T R Shankar Raman
Scientist, Western Ghats
I like to imagine that I am a writer turned wildlife scientist turned writer, living in a landscape of rainforests and plantations in the Anamalai hills of southern India. As a wildlife scientist, I focus on the ecology and conservation of tropical forests and wildlife—especially rainforest plants, birds, and mammals—mainly in the Western Ghats. In parallel, I write creative non-fiction and essays on nature and conservation for newspapers, magazines, and blogs, besides occasional book reviews and op-ed or feature articles. I like to read a fair bit and you can see what I am reading here. My blogView from Elephant Hills is on the Coyotes Network.
As a participant in an open initiative called WikiProject Nature and Conservation in India, I have also been contributing media (my images, video and audio recordings) to Wikimedia Commons and editing Wikipedia pages related to nature and conservation in India. Here is my Wikipedia user page, and you can find my Wikimedia Commons photo gallery here (works in progress).
I am also interested in animal welfare and ethics, empathy and aesthetics in humans and other animals, music and poetry, public reasoning, openness in anything from software to knowledge, and human capability and freedom and flourishing, but have done precious little about any of this except for strapping on headphones and tuning out.
Wildlife and shifting cultivation
Forest, wildlife, jhum, and plantations in the Dampa landscape, Mizoram
- Book Chapter2017Birds in Relation to Farming and Livestock Grazing in the Indian Trans-HimalayasIn Bird Migration across the Himalayas: Wetland Functioning amidst Mountains and Glaciers
- Journal Article2017Successional status, seed dispersal mode and overstorey species influence tree regeneration in tropical rain-forest fragments in Western Ghats, IndiaJournal of Tropical Ecology 33: 270-284. DOI: 10.1017/S0266467417000219
The effects of fragmentation and overstorey tree diversity on tree regeneration were assessed in tropical rain forests of the Western Ghats, India. Ninety plots were sampled for saplings (1–5 cm diameter at breast height (dbh); 5×5-m plots) and overstorey trees (>9.55 cm dbh; 20×20-m plots) within two fragments (32 ha and 18 ha) and two continuous forests. We tested the hypotheses that fragmentation and expected seed-dispersal declines (1) reduce sapling densities and species richness of all species and old-growth species, and increase recruitment of early-successional species, (2) reduce the prevalence of dispersed recruits and (3) increase influence of local overstorey on sapling densities and richness. Continuous forests and fragments had similar sapling densities and species richness overall, but density and richness of old-growth species declined by 62% and 48%, respectively, in fragments. Fragments had 39% lower densities and 24% lower richness of immigrant saplings (presumed dispersed into sites as conspecific adults were absent nearby), and immigrant densities of old-growth bird-dispersed species declined by 79%. Sapling species richness (overall and old-growth) increased with overstorey species richness in fragments, but was unrelated to overstorey richness in continuous forests. Our results show that while forest fragments retain significant sapling diversity, losses of immigrant recruits and increased overstorey influence strengthen barriers to natural regeneration of old-growth tropical rain forests.
- Popular Article2016The march of the triffids.The BOU Blog, 8 August 2016
Shifting agriculture supports more rainforest birds than oil palm or teak monocultures
- Popular Article2016Icons of Anamalais: Malabar Whistling ThrushPollachi Papyrus, July – September 3(3): 38-41.
Shorter, edited version of article ‘Musician of the Monsoon’ that appeared in The Hindu Sunday Magazine on 6 Sep 2009.
- Popular Article2016Why Mizoram must revive, not eradicate, jhumThe Frontier Despatch, March 4 – 10, 2016, page 6.
- Popular Article2016Is oil palm expansion good for Mizoram?The Frontier Despatch, March 18 – 24, 2016, pages 6-7.
- Popular Article2016The silence of India's wildlife scientists, including myself, rings louder than gunshots.Scroll.in, 20 September 2016.
Eight reasons why those like me stay away from India's most important debates.
Republished from my blogpost at View from Elephant Hills: http://coyot.es/elephanthills/2016/09/16/conversation-biology-eight-reasons-why-i-am-a-silent-scientist/
- Art & Literary2016Elephant crossingOrion 35(3): 6. (May | June 2016)
- Popular Article2016In clouded leopard countryThe Hindu Sunday Magazine, 8 October 2016, pages 1-2.
In the rainforest, the rewards of silence sometimes exceed your wildest expectations. From where I sit quietly, I don’t hear a single artificial sound. Unseen cicadas shrill and set the air ringing, woodpeckers cackle from the treetops, and frogs click and boom from the rock-pools alongside the singing river below. From somewhere in the undergrowth, a grey peacock-pheasant sounds an echoing, guttural laugh. In the distance rise great grey cliffs, home of serow (a forest goat-antelope) and bear, overlooking the rainforests where every morning the hoolock gibbons still hoot and sing. Around the steep rock slope where I am stretched out on my back, the looming rainforest envelops me like an amphitheatre. I feel like a tiny flame steady in an evergreen sconce. As yet, I have no inkling of what we are about to witness.
- Popular Article2016The culling fieldsThe Hindu (op-ed) 17 June 2016, page 9.
A better approach to man-wildlife conflict management requires an integration of scientific evidence, animal behaviour, and landscape and socio-economic context.