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Conservation Biology

The Earth is currently going through the commonly referred to ‘Sixth Extinction’, where human activity is largely responsible for a devastating impact on the earth’s biodiversity. To combat this we urgently require information on ecosystems and species (both inside and outside the Protected Area network). Lacking information on these could result in ill-informed conservation strategies, leading to a gross waste of resources and failure of conservation goals.

The Conservation Biology Division at SACON aims to bridge the gap in information on species and ecosystems that could provide informed recommendations towards biodiversity conservation policies in India. To date the Division has conducted distribution surveys as well as ecological and genetic studies on various taxa, especially those listed in the Threatened category (Vulnerable, Endangered and Critically Endangered) of the IUCN Red List, e.g. Forest Owlet, Fishing Cat, Asian Elephant, Lion-tailed Macaque. The Division has also conducted studies in some of the Global Biodiversity Hotspots of the country such as the Western Ghats, Arunachal Pradesh and the Nicobar Islands.

Along with research, one of the goals of the Conservation Biology Division is to increase capacity in the field of conservation through training workshops for stakeholders, including foresters, local people around Protected Areas, students from colleges and interested citizens. These are held in field situations (field techniques, sensitization towards conservation of specific species and ecosystems) as well as in the laboratory (conservation genetics).

Dr. Shomita Mukherjee Principal Scientist

Dr. H. N. Kumara Senior Scientist

Arijit Pal, PhD Student

Interests: I am interested in understanding parallels between primate society and cultural evolution of humans, by studying the macaques as the model animal. In addition, I would like to contribute to the wildlife conservation which requires our undivided attention.

Current Work: I am studying the reproductive behavior, sexual selection and extractive foraging in Nicobar long tailed macaque at Great Nicobar Island. I am also deeply motivated to capitalize my effort on man-animal conflicts especially man-elephant conflict in Southern West Bengal. Contact :

Partha Sarathi Mishra, PhD Student

Interests: My interest lies in understanding how a group functions as a unit, faces challenges and communicates by considering macaques as the study animal. I would like to work by collaborating with interested researchers on conflict and communication across various taxa with special emphasis on macaques and cetaceans.

Current Work: Currently I am studying conflict resolution in Nicobar long-tailed macaques at Great Nicobar Island. I am also looking at the gestural communication in the context of aggression to understand aggression in details. I am using Social Networking Analysis to understand the role of every individual in the society.

Contact :

Aditi Mukherjee, PhD Student

Interests: My fascination for nature and wildlife motivated me to pursue an in-depth study in the field of wildlife conservation science. I did my post graduation in Biodiversity and Conservation with specific interest in herpetology and phylogenetics. I am explicitly interested in behavioral ecology and ecology, social behaviour and inter-specific interactions.

Current Work: I am working in a DST_SERB project on Burrow-dwelling animals which aims to gather substantial information on the burrow use patterns by terrestrial vertebrates (Crested porcupine, Jackal, Python and Bat) in Keoladeo National Park. My work is intriguing in a sense that, it gives an opportunity to explore the elusive world of burrowing animals using camera traps and burrow video cameras. Contact :

Avadhoot D. Velankar, PhD Student

Interests: Interested in watching animals and understanding them.

Current Work: I am working on population status of long tailed macaque in Nicobar islands, and their adaptability to changing conditions. I am also documenting their feeding ecology and ranging pattern in Campbell Bay, Great Nicobar.Contact :

Joydeep Shil, PhD Student

Interests: My interest of study is to understand the interactions between species and their environment with relation to habitat and niche modeling, species distribution and land use pattern and effect of climate change on species as well as landscape level.

Current Work: I am studying the troop dynamics, feeding and ranging behavior of golden langur in Chakrashila wildlife sanctuary, Assam, India. I am also working for conservation of golden langur and other flora-fauna of the region through community participation and by collaborative research work. Contact :

Pankaj Koparde, PhD student

Interests – I am interested in science-driven conservation research, outreach, and understanding ecological and evolutionary processes that shape the species distribution. My particular research interests include biogeography, conservation genetics, landscape ecology, avian acoustics, and odonatology.

