Please tell us about yourself. How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
I grew up on a farm, and went to a school (The Valley School, Bangalore) that was a hundred acre campus of wilderness. A leopard frequented our school, and we even sold plaster casts of its pugmarks at our annual school mela. The school cowshed had to shut down because the leopard ate most of the cows over time; elephants occasionally raided the banana plantations; and wild boars were a nuisance to say the least. In retrospect, I think we were rather lucky none of us got attacked by the leopard, but I suppose it was this sort of exposure in my childhood that converted my interest into my pursuing a masters’ degree in wildlife biology.
What did you study?
Iam a trained conservationist with a major in wildlife biology and conservation from India’s prestigious National Centre for Biological Sciences, WCS (Wildlife Conservation Soceity, India). I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Bangalore in 2005 and received a Masters’ Degree from the University of Manipal in 2008.
After completing a rather dull bachelors in environmental science (and chemistry and zoology), I volunteered and then worked at the Centre for Wildlife Studies in Bangalore. My first dip in the deep was to stare at photographs of leopard spots and match the spots to individual animals. I then participated in a massive state-wide tiger distribution survey that CWS was conducting, and got to visit and survey many of Karnataka’s forests over that time.
For my masters’ thesis, I used photographic capture data to estimate abundance of small carnivores and mid-sized nocturnal mammals in a protected area in the Western Ghats.
Tell us about your career path
Post-masters, I became interested in the bigger picture and policy research, particularly the policy implications of climate change negotiations on forest conservation. As part of my work at the Centre for Social Markets, I tracked India and the UN climate negotiations, running up to the Copenhagen Conference in late 2009. These gave me an insight into global policy-making, and observe decision-making that would affect the way we dealt with planetary systems and resources in the future.
In early 2011, I had the opportunity of a lifetime I would think: interning at the office of the Minister for Environment and Forests, Government of India. Here I was allowed to work on policy and governance matters ranging from forest conservation to climate change, and from sustainability to improving governance. I was being given the chance to observe and contribute to national environment policy first hand – something I had only dreamed of while working on climate policy advocacy.