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

Bird flocks – the more the merrier!

The vast blue sky, and in it hundreds of thousands of birds have taken wing. They make swift turns and move like they are one. Have you ever wondered how big flocks of birds or big schools of fish are formed? Their coordinated movement has fascinated scientists for long. Today, we have some understanding of how such schools or flocks are maintained, and here is a short summary of a recent paper by Pearce et al in PNAS (Role of projection in the control of bird flocks) that proposes a new model to describe flocking in birds. Many animals show … Continue reading Bird flocks – the more the merrier!

Of Gulliverian parrots and Lilliputian eagles: size changes on islands

This is the ninth post in the Specimen Tales series Anand Krishnan writes ~ The biogeography of islands has long fascinated scientists. The faunal diversity in the Galapagos Islands and the Malay archipelago, respectively, provided the impetus for Darwin and Wallace to propose their theories on the evolution of species. Birds typically arrive on islands by volant colonization (a fancy way of saying they flew there), and may then evolve different forms from their mainland ancestors. The work of J. Bristol Foster, Ted Case and others has related changes in size on islands to (among other things), the presence of … Continue reading Of Gulliverian parrots and Lilliputian eagles: size changes on islands

Divergent morphological and acoustic traits in sympatric communities of Asian barbets

Priya Tamma ~ What allows many species of barbets to co-occur? Our world is extraordinarily diverse, and birds are a perfect example of that. There are about 10000 species of birds in the world. Yes, 10000! In the Peruvian Amazon, up to 575 species of birds may occupy just 5500 hectares of rainforest. That is an astounding number of species packed into one small area. It is quite incredible that so many species coexist in the world, whether 500 in the Amazon or 30 in the Sahara desert. Do they not compete for food or for other resources? The organization … Continue reading Divergent morphological and acoustic traits in sympatric communities of Asian barbets

Species up a mountain

After a short hiatus, we are back! Anand Krishnan continues with the next post in his series Specimen Tales ~ In continuation with the previous post’s theme of how species distribute themselves, we deal here with altitudinal separation of species. Many species tend to replace each other over a gradient of elevations, such as that of the Andes of South America. Habitat types change as altitude increases; forests decrease in height, average temperatures are lower, and overall species diversity decreases as fewer and fewer lowland species can make it all the way up a high mountain. In many cases among birds, the … Continue reading Species up a mountain

It’s a magpie! It’s a vulture! No, it’s a bald crow!

This is the seventh post in the series Specimen tales Anand Krishnan writes ~ In continuation of the last post’s theme of evolutionarily “odd” birds, we will, in this post, discuss another family of paradoxical birds, this time from the rainforests of West and Central Africa. The Picathartidae, or rockfowl, comprise two species found in the Lower and Upper Guinean rainforests of Africa, where they nest in small colonies on rock surfaces such as cave walls (hence the common name). The scientific name Picathartes is literally a portmanteau of Pica (magpie) and Cathartes (vulture), which goes to show just how confusing … Continue reading It’s a magpie! It’s a vulture! No, it’s a bald crow!

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

How odd…

This is the sixth post in the series Specimen tales Anand Krishnan writes ~ A fundamental objective of the classification and scientific description of animals is the need to understand how they all relate to one another. This is crucial to deciphering the evolutionary tree of life; to sustain our planet’s biodiversity, we must first understand how it came to be. In continuation of the last post’s musings on scientific names, I will here elaborate again on scientific names, this time, ones that reflect the supposed relationships or characters of the species under discussion. For example, the epithet corvina may … Continue reading How odd…

The power of beauty

This is the fifth post in the series Specimen Tales Anand Krishnan writes ~ In meditating upon birds, one of the first thoughts to spring to most people’s minds is their beauty. For many, this beauty may arise simply in the mannerisms of the bird, a simple, understated elegance. Most commonly, however, our perceptions of avian beauty are tied largely to color, the varying hues of plumage that span a large proportion of the visible spectrum of light (and even the ultraviolet!). Many families of birds are gorgeously patterned in contrasting colors, with elaborate ornamentation. This has, in the past and … Continue reading The power of beauty