<![CDATA[Bulletin of the Wildlife Institute of India - Blog]]>Mon, 08 Feb 2016 07:00:40 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[First Alumni Meet of the Wildlife Institute of India - August 2014]]>Sat, 30 Aug 2014 06:23:38 GMThttp://bulletinwii.weebly.com/blog/first-alumni-meet-of-the-wildlife-institute-of-india-august-2014By BWII Editorial Team
To take a walk down the corridors of reminiscence, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) celebrated its first Alumni meet on 21st and 22nd August, 2014. The meet was organized in chorus with the Annual Research Seminar and was graced by over 350 dignitaries from various parts of the country. Conservation peers of the country were present for this august gathering and some prominent of them included Shri H.S. Panwar, Shri Vinod Rishi, Dr. A.J.T. Johnsingh, Dr. H.S. Pabla, Dr. Ravi Chellam, Dr. N.V.K. Ashraf, Dr. M.K. Padalia, Dr. G.C. Bhimani, Dr. Yashveer Bhatnagar, Dr. M.D. Madhusudan, Dr. Shomita Mukherjee, Dr. Diwakar Sharma, Dr. Kavita Ishwaran, Dr. Suhel Qader, Dr. Pranav Trivedi and many others.
Dr. V.B. Mathur, Director WII, addressing the Alumni Meet.
Dr. A.J.T. Johnsingh, former Dean WII, addressing the Alumni Meet.
Dr. N.V.K. Ashraf, 1st M.Sc. batch, addressing the Alumni Meet.
Group photo of the Alumni members
The inaugural session was nostalgic where most of the speakers recalled their past days in the campus and their attachments with WII. Director, Dr. V.B. Mathur extended a warm, cordial welcome to all the guests present on the occasion and emphasized the need for strengthening the linkages between the Alumni and the Institute for better addressing the conservation challenges of the country.

The second day started with a brainstorming discussion amongst the Alumni on the imperativeness of forming an Association. The members unequivocally voted for an Alumni Association, which could emerge as a strong body in future supporting WII in diverse areas of conservation and academics. The afternoon session was enthralling where ‘conservation talks’ by the Alumni educated the gathering on diverse aspects ranging from conservation history, citizen science, conservation education, debates and debacles and conservation success stories._
Leonine tales and other stories - Talk by Dr. Ravi Chellam
Dr. Kavita Ishwaran being felicitated by current M.Sc student Pallavi after her talk - Animal behaviour in a changing world
The evening was illuminated with “Jashn-e-Bahara," a cultural program organized by the current students of WII. Overall, while the meet was homecoming for many Alumni, it was a good learning for the new generation researchers at WII aiming to contribute Conservation Science.
Inauguration of the cultural program by Padma Bhusan Shri H.S. Panwar, Founder Director, Wildlife Institute of India
Fusion music
Garba, Gujarati dance
Traditional Garhwali Dance
Bihu, Assamese traditional dance form
Bhangra, traditional Punjabi dance
Trends in Ecology - a skit presented by the current M.Sc batch
Bulletin of the Wildlife Institute of India (BWII) also took advantage of this meet of galaxies. Editors, Sitendu, Indranil and Kausik, discussed the idea of BWII with many Alumni and responses were positive. Being encouraged by such interactions, BWII now plans to come up with interviews of some of WII’s Alumni during the coming weeks. BWII strongly believes that such interviews would be of great lesson for upcoming generations of wildlife biologists at WII by familiarizing them with what their predecessors opine on conservation. Therefore, please keep an eye on our blog “Nature Kaleidoscope” for the next few weeks to experience many untold stories of our Alumni.
<![CDATA[A visit to Jalore Wildlife Safari]]>Mon, 11 Aug 2014 09:57:07 GMThttp://bulletinwii.weebly.com/blog/august-11th-2014By Ranjana Pal
The Jalore landscape surprises its visitors with shifting shapes and colours from dawn to dusk
Jalore Wildlife Safari

Several Jirds bustled into their holes as we drove through the dirt road. I felt apologetic for disturbing these small burrowing rodents, who were busy feeding on the recently blossomed Bui flower (Aerva javanica). Just as we drove away, the Jirds were back to their business and we entered the territory of Jalore Wildlife Safari (henceforth JWS). The park (400 hectares) is situated few kilometers away from Jalore City, near Dhavla village, in Rajasthan. Jalore being a part of the great Indian Thar Desert is characterised by sandy trails, flat savanna, undulating grass bunds and is surrounded by the isolated Eserna range of hills and rocky ridges. The famous Jalore fort and Amba mata temple lies at a distance of 13 km from the park.

JWS is at few kilometers distance from Jalore City in Rajasthan. It lies in the vicinity of Eserna Reserve Forest.
The safari came into existence in 2005, by the efforts of the local Baronet Mr. Balwant Singh Chauhan, Mr. Ravindra Singh Chouhan, Mr. Bhawani Singh Chouhan, Ms. Shanane Davis, and Mr. Gajendra Singh Chouhan. It is stated on a private land, dedicated for conservation of the unique biodiversity of Jalore and hence is also known as ‘Jalore Wildlife Sanctuary’ by the people behind this cause. This land was gifted seven generations ago to the Kaniwara Chouhan family by Royal family of Jodhpur as a token of gift for helping the Royal Force of Jodhpur in a battle. The land is now owned by Kaniwara Chouhan’s family and managed and protected by Mr. Ravindra Singh Chouhan and Mr. Bhawani Singh Chouhan.

It was in the month of January 2013 that I was given this opportunity to volunteer for a 10 days biodiversity survey of JWS, by my professor, Dr. Sumit Dookia. At that time, I was pursuing Masters in Biodiversity and Conservation from GGS Indraprastha University, Delhi.

Dr. Dookia was assessing the prospect of this land as a potential conservation area.  I teamed up with Mr. Vigil Wilson, a research scholar form my university, and the co-owner of Jalore resort, Mr. Ravindra Singh Chouhan.

