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NCBS Students Grab Three Awards at SPEEC-UP 2018

31st August 2018 saw the second iteration of Student Presentations on Ecology, Environment & Conservation—or SPEEC-UP as it is aptly named—one-day conference with three-minute talks by budding young scientists.


SPEEC-UP is aimed at helping students deliver research in a condensed format to non-technical audiences within and outside the fields of science. What’s more, students were mentored before the event on how to pare down their talks, focus on what was important, and convey their excitement to the audience. They were judged for good content, clarity, and the ‘oomph’ factor - the recipe to a riveting pitch, regardless of topic.


Three students from NCBS went on to win prizes at SPEEC-UP.


1.    Conservation and Environmental Sciences

Winner- Akshay Surendra,

Patterns of diversity and carbon recovery in forests logged more than once: a case study from the Andaman Islands


2.    Runner up - Tara Rajendran,

Water usage by large mammals in Kanha Tiger Reserve


3.    Ecology and Evolution

Runner-up - Vaishali Bhaumik,

To breed or not to breed: migratory female butterflies face a monsoonal dilemma



Akshay Surendra bagged 1st prize in the Conservation and Environmental Sciences category, and Tara Rajendran secured a runner-up award. Both are students of the MSc Wildlife program at NCBS. Akshay’s talk on the patterns of diversity and carbon recovery in forests logged more than once drew inspiration from his work on the Andaman Islands. He felt the SPEEC-UP event was defined by an unspoken, shared awkwardness between researchers who were trying to do their best in a format that they usually try to avoid: story-styled, sans graphs, with added oomph value. In addition, he shares that complicated science with messy, inconsistent results cannot be wrapped up into a three-minute format. Yet, with over two million journal articles published each year, researchers can only broaden their reading through bite-sized summaries, and the three-minute format is just the thing to compel them to be as true to their complicated research as possible.


Tara Rajendran’s presentation entitled, “Water usage by large mammals in Kanha Tiger Reserve” gave us an insight of the wildlife at Central India’s watering holes. She shone in SPEEC-UP’s clear and concise format, which helped students re-identify with what’s important about their research. With respect to her study area, she learned how to focus on the critical importance of waterholes in an area of high temperatures and low rainfall - and how little monitoring of mammal species beyond the tiger occurs in the Kanha landscape.


Vaishali Bhaumik from Krushnamegh Kunte’s lab won a runner-up prize in the Ecology and Evolution session. Her talk, “To breed or not to breed: migratory female butterflies face a monsoonal dilemma,” touched upon the race for survival during migration in four species of South India’s milkweed butterflies. Vaishali was delighted with the preparatory sessions and says the mentors put in a lot of time and effort to help students fine-tune their content and delivery. She would definitely recommend other students participate in next year’s SPEEC-UP - for a chance to hone their sci-comm skills.