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.

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Lab Members #

Aravind P S

PhD Student

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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

Harsha Kumar

PhD Student

  • Harsha

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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Kavitha Unni KK
Master's Student

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Kavitha is primarily interested in community ecology of small carnivores. For her Master’s thesis, she is studying about the patterns of sympatry and resource partitioning among small carnivores in a geographic area. The ultimate goal of her study is to uncover the underlying mechanisms that facilitate the coexistence of multiple small carnivore species, allowing them to share space and resources without excessive competition. The insights gained from this research can be aided in effective conservation strategies for these small carnivores. She has previously worked in the lab as a result of her participation in two semester projects associated with her master's thesis.

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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.

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  • Nivetha1

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.

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  • Rakesh

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.

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Rigzen Mingyur


  • Mingyur

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.

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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.

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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

Aashritha Sankara

Aashritha is broadly interested in molecular biology, behavioral ecology and conservation biology. She is currently carrying out molecular biology laboratory work for a few ongoing projects, including scat analysis for species identification and nutrition studies of the Ursus arctos isabellinus and the carnivores of Kutch in Gujarat. She is also assisting with laboratory work for other projects in the lab and is in charge of lab operations. Prior to this, she worked as a Research Scientist (NM) at Virus research and diagnostic laboratory (VRDL) – at Sri Venkateswara Medical college/SVVRRG Govt. Hospital, where she contributed to the assessment of COVID-19 positive cases and gained extensive experience in isolating RNA, handling RT-PCR, and analyzing results and has also worked as Research Assistant at GenepoweRx, a biotechnology company, were she carried out work on retrieving data from VCF files and classifying information depending on medical conditions using whole exome sequencing. Her other interests are drawing and quilling.

Interns #

Sagar Santwani |IISER Pune | Summer 2023
Project: Behavioral adaptations of palm squirrels in Pune

Atharva Togattiwar |BN Bandodkar College, Thane | Summer 2023
Project: Behavioral adaptations of palm squirrels in Pune

Fathima Aslaha| IISER Tirupati BS-MS Student | Spring 2023
Project: Genomics of physiological adaptation to cold in Pikas

Dev Bagdi | IISER Tirupati BS-MS Student | Monsoon 2022, Spring 2023
Project: Himalayan Brown bear Project, Orthologous gene extraction from unannotated rodent genomes using blast protocol

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Alumni #

Dr. Brawin Kumar R. | Postdoctoral Fellow | 2021-2022
Post Doctoral Project: Phylogeography, taxonomic reassessment of the endemic Indian rock rats in the genus Cremnomys (Rodentia, Muridae) to understand the evolutionary history and climate change impacts for conservation.

Rithika S| Researcher | 2021-2022
Master's Thesis (Pondicherry University): A study on the usage of a citizen science platform as a tool for biodiversity analysis across the urban-rural gradient of Tirupati.

Harsha Jagadeesh | IISER Tirupati BS-MS student | 2021-2022
Master's Thesis: A study on camouflage-influenced behavioural decisions in Funambulus palmarum

Keerthi O | IISER Tirupati BS-MS student | 2021-2022
Master's Thesis: Coat colouration and camouflage advantages in giant squirrels in the genus Ratufa.

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Lab Group Photos #

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    2022 Lab group photo at Marasa Sarovar,Tirupati.
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    2020 Lab group photo during the pandemic!
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    2018 Lab group photo at Periyar TR