A Plain tiger on Bui (Aerva javanica) flower
Wildlife attractions

JWS is connected to Eserna Reserved Forest, and hence, is part of a continuous forest patch. The faunal diversity comprises of rare and endangered animals like the Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca), Striped Hyena (Hyaena hyaena), Chinkara or the Indian Gazelle (Gazella bennettii), Jungle Cat (Felis chaus), and the elusive Asian Steppe Wildcat (ornata sub species) which is known in India as the Indian Desert cat (Felis silvestris ornata).  This area is also rich in avifaunal diversity and consists of more than 120 species of resident birds including Long-billed Vulture, Eurasian Griffon, Eurasian Eagle Owl, Crested White-capped Bunting, Tawny Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Short-toed snake eagle, Rock Bush Quail, Jungle Bush Quail. Jalore vegetation is broadly classified as tropical thorn forest. Flora mainly consists of Mithijal (Salvedura olyeoidis), Kajari (Prosopis sineraria), Rohida (Tecomela undulata), Tribulus rajasthanensis, various wild savannah species including Sinia and Thor (Uphorbia Caducifolia), the endangered jungle basil, indigenous fruit trees, and various wildflowers.

Camera trap studies have shown the presence of several elusive species in the area. (Images from left:  Striped Hyena Hyaena hyaena, Indian Crested Porcupine Hystrix indica, Indian Desert Cat, Felis silvestris ornata).

Model for Ecotourism

Ecotourism is defined as tourism that is ecologically sustainable for which JWS is an excellent example. An eco-friendly campsite has been developed in the heart of the park with tents that ensure a comfortable stay for the guests. In JWS, only a small group of 1-6 visitors are allowed at a time. The mornings in Jalore greet you with a cacophony of calls from peacocks, quails, and francolins. A short walk in the park and visitors might be able to sight the magnificent raptors and ungulates. Another attraction of JWS is the night safari, where visitors can enjoy sightings of elusive species like the Desert Cat, Jungle Cat, Desert Hare and Indian Crested Porcupine. This area is occasionally visited by Leopards as well. Short treks into the hills provide lucky hikers a chance of enjoying the panoramic view and breath taking events of sun set.

Forty percent of funds received from the guests goes back to protection and maintenance of the park and some part is spent on schemes for local villages. Earlier this land was a popular hunting ground for the Royal families and guests of Khaniwara. Ecotourism initiatives and outreach programs have significantly helped in controlling poaching in Jalore Safari area and its surroundings. Various water harvesting systems have been built in the safari area that makes water available for wildlife year-round. Ecotourism programs also include purchasing, planting, and re-forestation of various indigenous trees and plants. Many research projects and conservation programs have been implemented in JWS. Photo-documented sighting of Ruddy Mongoose (Herpestes smitthii) was recently recorded by Dr. Sumit Dookia in this area and is believed to be an extension from the nearest population in Kumbhalgarh. JWS is one of the few areas known to have sizeable number of Asian Steppe-Wildcat. Camera trap studies conducted in and around the park has confirmed the presence of around 8-10 Hyenas in the park. The co-owner of JWS, Ravindra Singh Chouhan wants to extend his ambitions and intends to sensitize the populace, especially school children of Jalore towards wildlife and importance of their conservation. He wishes to increase ecotourism in this area, believing that this can help locals by providing new job opportunities. He says that “these initiatives can give Jalore, a small beautiful town of our’s, a global identity”. He seeks support from government agencies and desires to help in controlling poaching in the park and adjoining forest area.

Saving the last of Jalore’s biodiversity and its challenges

Jalore is also known as the granite city of Rajasthan. Mining in this part of Jalore started in 1991, since then continuous mining activity has drastically affected the biodiversity of this area. Granite mining has caused large-scale deforestation. Besides clearing the mining area, blasting and increase in human activities is taking a toll on the local wildlife. Grazing and granite mining are the prime threats to this habitat. Jalore Wildlife Safari is the only undisturbed land left in this region. Desert Foxes have started to abandon their dens in and around the mining sites. The commonly seen vultures in the past have moved out of this area and now have migrated to other hills at a distance from the safari. Remains of the scrapped, deformed and blasted granite hills can be seen around the park. These abandoned waste lands, if given some attention, can be restored back to life.
Continuous encroachments hold a gloomy future for JWS
Jird and Gerbil colonies are also present in the park. Burrowing animals like these, also known as ecosystem engineers, facilitate establishment of forbes, their underground burrowing system providing water infiltration and fecal deposition, which increases the soil quality. Overgrazing can harm these rodents, so no trespassing even in the form of grazing by local villagers is allowed inside the park. Presence of these Jird and Gerbil holes in the park, in contrast to its surrounding forest area, is clearly showing the effect of overgrazing in the surrounding forest land. These rodents are also an important part of the diet of Lesser Cat population in the area.

The park is surrounded by more than 5 villages and is under continuous pressure of human and livestock encroachment. Unfortunately, JWS is too small on its own to sustain the wild animal diversity and is highly dependent on the surrounding forest areas, which are in continuous threat from mining and grazing. Park’s existence and long term survival of its wildlife depends upon the continued existence of its surrounding forests. If mining and grazing activities are prevented, we will see a rise in the populations of these species. Conservation of this area and surrounding forests will go a long way in providing the local wildlife with a safe haven to flourish.

I have done my Masters in Biodiversity and Conservation from GGSIP University, Delhi. I have previously worked on Feral-dog conflict in Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh and is currently working as Research Biologist at Wildlife Institute of India under All India Tiger Monitoring Project. I have a deep interest in conservation biology and advocate understanding ecology of species as a fundamental part of any conservation initiatives.
<![CDATA[Discussing coexistence.]]>Fri, 08 Aug 2014 15:10:10 GMThttp://bulletinwii.weebly.com/blog/discussing-coexistenceBy Subrata Gayen

India is a watershed of historical, philosophical and scientific ideologies. The concept of harmonious coexistence with animals and other natural resources is quite old in the country. However, it is only in recent times that we started questioning the age-old values and practices of our forefathers. At this era of urbanization, with development being imperative; coexistence may not any longer remain as a natural way of life. It becomes a crucial challenge for mankind.

Let us focus on terrestrial carnivores now. Although the damage caused by snakes might be higher than carnivores in our country, but our psychology of fear for large carnivores makes us more sensitive to carnivore related conflicts than reptiles. Can we stop conflict? Or, should we simply manage it? And if yes, how and at what level? Should our livelihood securities and pace of development be compromised while giving priority to conservation agendas? Or, should we eradicate the problem animals totally? What, why, when, where and how?

