Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, USA
University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun
Wildlife Conservation Society, USA
Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
I have been fascinated by nature and science since my childhood. Why there is so much diversity in life and how they co-exist, compete and evolve into new species has always fascinated me. I have been an avid birdwatcher since as an undergraduate. My passion for birds (owls in particular), science and conservation which started early when growing up in Delhi, watching wildlife documentaries, learning about long distance migration of Siberian cranes to the only wintering site in India intrigued me a lot. My father has been the strongest driving force who gently pushed me to follow my dreams to study birds and to take up wildlife ecology as career which was considered at that time as something of a wild goose-chase!! I am very glad to be able to combine both my hobby and profession which gives me the best of both worlds.
I worked for a non-profit research organisation, exploring the ecology of a rediscovered owl species (Forest Owlet, Heteroglaux blewitti) which had been thought to be extinct for 113 years. Subsequently, I worked as national coordinator to develop a network of scientists, amateur birdwatchers and government officials interested in bird conservation in India.This professional engagement opened up applied conservation career options, but my heart was more in research and academia. I found a postdoc position at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, where I could learn cutting-edge techniques applicable to conservation research. I became part of the leading research team, exploring the origin of avian malaria on Hawaii islands, using molecular techniques. Avian malaria has sadly led to the recent extinction of many native bird species in Hawaii. By the third year of my postdoc, I had authored several papers in leading journals. Driven by my curiosity to explore bird malaria in remote island systems, I joined the University of Oxford and was also awarded a Marie Curie Fellowship to study avian malaria colonisation on a number of south Pacific islands. Both these postdocs provided life changing experiences and shaped my career to becoming a competent evolutionary biologist.
I really wanted an academic career in India where I could apply my experience and developing new research ideas. I was awarded a competitive Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance Fellowship which allowed me to select a host institution in India and provided me sufficient funding to establish an independent laboratory to study the ecology and evolution of emerging infectious diseases in wild bird populations.