Current work – For my doctoral thesis, I explored processes underlying nested geographical distribution pattern shown by three species of Indian owlets which included the Endangered Forest Owlet. As an extension of my Ph.D. work, my present project aims to resolve the finer details of the phylogeny of Athene owlets, refine the current distribution map of Forest Owlet, and develop a landscape-wide conservation action plan in consultation with stakeholders and researchers working in the central Indian landscape. Contact: pankajkoparde@gmail

Aakriti Singh, Research Fellow

Interests: Peculiarity and charisma of nature’s beauty and wonder always fascinated me towards it. But my experiences during various expeditions and training sessions throughout my M.Sc. helped me to learn the unspoken language of wilderness. My interest lies in wildlife conservation, human-wildlife conflicts, and animal behavior.

Current work:I am working ina project on Elephantsin South-West Bengal which aims at studying the ecology of elephants as well as the human-elephant interactions in the area. Being able to give a little contribution towards management of conflict issues involving this magnificent species is my major calling. Contact :

Zainab Khan:


My primary interest lies in ecology, which roots from a deeper sense of admiration and zeal for nature and wildlife studies. I am drawn to issues concerning wildlife conservation, man-animal interactions and effects of climate change. I would also like to explore the idea of effective communication in science, through citizen science, education and outreach.

Current work:

At present I am working for a project on the Endangered Forest Owlet, which aims at creating a conservation action plan for the species. It involves working on the entire belt of central India including 5 states namely Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orrisa. Contact:

Kaushik Koli:

Interests: I believe that wildlife and forests true resources for any country and this led me towards working for the conservation of Biodiversity and wildlife. I also believe that along with conservation and protection of wildlife and their habitat there should be sustenance between human and wildlife.

Current work: I am currently working in a project on Forest Owlet which aims on developing a conservation action plan for it, hopefully putting my bit in conservation of this beautiful and Endangered bird.

Aditi Neema:

Interests: I was always fascinated by nature and its creatures which got me into pursuing my Masters in Biodiversity, Wildlife Conservation and Management. My post-graduation training helped me understand more about the subject. My areas of interest lie in studying animal behaviour, conservation biology and people’s participation in conservation.

Current work: I am currently working on a project aiming to develop a conservation program for the Endangered Forest Owlet, endemic to India. I intend to understand the ecology of this magnificent species and help in its conservation through my work. Contact:


2017 onwards Developing a conservation action plan for Forest Owlet (Heteroglaux blewitti), a Critically Endangered species endemic to central India.
2016 onwards Survey for small cats in Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai.
2016 onwards A comprehensive study of potential ecological impact of windmill farms on wildlife with special emphasis to avifauna in Karnataka.
2016 onwards Ecology of Elephant (Elephas maximus) in South-West Bengal including population dynamics, migratory pattern, feeding habits and human-Elephant conflict.
2015 onwards Determinants of spatial foraging patterns of the Endangered Lion-tailed Macaque.
2015 onwards Monitoring of Lion-tailed Macaque Macaca silenus population and its conservation in the Western Ghats, India.


2013-2016 Ecological species sorting in relation to habitat structure in the small cat guild of Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, Arunachal Pradesh.
2013-2016 Determining the taxonomic and conservation status of the Forest Owlet (Heteroglaux blewitii).
2013-2016 Spatio-temporal burrow use patterns by vertebrates in Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India.
2013 Survey for Fishing Cat in Kerala
2012-2016 Social organization, behavior and phylogeography, of Macaca fascicularis umbrosa on the Nicobar Islands, India.
2012-2014 Evaluating the status of NTFP trees and development of a model for sustainable harvest of Garcinia gummi-gutta in Aghanashini–Lion-tailed Macaque Conservation Reserve, Western Ghats, India.
2012-2013 A survey of slender Loris in parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, India
2012 Estimation of abundance of feral elephants in Interview Island Sanctuary, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India.
2010-2011 Fishing Cat survey in India using molecular tools.
2010-2011 Assessment of occurrence and abundance of large mammals, birds and woody plants in Bannerghatta National Park, Karnataka
2009-2011 Development of conservation strategy for a newly discovered Lion-tailed Macaque Macaca silenus population in Sirsi-Honnavara, Western Ghats: II. Understanding of the impact of NTFP collection on the Lion-tailed Macaque.