AUGUST 2012. BANGALORE

I flew into Bangalore, at the invitation of my old friend Ravi Chellam, to participate in the Student Conference on Conservation Science, held there during the first week of August.  It had been ten years or so--I don't recall exactly, but too long--since my last trip to India.  Great to see Ravi and his wife Bhooma, and to meet so many bright, intellectually hungry, poised and confident young conservation biologists. They were enough to give you hope for the future--which is something I don't say lightly.  During the four days of the conference I heard some very smart and useful talks, including one by Umesh Srinivasan, on understory bird populations in logged habitat, which eventually received a prize for best of the conference.  But I wasn't just there to listen; they put me to work, doing one plenary lecture (on zoonotic diseases, derived from my Spillover research) and two workshops (on science writing for the general public).  The event culminated, on Saturday evening, with a plenary talk by Bittu Sahgal, another old friend of both mine and Ravi's.  Bittu was empassioned and inspirational, as ever.  In closing, he told the next generation of conservation biologists: "I wish you curiosity.  And I wish you courage." 

Immediately following the SCCS meeting, also in Bangalore, was another: The bi-annual meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology,  Asia branch.  Again, hundreds of bright young (and some senior) biologists, not just from India but from all over the region, including Indonesia, Mauritius, and China. Those sessions, plus a good meeting with the tiger biologist Ullas Karanth, plus a quick trip over to Chennai, where I did two more lectures and toured the Madras Crocodile Bank, went far toward filling out this two-week India visit.  They worked me hard (I think it was four lectures, four workshops, and a panel in nine days) and treated me well (plenty of fine Indian food, and I scarcely was allowed to pull out my wallet).  I stayed in a guest-house apartment at the National Center for Biological Sciences, an impressive institution full of researchers and grad students, where my primary host was Sanjay Sane, a brainy and very congenial investigator of the neurophysiology of insect flight.  Another important new contact was Anil Ananthaswamy, science journalist and author of The Edge of Physics, with whom I co-taught a workshop at NCBS.  With friends like all these, I've just got to get back there more frequently.

Put it on your list.  India is one of the most richly engaging, wondrous, and friendly countries in the world.  It's also a crucial place: largest democracy in the world, remember, plus a repository of much biological diversity.