Scores of conservation practitioners of national and international repute and students from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) brainstormed over these for two days in a recent workshop on “Human Animal Interaction and Management of Alien Species” held at the Institute. The workshop was a part of the mandate WII received from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Changes to develop guidelines and operational plans for mitigating negative human-animal interactions. We all came to a near similar conclusion irrespective of taxa in conflict (herbivore, carnivore etc.). Although, India has separate policies and management plans for specific areas or for specific species in few instances, nevertheless there is a gap in implementing them. In many states, the managers could implement these successively, but still lot more needs to be accomplished. At first, we need to know why people have negative attitudes toward wildlife. Precautions that are required to increase social carrying capacity in high conflict zones (site specific, generic or group specific) need to be specifically identified and guidelines and standard operating procedures must be developed to govern a particular situation. Appropriate action plan for particular target species along with site-specific preventive strategies and mitigation plans are of utmost importance.

We deliberated on many instances of successful management of human-wildlife conflicts. For example, Gujarat is a state where people are in frequent conflict with lions and leopards, but the policy makers are effectively handling hostile situations by paying timely and adequate ex-gratia for each case. Many states have different plans for crop depredations, human injuries and death by animals (such as Maharashtra). Furthermore, Corbett Tiger Reserve has immediate compensation program for livestock depredations. Pakke Tiger Reserve has implemented “Grain for Grain” scheme for crop depredations. Maharashtra has a different compensation scheme for crop depredation and injuries by bears.

Despite all these, what are our major drawbacks? According to WII experts, we need strong manpower that can build socio-economical capacity, research on species biology and behaviour, improved lifestyle of our people at lower economy stratum (most exposed to conflicts) and a long-term conservation commitment. We may need more partnership with NGOs, media, co-operative agencies where people can benefit by compensation schemes and insurance policies. we may need to implement several new technologies that can bring farmers easy cash without changing the traditional cropping patterns or escalating conflicts. Safeguarding the interests of both – human and wildlife can only be effective by formulation of a balanced policy to incentivize people without affecting their livelihood securities. I believe, this is the sole way to develop and preserve life on this planet. Historical reviews might teach us how to live with our fellow organisms in coherence.

“How unconsciously many habitual actions are performed, indeed not rarely in direct opposition to our conscious will! Yet they may be modified by the will or reason.”
                                                                                                                    -Sir Charles Darwin.

I did my Master’s in Zoology from Presidency College, Kolkata. Subsequently I worked as a Field Biologist with the Forest Department in Pakke Tiger Reserve, Arunachal Pradesh and later working as a Junior Research Fellow with WII in Barda Wildlife Sanctuary, Gujarat, camera-trapping leopards. I am primarily interested in carnivore ecology and their interaction with humans. Through my research I want to create awareness among people of all ages regarding carnivore conservation.

<![CDATA[News & Opportunities]]>Sun, 25 May 2014 07:03:37 GMThttp://bulletinwii.weebly.com/blog/news-opportunities3By Kamlesh K Maurya

There are some new openings in WWF- India. Please see the links below.

Dr Kamlesh K Maurya completed his  Doctoral Degree in wildlife science from WII, where he studied the ecology of the Indian Fox (Vulpes bengalensis) to understand how the Indian fox coexist in a mid size carnivores ecosystem and various costs and benefits associated with dispersal in the Indian foxes in semi wild landscape of Kutch. After that he joined WWF India as Senior Project Officer-Tiger Conservation Programme.

<![CDATA[News & Opportunities]]>Sun, 18 May 2014 19:13:42 GMThttp://bulletinwii.weebly.com/blog/news-opportunities2By Kausik Banerjee
  • Mohamed bin Zayed (MBZ) Species Conservation Fund -- Grants in Support of Endangered and Critically Endangered Species - The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund makes grants to individuals, communities, and organizations for the conservation of animal, plant, and fungi species worldwide. The Fund has been established to provide targeted grants to individual species conservation initiatives, recognize leaders in the field and elevate the importance of species in the broader conservation debate. Its focus is global and eligibility for grants will extend to all plant, animal and fungi species conservation efforts, without discrimination on the basis of region or selected species. Grants are up to US$25 thousand. The next application deadline is June 30, 2014. More details available at  http://www.speciesconservation.org/grants/ or mail to enquiries@mbzspeciesconservation.org
  • Students’ Conference on Conservation Science (SCCS) – Bangalore 2014 - Abstract submission is now closed for the event. However, early bird registration closes on July 31, 2014. For more visit http://www.sccs-bng.org/ or write to sccs@sccs-bng.org.

  • Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) -- Capacity Enhancement Program 2014 The GBIF is the largest biodiversity database on the internet, and it aims to promote better decisions to conserve and sustainably use the planet's biological resources. GBIF will co-fund specific capacity needs identified by its participating countries and organizations for mentoring activities; regional training; advocacy actions; and documentation. Forty thousand Euros (40,000 EUR) have been assigned to the programme this year, following the budget allocation in the approved Work Programme 2014-2016. The maximum amount that a single project can be supported with is twenty thousand Euros (20,000 EUR). The types of action that are eligible for co-funding under this call are 1) mentoring activities, 2) regional training support, 3) GBIF advocacy actions and 4) documentation. Submission of proposals is a two stage process and the deadline for the submission of short concept notes is 26 May 2014. For more please visit http://www.gbif.org/newsroom/opportunities#ebbenielsen.

  • Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) -- Ebbe Nielsen Prize and Young Researchers Award 2014 - GBIF invites nominations for the 2014 Ebbe Nielsen Prize and Young Researchers Awards.
    The Ebbe Nielsen Prize has been awarded annually to a person or team who demonstrates excellence in combining biodiversity informatics and biosystematics research. The €30,000 award is intended to allow the recipient(s) to engage in biosystematics/biodiversity informatics research outside his/her/their country of residence for a period of 3-6 months.

    The Young Researchers Awards intend to foster innovative research and discovery in biodiversity informatics. Two awards of €4,000 will be available to graduate students in a master’s or doctoral programme at a university in a GBIF Voting Participant or Associate Participant country.
    Nominations for the awards are due on 31 May 2014. More details available at http://www.gbif.org/newsroom/opportunities#ebbenielsen.

  • PADI Foundation -- Grants for Marine Conservation 2015 - The PADI Foundation offers worldwide grants in underwater science, environmental projects, and marine education. In the past, applications have included many for projects in tropical regions. Most grants are US$5 thousand to US$10 thousand, although PADI will consider budgets up to US$20 thousand. There are no nationality restrictions. Applications will be accepted starting 01 November 2014 and no later than 01 February 2015. For more details visit http://www.padifoundation.org/index.htm.

