Principal Investigator #

Dr. Nandini Rajamani
Assistant Professor

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Nandini’s research interests include examining the ecology of species, and understanding adaptations and processes, particularly with respect to environmental (eg: climate change, production, and human-altered landscapes), and historic (eg: trade, collections) factors. Her lab works primarily with small mammal systems. Outside of research, she is involved in several initiatives to promote and communicate science to students, researchers, administrators, and the wider public.

Email | Twitter | ResearchGate | GoogleScholar

Lab Members #

Amira Sophia

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Amira is primarily interested in animal care. However, she is just as curious about many aspects of animal biology. Currently she studies the acoustics of Indian Giant Squirrels in Kodaikanal and hopes to understand the significance of communication in behaviour and maintenance of sociality. She has previously studied the behaviour of Grizzled Giant Squirrels in the Palani Hills.


Anupama Devi M

iPhD Student

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Anupama is primarily interested in behavioral ecology and evolution. She is interested in studying variation across populations and behavioral patterns that contribute to it. For her PhD, she is studying populations of marmots in the Indian Himalayas and the three-striped palm squirrels in the Western Ghats addressing questions regarding population connectivity and range expansion respectively. She is using genetics and behavioral approaches to understand the direction of the range expansion front of the palm squirrels in the Western ghats and Palani Hills. In her free time, she likes to read fiction, sketch, and explore new places.

Email | Instagram

Anushesh Nigam

Master's Student

  • Anushesh Nigam

Anushesh is primarily interested in chemical ecology. For his Master’s Thesis, he is working on a quantitative analysis of macronutrients in palm squirrel diet, particularly quantifying carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The study also includes using behavioural approaches to understanding dietary choices made by squirrels in response to nutrients.The primary technique he is using for the analysis is Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS), and the analysis is being conducted with Dr. Shibdas Bannerjee at IISER Tirupati.

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Aravind P S


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Aravind is broadly interested in behavioral ecology and invasion ecology. Currently, he is studying the occurrence and behaviour of palm squirrels in the Western Ghats in response to invasive plantations and native vegetation profile. In the past, he has examined changes in the distribution of the invasive plant Lantana camara and its impact on native vegetation, using a 21-year long dataset. His previous experience with animal behaviour includes examining the reproductive behavior of field crickets. Aravind enjoys exploring new landscapes and documenting experiences.

Email | Google Scholar | Instagram | Twitter

Brawin Kumar R

Postdoctoral Fellow

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Brawin’s research interests focus on understanding the distribution and ecology of threatened small mammals in South India. He is currently examining the habitat-specificity of two lesser-known endemic mammals, the Madras hedgehog and the large rock rat. He received his PhD from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing where he studied evolutionary patterns of lagomorphs. Brawin is also involved with several science communication efforts, including authoring nature/biodiversity related articles in Tamil and Chinese. He is currently supported by the DST N-PDF program and the ZSL EDGE Fellowship.

Email | ResearchGate

Harsha Jagadeesh
Master's Student

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Harsha is primarily interested in exploring neuroscience and animal behaviour. She is also interested in the evolutionary aspects of behaviour and is currently focused on camouflage in squirrels. For her Master’s thesis, she is working on the camouflaging efficiency of squirrels around the world and background choice behaviour with the three-striped palm squirrel as a model system. Previously, she has worked on neurogenesis and circadian rhythms of palm squirrels as part of a summer internship.

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Harsha Kumar

PhD Student

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Harsha’s interests broadly lie in ecology, evolution, animal behavior and natural history. The Trans-Himalayas of Ladakh pose some of the most unique and harshest environments to animals that live there. During his PhD, he is studying behavioral and physiological adaptations of pikas to hypoxia and cold using a combination of field experiments, comparative phylogenetics and genomics. He has previously studied the behaviour of zebra finches and crickets at IISER Pune and CES, IISc. He has been a butterfly watcher since he was a child and finds insect systems fascinating enough to consider working on them in the future. He spends most of his free time outdoors watching and photographing creatures.

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Keerthi O
Master's Student

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Keerthi is broadly interested in animal cognition, behavioural ecology, and evolution. She is also interested in exploring the neurological reason behind emotion and behaviour. For her master's thesis, she is working on coat coloration and cryptic resemblance of the Indian, Grizzled, and Malayan giant squirrels in the genus Ratufa. To answer these questions, she aims to use image analysis tools on squirrel images from multiple online sources. Previously, she has worked on coat colour variation in Indian giant squirrel Ratufa indica across India. She enjoys observing animals in their natural habitat.

