I was intrigued in my early career by how animals, particularly birds, navigate various landscape features. Today, I work in landscape ecology, plant ecology and animal distribution interface.
While working as a professional landscape architect, I realised the importance of integrating species distribution into landscape designs. The supporting research that I carried out pushed me further into this field, and in 2015, I finally decided to delve into scientific research. I procured a master's in Ecology and Environmental Sciences from Pondicherry University. As my master’s project, I studied how birds’ nest predation is affected by forest structure in a lowland, broadleaved forest of West Bengal, India. Bird nests and nest provisioning have always intrigued me.
I am a final year PhD student with Dr V. V. Robin at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Tirupati. I study the patterns of distribution of native species (both plants and birds) following the invasion of exotic timber trees in the high elevation of W. Ghats.
Cloud forests of South Western Ghats are fascinating because endemic, threatened forest birds inhabit invasive and mostly monospecific timber stands. Our study aims to determine the landscape and vegetation variables across the wooded habitats of sky islands that bring about this pattern in the distribution of native birds and plants. This project integrates many aspects of my research interests - plant-animal interaction, invasion ecology, mathematical modelling and landscape ecology. I received the Prime Minister Research Fellowship to conduct this research. In addition, I co-wrote a National Geographic Phase II grant to supplement the required fieldwork.
My fieldwork spanned four years (Jun 2019 - May 2023) and included over 50 interns and field assistants. We surveyed an area of over 1500 sq. km (almost half the state of Goa in India). Our methods included repeated bird surveys and a detailed and intense vegetation survey. Administering a team of 20 interns and field assistants at a time in remote forested areas can be challenging and involves constant demands on one’s emotional intelligence and analytical thinking skills. Over the years, I have mentored several of my interns who have gone and joined Indian institutions of eminence like NCBS, Bangalore, WII, Dehradun, NISER, IISER Kolkata, IIM Lucknow. A few have also joined international institutes.
I have been a teaching assistant (3X) for NPTEL (National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning) courses - Basic Course in Ornithology and Wildlife Ecology. I have also taught short-term courses on Introduction to Ecology to colleges near our study sites - Ooty and Kodaikanal, India. Apart from these, I have taken classes on Landscape Ecology as a TA for Dr VV Robin’s course - Advanced Ecology at IISER Tirupati. Apart from teaching assistantships, I have been invited to talk at national and regional events on ‘Birds in Natural and Urban Landscapes’.
Consultancy: I have led a consultancy project by Robin’s lab for the Tamil Nadu government (TNFD) on their native grassland restoration project in Kodaikanal.
Features and Podcasts: My story about my journey from Architecture to Ecology and Wildlife Conservation can be followed at the podcast - thethingaboutwildlife. The same has been featured in ornithology.in.
Illustrations: I also have an active interest in scientific illustrations and am a published illustrator in the magazine - Current Conservation.
My other interests include coding in R, statistical analysis, producing visuals for presentations and posters, exploring visual techniques to communicate science to the general public, photography, giving talks and teaching.
Currently, I am analysing and writing my PhD chapters. I am also on the lookout for postdoc opportunities.
Projects Involved: Sky Island Birds
PERSONAL AND OTHER INTERESTS
I like sketching and illustrating, and exploring different presentation techniques.
I write bad verses and prose and once wrote a popular article (Flights of Hope - Birds in the City). As a practising architect sometime in the past, I have retained a minor hangover for interior designing. I also design prints for t-shirts, stickers and posters for bird-related events and institute birding clubs. I have been an active member of our LGBTQIA+ club at IISER Tirupati and helped conduct sessions and events. I have also talked about navigating queerness during fieldwork for conservation and ecological studies. I am an active participant and a reluctant coordinator of an event for SCCS (Student Conference on Conservation Science) Queer Circle for India, aka the Queer Wildlifers.
- Jobin, V., Das, A., Harikrishnan, C. P., Chanda, R., Lawrence, S., & Robin, V. V. (2023). Patterns of understory invasion in invasive timber stands of a tropical sky island. Ecology and Evolution, 13(4), e9995.
- Jude, D., Aravind, P. S., Chanda, R., Subash, M., & Jobin, V. Provisioning behaviour of Malabar Starling Sturnia blythii.
- Varughese, J. (2018, March 17). Birds in the City. LA Journal .