Today tigers are threatened with extinction and only 7% of tiger habitat remains. Human habitation is the primary reason for this, but the heartening fact is that there are responsible scientists working to reverse this decline. National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) biodiversity ecologist Uma Ramakrishnan is working to save the country’s tigers, and has become the first Indian to win the Parker/Gentry Award presented by the Field Museum. The Parker/Gentry Award honours an individual, team or organisation for outstanding effort in the field of conservation biology. Ramakrishnan is the first Indian to receive the award.
“Uma is an original thinker and innovator,” tiger expert Ullas Karanth, who is the Director for Science Asia at Wildlife Conservation Society, told Mongabay. “I consider her India’s top conservation geneticist, and one of the best in the world.”
Earlier she bagged a Fulbright Fellowship at Stanford University. She is a National Board for Wildlife member and DAE Outstanding Scientist. Ramakrishnan has studied Maths, Physics and Chemistry as an undergraduate. She completed her PhD in Ecology and Evolution (Population Genetics and the Effects of Mating Systems on Genetic Variation) from the University of California, San Diego. She conducted research at Stanford University on the genetic impacts of climatic change.
The 43-year-old professor-turned-scientist who investigates biodiversity, has now concentrated her efforts towards saving the Royal Bengal Tiger. Though India is getting crowded, biodiversity could be maintained by using genomics and modelling landscapes to increase tiger population, says the enthusiastic molecular ecologist. Methods like these allow scientists to explore the past, investigate the present, and come up with more options in order to save tiger populations and improve their numbers in the future.
Ramakrishnan believes that it is our responsibility to work on saving this species and plans to investigate biodiversity in the Western Ghats, Himalayas and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands along with her ongoing project for tigers.
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