WCS – India Program Staff and Partners
Dr. K. Ullas Karanth
Dr. Karanth, originally trained as an engineer at National Institute of Technology, Surathkal in 1971, obtained his Masters degree from the University of Florida (1988) and Doctorate from Mangalore University in 1993 for thesis titled, ‘Predator-prey relationships among the large mammals of Nagarahole National Park, India’. The founder of Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS), Dr. Karanth was invited to join Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) by Dr George Schaller in 1988. He currently serves as the Director for Science, Asia (WCS).
Dr. Karanth has conducted pioneering long-term research on the ecology of tigers, sympatric predators and other large mammals. His expertise includes capture of large carnivores, radio-telemetry, advanced methods in field survey assessment, modeling and estimation of animal populations.
He is a member of the Indian Government’s National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the Governing Council of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), besides serving on Karnataka Government’s Tiger Conservation Foundation (TCF) and Tiger Steering Committee (TSC).
Dr. Karanth has won several prestigious recognitions like the Sierra Club’s International EarthCare award (2006), World Wildlife Fund’s J. Paul Getty Award (2007), the Sanctuary Lifetime Achievement Award (2007), Bombay Natural History Society’s Salim Ali National Award for Conservation (2008), and Lifetime Achievement award by the Kumble Foundation (2012). He was conferred the Padma Shri (2012), India’s fourth highest civilian honor, for his outstanding contributions to wildlife conservation and environment protection.
He serves on the editorial board of the journal Oryx and IUCN/SSC specialist groups on cats, elephants, wild cattle and small carnivores. He co-chairs the steering committee of multi-institutional graduate level academic program in Wildlife Biology and Conservation at NCBS-TIFR Bangalore and has adjunct teaching faculty status at NCBS-TIFR, Bangalore and at the Department of Wildlife Biology, University of Minnesota. Dr. Karanth also supervises doctoral candidates at Manipal University, Karnataka. He has authored the books The Way of the Tiger (2001) and A view from the Machan (2006) and co-edited Monitoring Tigers and their Prey (2002) and Camera Traps in Animal Ecology (2010). He has published over 100 reviewed articles in reputed scientific journals.
Dr. Ajith Kumar
Dr. Ajith Kumar obtained his Masters degree in Zoology from Kerala University and Doctorate from Cambridge University in 1987 on thesis titled, ‘The ecology and population dynamics of the lion-tailed macaque’. A professor at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Ajith has inspired students at the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History in Coimbatore before joining WCS – India Program in 2003.
As the Director of the Post-Graduate Program in Wildlife Biology and Conservation, initiated by WCS – India Program in partnership with National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, Ajith trains wildlife biologists to become passionate conservation leaders through a two-year Masters course. He also runs an active research program on the distribution and ecology of mammals in the Western Ghats and the Himalayas, where he studies patterns of distribution, impacts of habitat fragmentation, wildlife in human modified landscapes and feeding and reproductive ecology. As the director of the WCS-NCBS Wildlife Master’s program, Ajith has trained over 60 students and has established a dynamic network of researchers, professors and institutions keen to devote time to local capacity building in India.
Dr. Krithi Karanth (Associate Conservation Scientist, WCS New York) obtained her Masters in Environmental Science from Yale in 2003 and Doctorate in Environmental Science and Policy from Duke University in 2008. Krithi is also a Government of India Ramanujan Fellow, Executive Director at the Centre for Wildlife Studies and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Duke University. She has been a research associate of WCS – India Program since 2001.
Krithi’s research in India spans over 15 years and encompasses a broad range of issues examining human dimensions of wildlife conservation involving close interactions with WCS – India Program staff. She has conducted macro-level studies assessing patterns of mammal extinctions in India, impacts of wildlife tourism in reserves, sociological consequences of voluntary resettlement and, more recently, on understanding ecological and social dimensions of human-wildlife conflicts and land use change.