  • The 1st IASTED Asian Conference on Environment and Water Resource Management-November 24 – 26, 2014, Bangkok, Thailand - The International Association of Science and Technology for Development (IASTED) organizes AsiaEWRM 2014 which is an international forum for researchers and practitioners interested in environmental management and water resources. It is an opportunity to present and observe the latest research, results, and ideas in this field. AsiaEWRM 2014 aims to strengthen relationships between industry, research laboratories, and universities, to the benefit of all parties. Deadline for abstracts/proposals: 15th July 2014. For more visit http://iasted.org/conferences/home-822.html.

  • Various positions of Project Scientist/ Associate/Fellow/ Assistant are available at National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management - National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM), Chennai is an autonomous research organization of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. The organization is looking for the various Project Staff on Contract basis. Candidate possessing the requisite qualification and experience may walk in with their resume along with supporting documents of qualification and experience on 23rd May 2014 at 11.00 A.M. Venue : National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management [NCSCM], Koodal Building, Anna University Campus, Chennai 600 025. More details available at http://www.ncscm.org/careers.

  • Volunteers needed for Vembanad Fish Count 2014 - The 7th edition of Vembanad Fish Count will be held at Alappuzha, Kerala on 29th and 30th May 2014. It is an annual survey undertaken by Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) in collaborations with different institutes to study and evaluate the fishery resources of the lake and investigate current ecological trends. Interested people may contact Mr. Ashish Mathew George before May 25, 2014 at ashish.mathew@atree.org or vembanad@atree.org.
<![CDATA[The Riddley's  Riddle]]>Thu, 08 May 2014 21:25:48 GMThttp://bulletinwii.weebly.com/blog/the-riddleys-riddlePictureNesting turtle
Phew! Its that time of the year again. It is the season when sea turtles come in very large numbers on the beaches of Odisha to nest. The nesting sites receive so many turtles at the same time that it turns into a turtle ‘party’ zone.. However, for people counting them, it is a backbreaking exercise. Before I delve further into my ramblings, I shall in my capacity explain to you this amazing phenomenon called ‘Arribada.’
PictureNIght Night
Arribada is a Spanish word for ‘arrival’. This phenomenon was first recorded in Latin America so the Spanish word stuck. Apart from Odisha, Olive Ridleys nest in similar fashion in Costa Rica and Mexico. What triggers such behaviour and why turtles only select certain beaches remains a mystery but the Olive Ridleys continue to aggregate in huge numbers on these beaches during Arribada. Quite often, it’s just a scramble for space since the numbers only seem to congregate in a select patch of the beach. In Rushikulya this year the beach had ‘grown’ in size due to constant shifting of sands and the area for these turtles was massive. Still as per our records, we could only find a handful of stretches full of turtles on them. Again, a wonder!

The entire process is actually quite daunting for the female. The male Olive Ridley turtles never come on land. On the contrary, females are known to nest all along the coast of India. So the nesting event can be primarily divided into sporadic nesters and mass nesters. You call an event mass nesting when you find 100 or more turtles nesting simultaneously on the beach. But it is a spectacle to see. As soon as the moon sets and the night is pitch dark (or close to it) you find these turtles coming out of the water towards the land to lay eggs.

They act as pre-programmed machines whose only job is to deliver the eggs in the nest and leave. Nothing else fazes them at this point in time.

PictureNesting Female
So how do you know how many have arrived?

Simple! You only count the females that are actually laying eggs. The position in which a female is laying eggs is quite lucid. You can see her two hind flippers sticking out of the carapace and her body is almost at a 45-degree angle. If you dig a hole in between the carapace and the sand below, you can actually see the eggs being laid. One other thing that’s being recorded is ‘Ovipositing  duration or OPD’- time taken to lay the eggs, number of eggs laid and after she is done, Curved Carapace Length (CCL) and Curved Carapace Width (CCW) is recorded. All these data are needed to better understand the populations that visit these beaches every year.

PictureTurtles and crows
Counting only nesting females is reliable because females lay eggs only once in two years. So an overestimate or an underestimate of nesting turtles can be avoided. This makes life easier for everybody.
This year though, Arribada lasted for only 2 nights. Not unusual as the same happened in 2007 as well. Maybe there is a pattern, maybe there is not, but the Arribada would continue to be one of nature’s greatest mysteries and Ridley’s greatest riddle!


Chetan Rao is currently working as a Research Associate with Dakshin Foundation, an organization based in Bangalore, on their long term project of monitoring of mas nesting rookery in Rushikulya beach in Orissa. He is a former alumnus of the Wildlife Institute of India, where he did his Master’s from in 2011. He is interested in biogeography and evolutionary biology of reptiles. 

<![CDATA[Gir lions: a voyage from no-where to now-where ?]]>Fri, 28 Mar 2014 07:05:40 GMThttp://bulletinwii.weebly.com/blog/gir-lions-a-voyage-from-no-where-to-now-whereBy Kausik Banerjee Picture

Large carnivores have always been a source of fascination for people and our relationships with them vary from awe and inspiration to fear and loathing. More than any other animals, carnivores have forced us to move from ecosystem theory to ecosystem management and conservation with a focal shift from species to systems and from science vs. management to science and management. Large carnivores often provide the ultimate test of society’s willingness to conserve wildlife and thus have traditionally served as a charismatic conservation flagship worldwide. Nevertheless, recent assessments of the conservation status of carnivores present an alarming picture of ongoing declines and range contractions.  Although carnivore conservation across the globe -- and particularly in an agrarian country like India -- is fraught with human dominations of potential habitats, poaching and fragmentation, the Gir lions in the westernmost state of Gujarat, India, have an altogether different story to narrate. 

