The story of an underground hoarder

Imagine a forest rat, scurrying about in the forest in search of food. Forest rats eat different things, but have a particular liking for seeds. These seeds each contain an embryo, sent out by parent plant with enough food reserves to sprout leaves and roots given just enough moisture, oxygen, temperature, and sunlight. These reserves drive rats to seek out seeds on forest floor and hoard them in their private stores. This behavior of rats, affects the survival of seeds, and the manner in which seeds get distributed in forests. To get a sneak-peek into the lives of rodents, we … Continue reading The story of an underground hoarder

The human caravan

We share our houses with a very many different species of plants and animals – some that we want (like our pets), some for which we don’t really care. Many of the latter are species that have made human habitation their home. Are we really a habitat?  It was one of those days – warm one minute and cloudy the next. We sat in the open-air cafeteria, right next to the silver oak plantation on the campus, drinking our mid-morning tea. As we sat talking, we saw a skink dart out from one corner and scamper along the floor. Mabuya … Continue reading The human caravan

How To Reach: Balpakram National Park

This is the first post in our ‘Travel’ series that will deal with the logistics of reaching natural areas in remote corners of the country. Branches rustle overhead. A jet black face with snowy white eyebrows stares down. On sighting us, it draws its lips into an open pout. The guttural sounds it emits are not unlike those of your drunk friend vomiting on the sidewalk. Having made its disgust apparent, it continues crashing through the canopy, its dark agile arms swinging easily from branch to branch. We continue to stare in the direction of the black figure, another remarkable creature of … Continue reading How To Reach: Balpakram National Park

Cold winds, Good tidings: Part 2

Imagine a sphere. There is a certain relationship between its surface area and its volume. Now, increase the radius of the sphere. This results in an increase in both the surface area and volume. But the increase is not equal, that is, the relationship between surface area and volume is not linear. A simple example will help here: consider a sphere of radius 1m. Its volume is 4.2 cubic m, and the surface area to volume ratio is 3. Now, increase the radius of the sphere to 2 m. The volume of this sphere is 33.51 cubic m and the surface … Continue reading Cold winds, Good tidings: Part 2

Chestnut white-bellied rat a.k.a. tiny forest farmer

Aargh rats! Who said rats are not pretty? One has to only look at Niviventer fulvescens or the Chestnut white-bellied rat, to fall in love with them. Chestnut white-bellied rat, is a tiny rodent with chestnut-orange fur on the back and snowy white on the underside of the body. On the sides of its body where the two colors meet, both stand out. It has long ears and a long face which makes it look rather comical. It has a long tail, dark on top and pinkish-white below. Sometimes the tip of the tail is whitish with a tuft of … Continue reading Chestnut white-bellied rat a.k.a. tiny forest farmer

Cold winds, good tidings: Part 1

November 2012. Arunachal Pradesh. Somewhere close to the border with China. It was cold. One of the coldest places I had ever been in until then. Our towels were frozen solid, just like the water in the bucket. We stayed close to a hot-water spring and this was the only thing that kept us alive. We shared this spring with the army, a few villagers and yaks. This water was central to our (very) early morning ablutions and having performed these, we would set off to study rodents in this breathtakingly beautiful and bleak landscape. The landscape, already gray and … Continue reading Cold winds, good tidings: Part 1

Dinner with the Rattuses

I spent the past 8 months capturing small mammals in the tropical paradise that is northeast India. My aim was to study how microhabitats affect small mammal abundance in these forests. One of the rats captured during fieldwork — Rattus andamanensis — was very much like us humans. Before handling any animal, I would treat it with a teeny dose of the anesthetic halothane to minimize handling stress. Most animals sobered up, but trapped R. andamanensis individuals were as colorful as characters at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. In fact, they would fit right in at your dinner table: Portly Grandfather: … Continue reading Dinner with the Rattuses

SCCS – BNG 2015

We’re going to be at the Student Conference on Conservation Science, Bangalore, starting 8th September 2015. Check out if you haven’t already. The conference is very useful especially for young ecologists/conservation scientists as they offer many excellent workshops. Sahila will be presenting data from small mammal surveys she has conducted in Northeast India over the past 7 months. We will share the poster, and some of her experiences in the coming weeks. If you happen to be in Bangalore, do drop by. Continue reading SCCS – BNG 2015