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Manzoor Ahmad Dar
PhD Student

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Manzoor is broadly interested in feeding ecology and invasion biology. His current research focuses on understanding the diet of the ‘Critically Endangered’ Kashmir Stag (Hangul) in Dachigam National Park, using D.N.A metabarcoding techniques, under the joint supervision of Dr. Manzoor A Shah, Associate Professor in Botany at the University of Kashmir, and Dr. Nandini Rajamani. Manzoor’s past research includes the study of the impact of the invasive weed Iberian knapweed on native plant diversity.Outside of research,Manzoor is very interested in Apple cultivation, and loves playing cricket.

Email | Facebook

Mrugank Dake

Master's Student

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Mrugank is primarily interested in machine learning and neural network analyses, and in applying this to neuroscience and behavioural studies. For his Master's thesis, he is working on the acoustics of palm squirrels, studying inter and intraspecies variation. He is designing an optimal detection algorithm to understand seasonal patterns from a large database of passively recorded calls. Prior to this he has worked on hippocampal neuronal culture and cognitive neuroscience of attention, and hopes to apply his understanding of machine learning algorithms to emerging problems in cognitive neuroscience with a focus on learning and memory.

Email | Website | Instagram | Twitter

Nivetha Murugesan

PhD Student

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Nivetha is interested in studying the genomic and behavioral basis of evolutionary adaptations. For her PhD, she is studying the evolution of coat color adaptation and pigmentation diversity in rodents, including squirrels in India, using image analysis and bioinformatics tools. She is also part of projects examining morphological variation in small mammals using museum specimens, and variation in acoustic behaviour in palm squirrels using field recordings. She has parallel interests in communicating environmental and eco-political issues in the Tamil language.

Email | Twitter

Rakesh Muni

PhD Student

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Rakesh is broadly interested in animal cognition, behavioural ecology and urban biodiversity. For his PhD, he plans to study behavioural adaptations in palm squirrels in response to urban changes. Previously, he has worked with BNHS to understand the impact of urban development on the population and behaviour of migratory waterbirds; and at IISER Berhampur, he explored the reproductive behaviour of Drosophila. In his free time, you can find him birding and capturing photos of wildlife; apart from that, he enjoys listening, composing and producing music.

Email | Instagram | Twitter

Rigzen Mingyur


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Mingyur’s interest lies in environmental science. He has worked at the Himalayan Institute of Alternative(HIAL), Ladakh for the past three years. During his time at HIAL, he worked on various projects including the construction of ice stupas or artificial glaciers in Ladakh to address the acute water shortages in some villages in Ladakh, rehabilitation of Kulum village, and on developing and executing the Himalayan Farmstays programme in Ladakh. In his free time, Mingyur likes watching birds and reptiles, and loves to play ice hockey.

Email | Instagram

Senan D'Souza


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Senan’s research interests lie in ecology and biogeography. He works on documenting the occurrence of small mammal assemblages, primarily in extreme habitats of the Trans-Himalayas, but also in other landscapes like the Eastern and Western Ghats. He identifies environmental predictors to understand how species have evolved to specific conditions, and how climate change and anthropogenic pressures could impact species in the future. Senan’s other interests include bird-watching and wildlife photography, and he is always looking for the next mountain to climb.

Email | Instagram

Swati Udayraj

PhD Student

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Swati is primarily interested in understanding species interactions, landscape ecology and conservation biology. Her doctoral research is focused on understanding the impacts of resource availability on species numbers, foraging, and other associated behaviours in palm squirrels along an urbanisation gradient. She is also part of a project examining genetic connectivity across marmot populations in Ladakh, and has previously worked on understanding the genetic structure of Asian elephant populations. Outside of research she is interested in wildlife photography and doodling.