"A: Historical and current geographic distribution of lion, Panthera leo (after Antunes et al. PLoS Genetics 4(11): e1000251, 2008) and B. Historical range of Panthera leo persica (after Nowell & Jackson 1996)."
The Asiatic lion evolved during Pleistocene with several cousin species in sub-Saharan Africa and separated from its African counterparts some 50,000 to 2 million years back. The species once roamed from Palestine to Palamau (Bihar, India) but the last free-ranging lion population of Asia was separated from mainland India some 2,500 years back owing to the rising Gulf of Khambhat. This caused severe inbreeding in the lion population, making the subspecies more prone to extinction.  The onset of the twentieth century was catastrophic for the lions. Outgrowths of the Industrial Revolution were evident in India under the Raj. Increased demand of timber for World War, railways, telegraph rapidly destroyed forest lands. Advent of modern arms led to indiscriminate game hunting. Lions dwindled to below 50 individuals and became restricted to the Gir forests. It was only then, fortunately, that the species was benefitted from ecological patriotism from the Soruth Sarkar Nawab Mahbatkhanji II of Junagadh state. The Nawab totally banned lion hunting. First salvo of protecting lions soon turned into an ownership by the last Nawab, a patronage being held up till date by the state government of Gujarat. At the stroke of the midnight hour, lions had their own “tryst with destiny”! The initial years of independence were full of political mayhem which offshoot into unforeseen onslaught of lions and herbivores in Saurashtra by princelings, landlords and nobility. However, the situation changed soon after Saurashtra metamorphosed into a part of Gujarat state under the Dominion of India in the early 1960s and state conservation machineries such as forest department came into action. Although several conservation lobbies opine contrarily, one should not undermine pro-active management by Gujarat forest department in resurrecting India’s lions from less than 200 in 1968 to the current figure of more than 400 in 40 years. When lions of West Africa today struggle hard not to get extinct, Gir lions triumphantly inhabit new parts of Saurashtra and now occupy a landscape of about 20,000 km2 outside the Gir forest, encompassing vast tract of agro-pastoral landscapes                                                                                                 .

There are, however, deep concerns too! With lions living in the propinquity of humans, conflicts are not far away. Lions are residing in areas where people (mostly young generations) do not have a recent memory of living with lions and this is likely to escalate human-lion confrontations in the future as lion numbers increases and range expands further. Lions do need daytime habitat refugia characterized by small grasslands, orchards and agricultural covers (Prosospis thickets) in the landscape and such patches are extremely crucial for maintenance of breeding nuclei and minimizing conflicts with people. However, with increased urbanization, agricultural intensification, sedentarization of pastoralism and potential for lion-centric tourisms, traditional land-use patterns of lion occupied areas of Saurashtra are fast succumbing to land mafias such as mining companies and tourism big shots. While the government machinery is busy managing lion populations inside the Protected Areas, lions in the larger landscape often fall prey to human-induced mortalities (electrocution, fall in open irrigation wells, road accidents etc.), sometimes even unnoticed. The protected area of Gir will undeniably remain a lion stronghold unabated for the long-term unless the population is affected by an environmental stochastic event, but conserving lions in the outer landscape while maintaining ecological linkages (habitat corridors) with Gir is imperative to ensure long-term viability of Gir lions. It is sometimes unfortunate to find that in the absence of a clear-cut land policy, government has very little control over such crucial habitat patches needed for future lion conservation. We must acknowledge that ‘vibrant Gujarat’ may not be parallel with ‘green Gujarat’: one element has to lose the race and it is the forest that has been losing the duel since the dawn of human civilization                                                                                                             .
The socio-political backdrop of lion conservation is as vital as the land issue. Most local people in the larger landscape perceive lions as an economic tool for income generation (such as tourism and agricultural pest control) and like having lions in their neighborhood (but interestingly not in their own backyards!!!) up to a certain acceptable level (social and biological carrying capacities). Gujarat has no compensation scheme for crop damage and social backlashes are often directed against lions as a non-target species (deaths from electrocution in farmlands where illegal electric fences are erected to manage crop-damaging ungulates). In this Android era, when consumerism and utilitarian values are rapidly displacing our custodian role of nature and natural resources, even a minuscule economic loss overlooked in the past as fait accompli may be counterproductive for lion conservation.

Kausik Banerjee has been working on the Asiatic lions for the past nine years. Since obtaining his doctoral degree in lion ecology from the Forest Research Institute of India he has worked as a Research Associate at WII. His research interests include carnivore ecology and behaviour with an emphasis on resource selection, prey-predator dynamics and human–carnivore conflicts. 

<![CDATA[News & Opportunities]]>Fri, 28 Mar 2014 02:30:43 GMThttp://bulletinwii.weebly.com/blog/news-opportunities1By Kausik Banerjee
  • Aga Khan Foundation -- International Scholarships 2014-2015 The Aga Khan Foundation supports programs in rural development, broadly defined, in a number of developing countries. It provides scholarships and loans for postgraduate studies to outstanding students from the developing world, with priority for masters studies. The Foundation also considers applications for PhD programs in certain circumstances. Applications are invited from the following nationalities: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Mozambique, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, and Uganda. The application deadline is 31 March 2014. More details can be procured from http://www.akdn.org/akf_scholarships.asp
  •  Chester Zoo -- Grants for Research and Conservation Chester Zoo supports a variety of small conservation projects each year to conserve threatened species worldwide. Grants support training and education, species monitoring, habitat protection, and other aims consistent with the Zoo's activities and support. Applications are accepted during three review periods that conclude 31 March, 30 June, and 31 October of each year. More details can be sought by writing to conservation@chesterzoo.org or visiting http://www.chesterzoo.org/conservation-and-research/field-conservation/field-projects

  • Oriental Bird Club -- Grants for Bird Conservation in Asia The OBC Conservation Fund invites makes grants for bird conservation in Asia. Grant-making priorities are projects that benefit globally threatened bird species; that conserve threatened bird habitats; and that are led by Asian residents. Small Conservation Awards are £1,000 (exceptionally £1,500) for projects of up to 18 months. Major Conservation Awards are a maximum £2,000 per year for projects of 3-5 years. For Small Awards, applications are due 31 March of each year. For Major Awards, summary proposals can be submitted any time, and full proposals are due 31 March. More details can be obtained at http://orientalbirdclub.org/applications/

