at UAH, where he is one of the leaders of the Green Club, a student organization on campus.

As an undergrad, Shah is working with Dr. Mike Newchurch, a professor of atmospheric science. He helps Newchurch launch helium balloons that carry ozone sensors up to the stratosphere. He also is working on new instruments to measure air pollutants.

Outside of class, Shah enjoys reading, hiking, camping, playing table tennis and learning new languages.

“I’ve learned some Spanish, and I hope to learn a little Arabic soon,” he said.