Why I am learning landscape archaeology

Author: Priya Tamma Sometime during my undergraduate, I read about the discovery of the bones of Homo florensis, a potentially new species of human on the island of Flores, Indonesia. And that, as is for most of us today on the internet, was just a portal to a rabbit-hole. Soon I was reading about other Homo species, who came after whom, and what influenced their evolutionary trajectory etc etc. I was hooked; I spent many a boring undergraduate class dreaming of the day when I would be stomping around in Africa, redefining early human evolution and ecology. I was familiar … Continue reading Why I am learning landscape archaeology

The Sahib of Saraidadar (Part 2 of 2)

Text: Venkat Ramanujam Sketch: Sandeep Sen It was Diwali soon, and the paddy started to ripen. Before I knew, the harvest season was in full swing. No sooner was the crop harvested than farmers went about preparing the khaniyaar, or threshing circle.  A circular patch of ground was cleared, plastered with cow dung, and a threshing pole driven down the centre. A team of bullocks circumambulated the threshing pole patiently, stamping on the harvested crop spread out on the ground. Threshing took a couple of days, sometimes three or even four. Then followed winnowing, the threshed grain was scooped up … Continue reading The Sahib of Saraidadar (Part 2 of 2)

The Sahib of Saraidadar (Part 1 of 2)

Text: R. Venkat Ramanujam Sketch: Sandeep Sen R. Venkat Ramanujam is a human geographer, who likes story-telling, and Sandeep Sen is a molecular evolutionary biologist and biogeographer, who sketches as a hobby. “Jai Ram, Sahib,” said the man walking up the dirt road as he arrived within greeting distance, deferentially drooping his shoulders and folding his hands into a loose namaste. Aghanlal was elder to me, broad-chested and well-built, a quiet and hard-working Gond adivasi farmer in Saraidadar, the village which had started out as the site of ethnographic fieldwork but which, after several months of living in, I had … Continue reading The Sahib of Saraidadar (Part 1 of 2)

Survival of the Quietest

By Vera E. Congruent (pseudonym) What is it about being outdoors that inspires adventure? I’ve always loved the idea of being amongst the wild elements and learning about the world: a real-life Discovery Channel show. I joined a reputed research institute to be pushed out of my child-of-the-city tendencies. I did so also to make a living by adopting a way of life (i.e. research) that at the very least does not result in direct harm to our good world. I was, and am, interested in finding out what delectable truths are hidden away beneath nature’s folds. The fact that … Continue reading Survival of the Quietest

Science and family: performing a balancing act

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. — Dylan Thomas We continue our conversations with women researchers and ecologists in India in this third post in Science People. I am grateful to them for taking time out to chat with me and then answer questions. In this post, I (PT) talk to a Navya (N), a field researcher, who also happens to be a dear friend. Navya is an enthusiastic field researcher that I had the opportunity to work alongside for … Continue reading Science and family: performing a balancing act

Overcoming unexpected challenges is sometimes what a PhD is about

I (PT) talk to Jayabharathy (JB) about her journey in science and the hurdles she faced during her PhD. She is now writing up her thesis. Talking to her highlighted to me the important roles that the adviser, friends and family play in helping cope with difficulties. Thanks JB for an inspiring chat and post! PT: What got you interested in science? And why did you decide to pursue your PhD? JB: As a kid I remember being surrounded by books. At one point my house resembled a library, thanks to my father. Also, my brother was constantly reading and quizzing. So I … Continue reading Overcoming unexpected challenges is sometimes what a PhD is about

Academia and parenting: making it work

Post by Priya Tamma I have always been interested in the personal journeys of scientists around me – especially those of women in science. What motivates them, what are the challenges they face, how did they get here? A career in academic research isn’t easy. Like most other professions, scientists too find it hard to balance work and family. In an attempt to understand the scientists behind the science, I wrote to a few of my colleagues who are at various stages of research to ask about their personal journey. If you are a young researcher just starting your research career, … Continue reading Academia and parenting: making it work

The story of a birth and a death, told through fossils

This is the second post in the series – The Himalayas The aim of the series is to give a short introduction to the history, ecology and conservation issues in the Himalayas. Follow links to read more. Priya Tamma writes ~ Standing at the top of the mountains around the Spiti valley, my friend recalls being flushed with excitement. At these highest parts of the Himalayas, it’s a breathtaking panorama – wide open valleys and snow clad mountains, clear cold winds and a blue sky envelop you. But it was not the beauty that was making my friend excited. ‘Fossils’, … Continue reading The story of a birth and a death, told through fossils

Now that’s a big rat!

I’ve worked in the forests of northeast India for over 3 years now, and for most part have been live-trapping small mammals. Many others have trapped here over the past years. Most of us use Sherman traps of a particular size, that help trap small mammals of the size of Rattus (the animal cooked food in the movie Ratatouille). But there are bigger rodents in the forests – some the size of a small domestic cat! How can we study them? One way is to use bigger live-animal traps, but they are harder to carry when you have to walk far and … Continue reading Now that’s a big rat!

The rise and fall of the predator guild

African savanna. A cheetah is sitting on a mound, gazing keenly at the horizon. Nearby a couple of zebras are nuzzling each other. Far away, and you can’t see it yet, a lion cub is jumping over a female lion trying to sleep in the late afternoon sun. An eagle takes wing, just as an elephant takes liberties with its call. Just another evening with some of the most important animals in the savanna. But there’s more to this landscape than meets the eye. There are tiny things that have important and cascading effects on this ecosystem. Small mammals. Small … Continue reading The rise and fall of the predator guild