  • International Elephant Foundation -- Elephant Conservation and Research 2015 The International Elephant Foundation makes grants for conservation and research of elephants. Eligibility extends to organizations and individuals internationally -- including students, scientists, and institutions. The program has three categories: (i) African elephant conservation in situ; (ii) Asian elephant conservation in situ; and (iii) Ex situ elephant conservation and research. The Foundation prefers grant requests of less than US$10 thousand. The application deadline in all categories is 15 August 2014. More details can be obtained at www.elephantconservation.org/.   v  Buckminster Fuller Institute -- Buckminster Fuller Challenge 2014 The Challenge is an annual prize of US$100 thousand to invite ideas to radically advance human well-being and ecosystem health. Entries in prior years include several in energy, water, agriculture, natural disasters, etc., with relevance in developing countries.  The application period is 14 February 2014 through 11 April 2014. More details can be obtained at http://bfi.org/challenge. v  Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) -- Photos of Forest Landscapes in Southeast Asia CIFOR and its partners are sponsoring a global photographic competition to highlight the importance of forests for communities, economies, and nature in Southeast Asia. The best photos will be displayed at the Forests Asia Summit and in print and online media. The contest winner (selected via online voting) will receive US$500 for photography equipment or field trips. The submission deadline is 15 April 2014. For more details please visit http://www.cifor.org/forestsasia/program/photo-competition/. v  China Scholarship Council -- Funding for Graduate Studies in Marine Sciences in China The Chinese government offers funding support for international students pursuing masters and doctoral degrees in marine sciences at Xiamen University, Zhejiang University, Ocean University of China, and Tongji University. The program is open to non-Chinese applicants from coastal/island countries of the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific region and its island countries, and African developing countries. Any applicant who is currently engaged in oceanographic and relevant sectors will be given high priority. The applicant for master’s degree studies is required to have a bachelor’s degree and be usually under the age of 40. The applicant for doctoral degree studies is required to have a master’s degree and be usually under the age of 45. The scholarship covers 

  • Exemption from registration fees, tuition fees, laboratory fees, internship fees, and fees for basic learning materials and accommodation on campus

  • Living allowance: RMB 1,700 per month for master’s students, and RMB 2,000 per month for doctoral students

  • Settlement subsidy: RMB 1,500

  • Out-patient medical services and the Comprehensive Medical Insurance for Chinese Government Scholarship Students

More details can be obtained at


Application deadline is April 30, 2014. 

  • Fauna and Flora International -- Flagship Species Fund 2014 F&F International manages the Flagship Species Fund in partnership with the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and corporate sponsors. 

The focus of the Fund is charismatic but endangered primate, sea turtle, and tree species and their habitats in developing countries and UK overseas territories.  

Grants are £5 thousand, and up to a maximum of £15 thousand, for projects of 6-18 months. 

Project concepts must be sent to the Flagship Species Fund coordinator at victoria.price@fauna-flora.org by 23.59 (GMT+1) on 7 April 2014. 

More details can be obtained at http://www.fauna-flora.org/initiatives/flagship-species-fund/

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -- Conservation of Marine Turtles 2014  In its program "Wildlife Without Borders," the USFWS makes grants for the conservation of selected wildlife species, including marine turtles. Grants are for applied research, training, conservation management, community outreach, law enforcement, decreased human-wildlife conflicts, and other activities in conservation. Preference is for proposals that request less than US$50 thousand. Eligibility extends worldwide to qualified and relevant government agencies, other organizations, multi-national secretariats, and individuals. Proposal deadlines for marine turtles are 01 April and 01 October of each year. More details can be obtained at http://www.fws.gov/international/wildlife-without-borders/marine-turtle-conservation-fund.html

  • U.S. National Science Foundation -- Plant Genome Research 2014 The National Science Foundation (USA) funds several areas of research to explore grand challenge questions in plants of economic importance on a genome-wide scale. The program encourages proposals from investigators and institutions that have not participated before. Funding supports collaboration with developing countries (i.e., Developing Country Collaborations in Plant Genome Research, DCC-PGR). The application deadline is 28 April 2014. For more details please visit                                                                                                            http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5338&org=OISE&sel_org=OISE&from=fund
<![CDATA[News & Opportunities]]>Fri, 14 Mar 2014 16:35:41 GMThttp://bulletinwii.weebly.com/blog/news-opportunitiesBy Kausik Banerjee
Nature Kaleidoscope is not only a voice of young researchers at WII, it has an edifying role as well. It has often been felt at WII that majority of early or mid-career students remain perplexed about the scopes and opportunities in the conservation field. Most common FAQs humming in the campus are like these: ‘what are the international forums (seminars, meetings) where I can discuss my findings’, ‘where and when should I write for a grant proposal as my project is terminating shortly’, ‘is there any training workshop or field visit course through which I can learn something new’ and so on. Sometimes a student knows about a conference, nevertheless slips to apply for it after forgetting the deadlines. BWII recognizes these and therefore we have come up with a relevant section (News and Opportunities) shown as a white button link in the right hand side of our blog page. We would attempt to make this a regular fortnightly column where our editorial team would inform the onlookers about the upcoming events and research grants in the conservation field. We would try our best to update you well in advance so as to enable you to grab these opportunities. We would also urge our readers to enrich our repository by regularly contributing such news bytes. Finally, on behalf of BWII I welcome you to this important section of our blog. Please keep an eye on this section and avail of some top opportunities in our field.


Contributor - Kausik Banerjee

  •   Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center -- Fellowships in Plant Science 2014

Plant fellows is a new international post doc fellowship programme in the field of plant sciences co-funded by the SEVENTH FRAMEWORK PROGRAMME (FP7) Marie Curie Actions – People, Co-funding of Regional, National and International Programmes (COFUND).

Plant fellows is centrally managed at the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center. The Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center is a competence center of three Swiss universities, the University of Zurich, the University of Basel and the ETH Zurich. The University of Zurich will act as the coordinator of PLANT FELLOWS.

Plant fellows is open to applicants from all over the world. 13 European and 7 international universities and research institutes and 3 industry partners have been predefined as host organisations on the basis of their excellence in higher education and plant research.

Plant fellows offers approx. 69 new post doc fellowships spread between three different schemes (incoming, outgoing and reintegration) and a structured training programme, including workshops, dedicated training in complementary skills and industrial placements. Unique in its kind, the fellows of the programme have the opportunity to obtain a PLANT FELLOWS Training Certification after successfully completing the whole training programme.

Plant fellows thus aims at establishing a training and qualification framework in the area of life-long learning/vocational training, which complements the present postdoctoral training in plant sciences with an international competitive dimension.

The Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center administers the international fellowships program, PLANT FELLOWS. The partners in PLANT FELLOWS are 23 host organizations in Europe and internationally (including Brazil, China, India, South Africa). The program invites applications for post-doc fellowships worldwide in all fields of plant science. The fourth call for applications has been published and is open from 7th January 2014 until 31st March 2014. For more details visit http://www.plantfellows.ch/.