Email | Google Scholar | Instagram

Interns #

Aneena L | AVC College, Mayiladuthurai | Spring, Summer 2021
Project: Occupancy of Three-striped palm squirrel, Squirrels of India database

Anutosh Bhat
| IIT Madras (B. Tech) | Spring, Summer 2021
Project: Rodent coat color quantification

Atharva Powar
| IISER Mohali BS-MS student | Summer 2021
Project: Genomics of physiological adaptation to cold in Pikas

Dilshad Kanniyan
| Pondicherry University | Summer 2021
Project: Acoustic signals of palm squirrrels

Divya Janani S
| Bharathidasan University (B.Tech) | Spring, Summer 2021
Project: Funambulus coat color quantification

Jyotsnarani Malik
| IISER Tirupati BS-MS student | Summer 2021
Project: Genomics of physiological adaptation to cold in Pikas

Kunal Gokhale
| Pune University | Summer 2021
Project: Acoustic signals of palm squirrrels

Madhurika Abhyankar
| IBB Pune University | Summer 2021
Project: Acoustic signals of palm squirrrels

Prameya Garge
| IISER Tirupati BS-MS student | Summer 2021
Project: Genomics of physiological adaptation to cold in Pikas

Rithika S
| Pondicherry University | Summer 2021
Project: Acoustic signals of palm squirrrels

T S Navyasree
| IIT Madras (B. Tech) | Summer 2021
Project: Squirrels of India database

Anjali Singh
| IISER Tirupati BS-MS student | Summer 2019
Project: Acoustic signals of palm squirrrels

Athira Anil
| IISER Tirupati BS-MS student | Summer 2019
Project: Acoustic signals of palm squirrrels

Kushi Dani
| IISER Tirupati BS-MS student | Summer 2019
Project: Acoustic signals of palm squirrrels

Keerthi O.
| IISER Tirupati BS-MS student | Summer 2019
Project: Coat colour variation in Indian giant squirrel Ratufa indica across India.

Joe George
| IISER Tirupati BS-MS Student | Summer 2019
Project: Behavioral studies of Dusky palm squirrel Funambulus sublineatus

Anish Paul
| Viswa-Bharati University | Summer 2018
Project: Acoustic signals of palm squirrrels

Abjasree .S
| IISER Tirupati BS-MS student | Summer 2017
Project: Behavioral studies of palm squirrel

Pranav Unnikrishnan
| IISER Tirupati BS-MS student | Summer 2017
Project: Behavioral studies of palm squirrel

Rafna Rafeek
| IISER Tirupati BS-MS student | Summer 2017
Project: Behavioral studies of palm squirrel

Alumni #

Pooja Gupta | Independent Multimedia Artist | 2020-2021
Project: Using social networking tools to communicate key scientific and conservation messages regarding the squirrels of India.

Bishwarup Paul
| Postdoctoral Fellow | 2019-2020
Project: Impact of human-influenced rapid environmental changes on Indian palm squirrels.

Dhanesh P.
| Researcher | 2018-2020
Project: Habitat associations of pikas in the Trans-Himalayas.
Master's Thesis (AVC College): Nest site selection in Funambulus palmarum.

Shijisha AC
| IISER Tirupati BS-MS student | 2017-2020
Master's Thesis: Coat colour variation in palm squirrels of the genus Funambulus.

Pranav Unnikrishnan
| IISER Tirupati BS-MS student | 2019-2020
Master's Thesis: Explaining the evolution of colour & patterns in squirrels using meta-analyses and experimental approaches.

Kartik Pillai
| Researcher | Spring 2020
Project: Genetics and diet analysis of the small felids of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai.

Namita Chutani
| IISER Tirupati iPhD student | Spring 2019
Project: Molecular techniques with marmot faecal samples.

Suyash Sawant
| IISER Tirupati BS-MS student | 2018-2019
Project: Classifying and monitoring calling patterns in Dusky palm squirrel Funambulus sublineatus in Palni hills.
Project: Morphometric variation in Southern flying squirrel Glaucomys volans.

Athira Aravind
| Researcher | Spring, Summer 2019
Master's Thesis(Mar Athanasios College For Advanced Studies, Tiruvalla): Amplification and Sequence Analysis of Nuclear gene (EMB) of Indian Euphorbia species

Sanjay Prasad
| Researcher | Spring 2019
Master's Thesis (Pondicherry University): Habitat selection of Indian giant squirrel Ratufa indica.

Harikrishnan CP
| IISER Tirupati BS-MS student | Spring 2018
Project: Camera trapping at IIT Tirupati.

Anubhav Dhar
| IISER Tirupati BS-MS student | Monsoon 2017
Project: Evaluating methods to detect the biological origin of potential wildlife trade products.

Mihir Sule
| Researcher | Monsoon 2017
Project: Taxonomic identity of succulent Euphorbias in South India.

Lab Group Photos #

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    2020 Lab group photo during the pandemic!
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    2018 Lab group photo at Periyar TR