Picturesque tea plantations, staggering biodiversity, ancient temples, and delicious food were the highlights of our research trip to India.  As part of the Indo-U.S. 21st Century Knowledge Initiative I traveled to Bengalore to deliver research talks and the Western Ghats in southern India to collect acoustic recordings. The mountain chain of the Western Ghats in southern India is one of the world’s eight “hottest” hotspots of biological diversity.  With high levels of diversity and endemism paired with high land conversion, at least 325 globally threatened (IUCN Red listed) species occur in the Western Ghats. The Ghats are a great example of a tropical monsoon system, intercepting monsoon winds that are blown from the south-west during late summer.  This area faces rapid rates of land conversion for plantations of timber, tea, coffee, and agriculture.

I visited bioacoustic expert Rohini Balakrishnan at the Indian Institute of Science and ventured into the field with butterfly expert Krushnamegh Kunte.  With Krushnamegh’s team, we explored remnant forest stands on tea plantations in contrast with organic, shade-grown coffee and cardamom plantations.  Along with researcher Robin Vijayan we examined acoustic diversity (driven by the diversity of sound-producing birds and insects) in different land-use types.

Overall, my experience in southern India was an immersive learning experience facilitated by an amazing group of researchers.