Encouraging networks of volunteers to participate in research projects serves two purposes: to do research that is not possible otherwise, and to engage the larger community in the process of science. Citizen science programs have taken these ideas to new heights by partnering with the general public to contribute through their computers, brain power or observations. These contributions are used to explore for extra-terrestrial life, understand protein folding and collect ecological data. In some countries, massive datasets of high quality have resulted from the efforts of volunteers who make the time to contribute to these projects. In India, organized citizen science is now picking up steam.
Samrat Mondol, a PhD student in Uma Ramakrishnan's lab was recently chosen for the prestigious Fulbright-Nehru Doctoral and Professional Research Fellowship. This will fund his visit the University of Washington for the next nine months. Samrat will be provided with a scholarship, stipend and air travel to conduct research, audit courses and gain experience from the research milieu at the University.
Finally, we have another reason to believe that everyone is hard at work within the walls at NCBS! Faculty, students and researchers have lit up the world stage and brought back accolades. Here, we present a list of the prize winners from 2008 and 2009. We hope to follow up soon with a list from 2010!
A gifted Bharatnatyam artist with eighteen years experience, Vanjulavalli Sridhar, has joined the Master's in Wildlife Biology and Conservation program at NCBS. She has received several awards for her dance including the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister's Kalaignar award. Watch the video of Vanju at a recent performance in Chennai, via the NCBS youtube channel (link - or just click on Vanju's pic).
A torch beam flashes and there is a glimpse of fur between the branches. A loris goes about its nightly business of feeding by trying to catch insects with its hands or gouge out resins from tree-holes, extricating itself from a mess of climbers and being bitten by mosquitoes. The Bengal slow loris is one of the three species of a genus of nocturnal primate found only in South Asia. They live in the rainforests of North-East India, sharing their habitats with a host of other interesting creatures such as leopard cats, civets, muntjacs, snakes, birds and spectacularly coloured moths. But beyond the rosy picture, the slow loris is threatened by the extremely lucrative illegal wildlife trade. Recent studies and market surveys have shown that slow lorises are one among the most commonly seen primate species in markets across their range. This has resulted in shifting the species from Appendix II to Appendix I of the CITES in 2007. Sadly, not enough is known about this widespread species (northeast India, Burma, Cambodia, southern China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam) to put in place effective conservation measures.
A team of researchers from NCBS and the Centre for Wildlife studies, Bangalore has brought out the first account of the striped hyena from India. The study, conducted by Priya Singh, Arjun Gopalswamy and Dr Ullas Karanth, formed a part of Priya’s Master’s thesis. Their study involved estimating the population abundances of hyenas in the Kumbalgarh and Esrana regions of Rajasthan, and was published in the journal Mammology.
A hard fought battle between competitors and judges has boiled down to these final, but difficult decisions. The first NCBS photo competition has come to an end with the announcement of the judges decision for best photo and runner-up. Ashesh's brilliant image of the hole in the roof of the cave had a clear edge over competition with unanimous votes from all our judges. The winner was clear, but the heat was on for the second spot.
As judges and organizers alike deliberated, a close poll decided that the second spot would go to the photograph that made even speeding Bangalore traffic look beautiful. Venkatesan's creation of peace amidst the chaos blazed ahead to win our second prize.
As with the popular vote winners, the winners of the judges prize will receive cash awards reimbursable against the purchase of books, for Rs 1000 and Rs 250 respectively.Winners can contact the accounts section with the bills corresponding to their book purchase in order to receive their reimbursements.
The first NCBS photocompetition has culminated after an exciting neck to neck competition, with two images racing ahead to win the popular vote. Durafshan Sakeena's image of the reflection of the NCBS buildings caught on a table-top at the cafeteria won the imagination of most NCBSians and soared ahead to win top spot in the Popular Vote Prize. A victory immediately after her successful completion of the comprehensive exam should come as sweet reward after all her hard work.
Aditya Joshi, an unassuming member of the 2010 Master's in Wildlife Biology and Conservation Program was awarded the prestigious Ullas Karanth - J. Paul Getty award this year. This award, instituted to honor both academic and conservation excellence for the students of the Master's program, is in its second year of existence and Aditya is the third awardee. In addition to covering tuition and others costs of the course, this Fellowship also entitles Aditya to a travel grant to attend an international seminar to present results of his dissertation project.
The disconnect between science and society is stark, often with severe consequences, especially when the science addresses conservation related questions. Scientists rarely have an opportunity to see their science turn into application. The NCBS Conservation Initiative is a small grant instituted to provide a means for researchers to create conservation programs for society, emanating as a consequence of their research or their passion to fuel change in any part of India. Intended to facilitate knowledge generation and on-ground interventions, this grant is open to current students (Master's and PhD) as well as research fellows with NCBS.
The 7th of July 2010 saw Krishnapriya Tamma of Lab 3 (Dr Uma Ramakrishnan's lab), attending her first day at the workshop on Analytical Methods in Paleobiology, organized by the Paleobiology Database.Originally started by a group of young paleontologists and popularized by John Alroy, this database is an important forum for all paleontologists. The story of evolution cannot be told without fossil evidence, but understanding their role in the history of life on our plan has remained esoteric at best. Given the incomplete nature of the fossil record, this database plugs a major hole in fossil datasets, by allowing access to fossil datasets from all across the world. It also organizes this workshop every year, for 12 students selected from across the world. usually organized in Santa Barbara, US, this time the course made its debut in Sydney.
For all the film buffs out there, NCBS now has its very own YouTube channel. We can now look forward to seeing more of what life in NCBS means, from sports and entertainment, to science and technology. Currently, the videos uploaded include excerpts from the science-art interface workshops in 2009, the work taking place in some labs at NCBS, public talks at NCBS and digital home productions.
Details about these videos are available under each video on the youtube site.
Is all work and no play dulling your neurotransmission? It's time to look lively and get sharp with the first in a series of upcoming photography competitions in NCBS! This is an opportunity for budding camerapersons to pick up their lens and get out of their labs. And everyone else at NCBS can join in by voting for their favourites. We are calling for photos in three thematic galleries.
An air of excitement and apprehension filled LH1 on the 5th and 6th of August 2010. The defense of their theseswas the final hurdle between students of the 2008-2010 Masters in Wildlife Biology and Conservation Program, and their graduation. A rousing introductory speech and introduction of the ‘dreaded’ examiners on Day 1 was followed by presentation of studies about how different saç ekimi species use the habitats they live in.