To know more about her work, please visit: www.cwsindia.org
Muthanna’s association with WCS – India Program dates back to the year, 2000. Based in Hunsur, Karnataka, Muthanna’s area of expertise covers the Malenad Mysore Tiger Landscape and extends into Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Besides effective conservation interventions to secure wildlands – Muthanna has played a key role in motivating more than 500 families from Nagarahole and over 49 families from the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary relocate under the government sponsored relocation program. He was conferred with the WCS Service Award in 2006 in recognition of his outstanding services to wildlife conservation.
Dr. Vidya Athreya obtained her MS in Ecology from Pondicherry in 1993 and a MSc in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from University of Iowa, USA in 2000. Dr. Athreya obtained her doctorate from Manipal University in 2012 for her thesis, ‘Conflict resolution and leopard conservation in a human dominated landscape’. Based in Pune, Vidya has been studying human-leopard conflict in Maharashtra for the past decade. She also works closely with Protected Area managers and the public to mitigate conflicts involving big cats.
A Research Associate with WCS – India Program since 2007, Vidya has been working in landscapes of Western Maharashtra where leopards share spaces with humans. A member of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group, she has assisted in formulating state and national level policy guidelines on managing human-leopard conflict. Vidya’s research work has led to an increased awareness of large carnivores outside Protected Areas in India. Vidya was awarded the Carl Zeiss Wildlife Conservation Award in 2011, TN Koshoo Memorial Award in 2012 and the Maharana Udai Singh Award in 2013.
Vinay Kumar M.C.
Mr. Vinay Kumar obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Arts from Bangalore University in 1986. A Customs Officer by profession, he has served as a Union Leader at Customs both at the State and National level.
Vinay joined WCS – India Program in the year 2004 as a volunteer and is currently the Assistant Director for Conservation support and policy. Based in Bangalore, Vinay engages with senior government officials, elected representatives and social leaders to foster conservation support and timely policy interventions, making the best of his skills in interacting with people.
Dr. Divya Vasudev obtained her Masters of Science from the multi-institutional post-graduate program in Wildlife Biology and Conservation in 2006, offered by NCBS in collaboration with WCS – India Program. She obtained her Doctorate from University of Florida in 2013, majoring in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, under the advisement of Dr. Robert J. Fletcher. Her thesis was titled ‘Species Dispersal Behavior and Connectivity in Fragmented Landscapes’.
Divya’s broad-scale interests are in applying scientific research to the conservation of species in fragmented landscapes. As part of her doctoral dissertation research, she formulated a framework for the systematic incorporation of species- and individual-specific traits into our understanding of species dispersal limitations. She then went on to focus on two intrinsic constraints in terms of their influence on our theoretical understanding of connectivity and our practice of connectivity conservation. First, she assessed the influence of mate choice on post-dispersal reproductive success, and hence on shaping spatial patterns on effective dispersal between populations. Second, she used observations on movement behavior of the endangered western hoolock gibbon to prioritize conservation fragments in a heterogeneous landscape. Divya has received awards and grants from multiple institutions including the Bay and Paul Foundation, University of Florida and the Rufford Small Grants Program. She has also been awarded the Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology INSPIRE Faculty Award.
Dr. Varun R. Goswami obtained his Masters in Wildlife Biology and Conservation in 2006 from the multi-institutional graduate program at NCBS-TIFR, Bangalore, offered by NCBS in collaboration with WCS – India Program. He thereafter got his Doctorate from University of Florida in 2013 for his thesis, ‘Of Populations, Habitat and People: The Asian Elephant in a World Fast Changing’. Population ecologist, Dr. Madan K. Oli, was his PhD advisor. Varun has been associated with WCS – India Program since 2003.
