Scientist, Education and Public Engagement
I love to watch animals and wonder why they do what they do. Over the years, I have studied various aspects of animal behaviour: flocking in Cinereous Tits, mate choice in Baya Weavers, and brood parasitism by Koels on Crows. With students and collaborators we have asked questions about sensitivity of mosquito larvae to predation risk and about plant-pollinator interactions.
My other main interest is in engaging with the larger public in better understanding the natural world and how it is changing. This is sometimes called Citizen Science or Public Participation in Scientific Research. Our projects along these lines are run in collaboration with the National Centre for Biological Sciences, as well as other partners. We work through the Bird Count India partnership to better understand the distribution, seasonality and abundance of birds. And in SeasonWatch, we work with schools and individual participants to investigate seasonal patterns in leaf-flush, flowering and fruiting of trees. Everyone is welcome to participate!
Apart from these interests in the natural world, I like to think about, and teach about how we can make sense of the world using quantitative research. I spend a fair bit of my time thinking about how ecologists ask and answer research questions, including about the data analytic techniques we use and should be using.
- Journal ArticleIn pressAnts on Clerodendrum infortunatum: Disentangling Effects of Larceny and HerbivoryEnvironmental Entomology
Nectar larcenists extract nectar from flowers without pollinating them. A reasonable expectation is that any form of nectar larceny should have a detrimental effect on the plant’s reproductive success. However, studies reveal an entire range of effects, from highly negative to highly positive. This variation in effect may be partly explained by additional, unmeasured, effects of nectar larcenists on plants. In a study system where two ant species Tapinoma melanocephalum (Fabr.) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and Trichomyrmex destructor (Jerd.) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) act as nectar larcenists, we examined the effect of larceny on the female reproductive success of Clerodendrum infortunatum Gaertn. (Lamiales: Lamiaceae) in rain forest fragments of the Western Ghats, India. This was done through a combination of field observations and a series of field experiments looking at the effects of excluding ants from inflorescences. We found that T. destructor reduces fruit set considerably. Rather than this being a consequence of nectar larceny, however, our experiments show that the negative effect arises instead from the herbivorous behavior of the ant. At a population level, both ant species prefer edges over interiors of forest patches, spatially concentrating the interaction zone to forest edges. Simultaneously considering multiple ecological interactions and disentangling their relative contributions might explain the large variation across species in the observed effect of larceny. The overall population effect of nectar larceny and herbivory is likely to depend on the spatial structuring of plants and ants.
- Journal Article2018eBird in Asia: standardised tools for birdwatchersBirdingASIA, 29:105-108
- Journal Article2018Context-dependent interactive effects of non-lethal predation on larvae impact adult longevity and body compositionPLoS ONE. 13(2): e0192104
Full text available here:
Predation impacts development, behavior and morphology of prey species thereby shaping their abundances, distribution and community structure. Non-lethal threat of predation, specifically, can have a strong influence on prey lifehistory characteristics. While investigations often focus on the impact of predation threat on prey in isolation, tests of its interactive effects with food availability and resource competition on prey survival and fitness can improve understanding of costs, benefits and trade-offs of anti-predator strategies. This study, involving Aedes aegypti mosquitoes as a model organism, investigates both simple and interactive effects of predation threat during the larval stage on survival, size at and time to maturity, stored teneral reserves of glycogen, protein and lipid in adults, and adult longevity. Our results show that development times of mosquito larvae were increased (by 14.84% in males and by 97.63% in females), and size of eclosing adults decreased (by 62.30% in males and by 58.33% in females) when exposed to lowered nutrition and elevated intraspecific competition, but that predation had no detectable effect on these simple traits. Teneral reserves of glycogen, protein and lipid and adult longevity were positively correlated with adult body size. Non-lethal predation threat had significant interactive effects with nutrition and larval competition on teneral reserves in males and adult longevity in males and females. The sexes responded differently to conditions encountered as larvae, with the larval environment affecting development and adult characteristics more acutely for females than for males. The outcome of this study shows how threat of predation on juveniles can have long-lasting effects on adults that are likely to impact mosquito population dynamics and that may impact disease transmission.
- Poster2018Birds Around Us
- Book2017Birds of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands: A pocket guide to 139 birds of the islands
- Book2017Birds of Kanha national park - pocket guide
- Book2017Birds of Karnataka (Kannada) - pocket guide
- Book2017Birds of Tamil Nadu - pocket guide