  •  'Bears and humans in the 21st century: challenges and solutions for a peaceful coexistence'. The 23nd International Conference on Bear Research and Management, IBA 2014, Thessaloniki, Greece, October 05 – 11, 2014

The International Association for Bear Research and Management (IBA) is the pre-eminent organization for professional biologists with an interest in bears. Membership is open to professional biologists, wildlife managers, and all others dedicated to the conservation of the world’s bear species. The goal of the IBA is to promote the conservation and restoration of the world’s bears through science-based research, management, and education. The organization has over 550 members from over 50 countries. The IBA sponsors workshops and international conferences on all aspects of bear biology, ecology, and management. The International Conference on Bear Research and Management is the largest of these conferences.

The 23rd International Conference on Bear Research and Management aims to be a forerunner in this process by providing a meeting point and becoming the public outlet for the most experienced specialists in the field of bear research, conservation and management.

Call for Abstracts        November 1, 2013 - April 4, 2014

Acceptance Letter          May 5, 2014

Early Registration Deadline         July 25, 2014

Registration Deadline      September 1, 2014

Conference Dates       October 5-11, 2014

For more details please write to iba2014@symvoli.gr or visit http://www.iba-greece-2014.com/.
  •  Recruitment of 16 research personnel in various projects at G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment & Development, Kosi Katarmal, Almora, India. 

Applications are invited by GBPIHED for research positions in various projects related to climate change, land use patterns in the Himalayas and environmental dynamics. The candidate with adequate qualification may appear for Walk-In-Interview on 17.02.2014, 18.02.2014 and 20.02.2014 (11 AM) at Kosi-Katarmal (Almora) campus of the Institute. Desirous candidate may forward an advance copy of the application to the Administrative Officer by e-mail (os@gbpihed.nic.in) or fax (05962-241150) clearly mentioning the code of the project and position applied for. Candidate appearing for Interview should bring original copies (with xerox copy) of testimonials, biodata and an application. No allowance will be given to the candidate appearing for the Interview. For more details please visit http://gbpihed.gov.in/AdvtHQ-IH-17.01.2014.pdf.

  •  M.Sc study program in European Forestry at Mendel University, Czech Republic

Mendel University in Brno is a public higher education institution financed by Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports in the Czech Republic. It offers two year master-level study program in European Forestry at Schengen zone, Czech Republic. Suitable candidate for the program are those from the fields like forestry, landscaping, nature conservation, biology etc.  Applicant has to submit all necessary documents and sill have to appear for the online test that will be conducted in mid-April. There is no age limit. Program fees: 800 EUR for entire study program. Scholarships: Scholarships are available. Successful appli­cants will receive schol­ar­ships of €2,300/semester. Last date for the application: 31st March 2014. For more information please contact: Ing. Bc. David Sís, International Relations, Dean’s office, Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology, Mendel University in Brno, Zemedelska 3 / 613 00 Brno / Czech Republic, Phone: +420 545 134 007, E-mail: int.ldf@mendelu.cz or http://www.ldf.mendelu.cz/en.

The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund makes grants to individuals, communities, and organizations for the conservation of animal, bird, plant, and fungi species worldwide. Anyone directly engaged in species conservation can apply. Grants are up to US$25 thousand per project. The next deadline is 28 February 2014. More details can be obtained from http://www.speciesconservation.org/grants/ or write to The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, PO Box 131112, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Tel: +971 2 632 9117, Fax: +971 2 635 0740, Email: enquiries@mbzspeciesconservation.org or Nicolas.heard@mbzspeciesconservation.org

  • Chicago Zoological Society’s Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) Endangered Species Fund

The Chicago Zoological Society administers conservation grants funded by the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT). The Fund's priority is to support projects that assist directly in the protection of populations of threatened and endangered species; or that protect a specific habitat that is of high biological value or that is substantially threatened (IUCN Red List Status). Grants are up to US$5 thousand. Eligibility extends to chairs and officers in IUCN's SSC Specialist Group; chairs and officers in AZA/WAZA; and all interested researchers. The next application deadline is 07 March 2014. More details can be obtained at http://www.czs.org/czs/cbotgrant.aspx or write to Chicago Zoological Society, 3300 Golf Rd, Brookfield, IL 60513, USA.  

  • Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu) requires a Junior Research Fellow 

SACON is looking for a JRF on the project titled “Ecological species sorting in relation to habitat structure in the small cat guild of Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, Arunachal Pradesh”.
Name of the position: Junior Research Fellow/ Programme Fellow; Age: below 28 years on the stipulated last date for receiving applications; Duration: 3 years; Fellowship: As per DST norms for the NET/ GATE qualified candidates or as per SACON rules; Qualification: M.Sc in Wildlife/ Ecology/ Life Sciences. Last date of application February 14, 2014. More details can be obtained at http://www.sacon.in/index.php/news/careers?view=featured.

  •  PhD Position in Wildlife Ecotoxicology at University of Florida

The University of Florida has an opening for a PhD position in wildlife ecotoxicology, studying effects of methylmercury contamination on reproduction in free ranging long legged wading birds in the Everglades of Florida. Research will involve field collection of contamination and reproductive data, modeling strength of effects, and performing risk analysis for a regional population exposed to differing contamination regimes. Stipend, tuition and field research funds are provided, dependent upon annual grant renewals. Applicants must have MS degree in biology, wildlife, ecotoxicology or related field, and interest and experience in ecotoxicological research. Preferred candidates will also have previous field experience with some wildlife species, evidence of quantitative expertise (eg, statistical or ecological modeling, risk analysis), and publications submitted or published from MS research. To apply, send CV, letter of interest, unoffficial GRE scores and GPA, contact information for three references and samples of writing to Dr. Peter Frederick (pfred@ufl.edu) by 15 March 2014. Position starts in fall semester (August) 2014.

  • 4th National Conference on Environment and Biodiversity of India

North East Centre for Environmental Education and Research (NECEER), Imphal is organizing 4th National Conference on Environment and Biodiversity of India at New Delhi between October 04 and October 05, 2014. Abstract submission is open and deadline is August 31, 2014. Thrust areas include Floristic and faunal studies, Biodiversity Hotspots, Wetlands & Sacred Groves, Ethnobiology and Traditional Knowledge, Wildlife Protected Areas Forest management, Modern trends in Plant & Animal taxonomy, Freshwater & marine ecosystem, Climate Change, Natural Disaster Management, Environmental Pollution, E-waste and Solid waste management, Environmental laws & policies. For more details please visit http://www.neceer.org.in/.