Varun’s overarching goal is to work towards the conservation of wildlife and their habitats in its broadest sense. Towards such an end, his research interests are largely applied in nature, and aimed at building a strong scientific basis for conservation action and policy. His Doctorate work was focused on investigating the conservation potential of heterogeneous, human-dominated landscapes for the endangered and conflict-prone Asian elephant. He utilized occupancy and matrix population modeling to provide important insights into the opportunities and challenges of conserving elephants in landscapes that characterize their range across India, and most of Asia. This research builds on Varun’s knowledge and understanding of elephant ecology, as well as his expertise in advanced population estimation and modeling methodologies – his master’s research, which was also focused on the Asian elephant, was the first application of photographic capture-recapture modeling towards reliable estimation of demographic parameters for the species. Varun has received grants from US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and World Wildlife Fund Asian Rhinoceros and Elephant Action Strategy (WWF-AREAS) among others, and awards for outstanding graduate research from the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida.
Imran Siddiqui obtained his Masters in Wildlife Biology and Conservation from NCBS-WCS MSc Programme. He is currently serving as an external expert to guide Forest Departments of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in tiger and prey monitoring.
Imran is credited for the incorporation of 2000 sq km of critical forest habitat of Kawal Wildlife Sanctuary under the Project Tiger. Additionally, he was responsible for increasing the area of Nagarjunasagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve to almost 6000 sq km from 3500 sq km previously.
He has worked extensively in Central Indian Forests for over a decade, and his skills include large mammal surveys, statistical analyses and advanced GIS techniques. With extensive work experience, a deep understanding of the local setting, his existing connections and his technical training, Imran co-founded a HyTiCoS in 2002, and leads a group of volunteers for wildlife conservation.
He has also carried out various capacity building programmes for over 700 frontline staff and has designed short wildlife courses for the Forest Department. He works closely with local tribal communities who he believes are the most important stakeholders in any conservation scheme.
Armed with an unwavering commitment to conservation, Mr. DV Girish has been associated with WCS – India Program as a conservation partner since 1994.
A resident of Chikmagalur, in Karnataka, Girish has worked towards wildlife conservation and intervention by educating and training thousands of people, especially children in the last 20 years. He has played an active role in advocating key conservation interventions in Bhadra landscape in the Western Ghats. He has also been responsible for many positive reforms like rehabilitation of villages from wildlife habitats, to closure of mining, dams, resorts and other commercial projects in Kudremukh. He has helped found Bhadra Wildlife Conservation Trust, Nature Conservation Guild and WildCat-C – locally active conservation groups based in Chikmagalur. He is recognized internationally for his involvement and role in the relocation of 14 villages out of Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary by interacting closely with the people and government institutions.
Girish was conferred with the WCS Service Award in 1998, the Karnataka Rajyotsava District Award in 2001, the Carl Zeiss Wildlife Conservation Award in 2002, and the Tiger Gold award in 2004 in recognition of his outstanding services to wildlife conservation.
Mr. Shekar Dattatri obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Zoology in 1983 and thereafter produced and shot many natural history films for international television channels. He has been honored with national awards in India and at wildlife film festivals in Italy, U.S.A. and Japan among others.
In 1997, Shekar produced and filmed Nagarahole – Tales from an Indian Jungle, a 53-minute natural history documentary on the famed Nagarahole forest in Karnataka, which also featured the work of WCS scientist, K. Ullas Karanth. His film, Mindless Mining – The Tragedy of Kudremukh, was made to augment a campaign by several NGOs allied with WCS – India Program, against iron ore mining within the Kudremukh National Park in the Western Ghats. The hard hitting 12-minute film helped turn the tide of public and political opinion against the mining project. His collaborations with WCS – India Program include Voluntary Resettlement – A Win Win Solution, on the successful resettlement of several hundred families from the Bhadra Tiger Reserve, Monitoring Tigers and their Prey, a training video on tiger and herbivore population estimation techniques, The Truth about Tigers, a first-of-its-kind educational video on tigers and their conservation in India, and 25 Years with Tigers, a 17-minute film that showcases the pioneering research and conservation work of WCS – India Program under the leadership of Dr. Ullas Karanth. Based out of Chennai, Shekar has authored two children’s books on wildlife, and numerous articles on conservation in leading newspapers and magazines. In partnership with Ramki Sreenivasan. he co-founded India’s most popular conservation portal, www.conservationindia.org.
To know more about his work, please visit: www.shekardattatri.com