Connectivity within sky-island bird populations.
For two months before joining grad school, I worked as a research fellow for the National Centre for Biological Sciences in the unique Western Ghats "sky-island" habitats. Working with Robin Vijayan's skilled field assistants, we travelled across sky-islands mist netting highly range restricted and endemic birds. This was quite a unique experience for me as I was mist-netting for the first time in my life, with assistants (or rather any local) with whom I didn't share a common language, in some of the most breath- taking landscapes I have been in, which have some REALLY cool animals and plants. Every time I was frustrated with the language barrier, we caught something cool like a Crested Goshawk or saw something cool like a Nilgiri Marten, making it all worth while (Read about my experiences).
King cobra Telemetry Project (KCTP)
For eight months I worked at the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station as a project supervisor on the KCTP. It was an amazing experience to live at a field station in the rainforest, wake up to the song of the Malabar Whistling Thrush, track king cobras, observe birds, talk to eco-tourists about rainforest conservation, it was all in a day's work there. I also analyzed some of the data previously collected by the project and we published a paper on the effects of translocation on the ranging patterns and behavior of the king cobra. However, in this paper we are also addressing the larger issue of rampant snake translocation all across India and its probable effects on translocated snakes.
Kaziranga Corridor Monitoring Program
After finishing my Master's degree, in early 2010, Aaranyak hired me as a technician to design a corridor monitoring protocol for large mammals in the Kaziranga National Park-Karbi Anglong Wildlife Sanctuary landscape, a world heritage site in north-east India. This beautiful floodplain has one of the highest densities of tigers along with about 2000 rhinos, elephants and wild water buffaloes making it an exhilarating place to work. However, the fringes of the park also have a burgeoning human population making the conservation of this landscape challenging. We developed a unique method to monitor the three corridors that connect the Kaziranga floodplain with the Karbi Anglong hills using track-plots and measuring the frequency of tracks to arrive at a corridor use index. The Aaranyak team has been regularly monitoring the corridor using this method for the past three years.
The Wildlife Institute of India and research on birds in Teak (Tectona grandis) plantations.
My Master's at the Wildlife Institute of India was a highly enriching experience. Apart from taking a many courses ecology, this course also gave me the opportunity to conceive, plan and execute an independent research project. For my Master's Dissertation, I researched the bird communities in two age classes of teak and compered them to the surrounding natural forests. I discovered that teak plantations vary significantly across seasons in th number of species they support. This research also resulted in the range extension of the Sri Lanka Frogmouth, a cryptic nocturnal bird and the first detailed description of the avifauna of this region.
Food habits of the Indian Fox (VULPES benghalensis)
In the summer of 2007, SPROUTS Mumbai and Tiger Watch Ranthambore, gave me the opportunity to do my first field research! I observed the den site behavior of a family of 3 adult and 4 juvenile foxes on the outskirts of the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan, India. I also analyzed fox scat samples and discovered that the main prey for the foxes was the abundant termites that made extensive tunnels just under the soil surface. Other highlights of the trip included about 150 species of birds and the opportune sighting of a couple of Honey Badgers on a night walk. My observations and experiences were published in the magazine of the Bombay Natural History Society, Hornbill. This experience hooked me to, what I feel, is a life of field research. The Fox, Outfoxed!