  •  Students’ Conference on Conservation Science (SCCS) New York, October 15 to 17, 2014

The American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation and its partners invite graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and early-career professionals to take part in the fifth annual Student Conference on Conservation Science – New York (SCCS-NY). Interactions with established conservationists will encourage collaborations, inspire further research, and launch lasting associations. Be among the emerging generation of conservation professionals networking and exchanging ideas with leaders in science, policy, academia, and management at one of the world’s preeminent scientific and cultural institutions. Abstract submission and application opens on March 03, 2014 and deadline expires on April 04, 2014. The registration fee is $125 USD, which includes admission to three full days of presentations, workshops, poster session and reception, resource fair, special events, daily lunches, morning and afternoon refreshments, access to American Museum of Natural History exhibitions, and discounts in Museum shops. For more details please visit http://www.amnh.org/our-research/center-for-biodiversity-conservation/events-exhibitions/conferences-and-symposia/2014-sccs-ny

Kausik Banerjee finished his doctorate degree on ecology of the endangered Asiatic lions in human dominated Gir landscape, western India. A graduate from Presidency College, Calcutta and a post-graduate from Forest Research Institute University, Dehradun, he joined WII’s research project on “Lion Ecology” in 2005. With the Asiatic lions occupying human dominated landscapes outside the Gir forests, his PhD thesis investigates lion demography, meta-population dynamics and economics of lion conservation. During his Master’s dissertation he worked in Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, central India for the assessment of prey base for the re-introduction of the Asiatic lions. His primary research interests include carnivore ecology and behaviour, with an emphasis on predation, ranging, habitat use, population dynamics and modeling human–carnivore conflicts.    

<![CDATA[EXCITING, DEMANDING, INSPIRING, FRUSTRATING. SAY HELLO TO SCIENCE]]>Thu, 13 Feb 2014 06:13:29 GMThttp://bulletinwii.weebly.com/blog/exciting-demanding-inspriring-frustrating-say-hello-to-sciencePictureIndian desert jird 1_photo credit IP Bopanna
By Divya Ramesh

When my grandfather used to leave little morsels of grain for the crows (who represent forefathers according to the Hindu culture) every morning, along with the crows there would always be a cautious furry squirrel or two partaking in the free food. This three-striped palm squirrel, favourably called anil in Tamil, had me bewitched from the first time I saw it, with its shifty eyes, always ready to scurry away at the slightest suspicion of danger. I would gawk at it until all the grain was gone, and eagerly wait for the next morning. With my grandfather's passing, no one else practised this ritual and with time, I guess I forgot about it too. I like to believe that it was this experience as a child that somehow subconsciously stayed with me and resurfaced almost 17 years later when I was running out of time to figure out a masters' thesis project at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

I saw the Indian desert jird for the first time in Kachchh, Gujarat, during a short holiday that quickly turned into a reconnaissance for the project. These were social rodents that lived in an underground burrow system that I'm sure requires in-depth (at least up to a metre!) understanding of soil architecture. Their popping in and out of different burrow holes every few minutes reminded me of the arcade game Whac-A-Mole I'd seen in movies, of course without the violent excitement of wanting to hit the creature on the head! I tried to see how close I could go before they would run down the burrows, and they were surprisingly tame, especially if I was so slow as to appear unmoving. It was love at first sight, for me at least; I'm not sure they felt the same way. I wanted to study animal behaviour and the jirds looked very promising.

PictureIndian desert jird_photo credit IP Bopanna
I came back to WII to design a study and draw up a proposal, all those necessary steps in the scientific method, all those things that temporarily kept me from returning to Kachchh. It was on those days I wished to belong to the earlier decades of pure natural history and lilting story-telling. Anyway, I was soon on my way back, ready to live in a tiny room with crumbling walls, ready to take on whatever lay ahead with whatever had fit in my rucksack.

It was the start of the second month with only three more remaining, and everything had gone absolutely wrong. No method of marking individual jirds stayed on them, and I had tried everything from nontoxic markers to handmade colour-coded beaded earrings with beads from my own earring that had to be broken! I even tried the paint that local shepherds used to mark their goats and sheep, all to no avail. No individual identification meant a change in strategy for behavioural observation, cascading to changes in expected data and analysis. To complicate matters, from some observations and trials, it increasingly looked like their colonies were governed by some unknown hierarchy. For example, a beaded adult female (from one of the marking trials) monopolised all the bait stations I had kept around a colony to such an extent that she would run back other individuals who so much as dared to take one curious step towards the bait. I expected animals on the other side of the colony, hidden from the 'queen', to take advantage of their partial refuge and access the bait stations there, but they acted like they were held by the grip of fear and didn't want to tempt fate.

[Disclaimer: I know I sound highly anthropomorphic but there is no easier way to describe my observations, unless I conduct a full length life-long (my life and many jirds') study and write a scientific paper that will definitely be more boring than this.]

Of course I ended up throwing that proposal in the trash and coming up with an almost entirely new study that would give me enough data in the little time left to write a decent publication in a half-decent journal. I couldn't have done this without the unrequited help and support from some of my closest friends and mentors within and outside WII and for that, and for terrific uninterrupted mobile signal, I shall be ever grateful. But, what I ended up learning from this was completely unexpected - that most proposals will end up useless no matter how much we read, how many solutions we can think of for all the possible roadblocks, or how scientifically 'correct' we design our studies. And that what we need to be prepared for is scientific thinking that is fast enough to help us ask those insightful questions about intriguing natural observations and prompt us through the rest of the process of designing a study, collecting data and so on. I'm not suggesting that we completely do away with proposals; I believe they are an excellent exercise for a form of scientific writing and review of literature that will be useful, especially when we write for those eluding grants in the last minute. What I believe will help us is to not depend so much on the proposal itself for carrying out a study in field, but to be flexible and open-minded even after everything seems set in stone. Things can and will change unexpectedly, and we should train ourselves to acknowledge and work around them. I try to practise this very belief even as I start my PhD and brace myself for the long long time this is going to take - the learning, the practising and of course, the PhD.

As for the jirds, their habitat is being swallowed by intensive agriculture that may or may not threaten their existence. They are still locally common and yet, no one sees them. Or may be, that's why no one sees them. 


Currently a PhD student at Indiana State University, finished my masters from WII in 2011. I read like a maniac and try to write as much. I have survived the polar vortex, the first one at least.