A bit about myself...

I am an award-winning science journalist, writer and communicator based out of Toronto, Canada. I write about everything science—from neurons to neutrinos. I also write a monthly column for Deccan Heraldwriting about my journey with my dog Pippi, and other animals, and how breakthroughs in science guides it. Prior to jumping into the freelance world, I worked as the Managing Editor at Research Matters, a multi-lingual science-news portal from India. I report on published research, interview scientists, write opinion pieces and features and produce podcasts. My words have appeared in Science, Deccan Herald, Research Matters, The Print, The Daily Pioneer, Factor Daily and AGU Blogosphere.

I am a recipient of the AAAS EurekAlert! Fellowships for International Science Reporters 2019, and the Asian Scientist Writing Prize, 2017 in the 'Merit Prize' category. I am also a member of the National Association of Science Writers (NASW) and the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ). I can be reached on spoorthyraman[AT]pm[dot]me.

Below are some of my articles written for various outlets. 

Trials and tribulations of scientific research

In the past few weeks, news of scientific malpractice at one of India’s premier research institutes, the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bengaluru, has stirred up a storm in academic circles. Social media is awash with reports of malpractice, forgery, academic bullying, harassment and toxic work cultures in institutes and labs across the country. For many researchers, this incident has brought back memories of their own struggles, either as witnesses or victims of such practices.

With animals, ecosystems flourish

Animals are nature’s fascinating engineers, building some of the magnificent structures known to us. Giant termite mounds, elaborate anthills and robust dams constructed by some of these animals show their might. But animals can do much more — they can also restore ecosystems to their former grandeur, which is most likely lost due to human activities. Humans have damaged most of the world’s ecosystems in the last few centuries, from the frigid Arctic tundra to the tropical rainforests and ever

Watch grizzly bears run on treadmills—and find out why they like hiking trails

If you’ve ever worried a bear might be after your picnic basket, you may want to take the hardest, hilliest trail to your destination. That’s the take-home message of a new study, in which researchers got nine bears to run on treadmills—a first for science—and found that they, like their laziest human counterparts, prefer flat paths to save energy. The study, scientists say, may help explain why bears are often found around popular hiking trails. Grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) need to

What is at stake with India’s first cheetah sanctuary?

If everything goes as planned over the year, the Kuno-Palpur National Park in Madhya Pradesh could become the country’s first-ever cheetah sanctuary. As it awaits the arrival of six to eight cheetahs from Namibia, the authorities are gearing up for the welcome. Although the plan of bringing cheetahs to India was in the works for more than a decade, it came close to a realisation after the Supreme Court’s nod in January 2020. The now-6,800 km2 expanse of the proposed landscape aimed for a bigger

Dams spell doom for freshwater fish

The picturesque mountains of the Western Ghats, with its pristine rivers and lush green forests, are a treat to the eyes. Innumerable plants and animals, some of which are found nowhere else in the world, call these mountains home. Most rivers that flow in South India, including the Godavari, Krishna, Tunga, Bhadra, Cauvery and Netravati originate in these mountains. Over the last several decades, this biodiversity hotspot, like many others around the world, has been plagued by habitat loss, err

What does it take to discover geckos?

On a warm summer evening in 2007, Dr Ishan Agarwal, a herpetologist, was scouting the hillocks of Rishi Valley in Andhra Pradesh. Eyeing his favourite creatures, the lizards, he looked for them under rocks, between crevices, and in thorny bushes. Ishan spotted several lizards—some of which he had seen before and could recollect their names. But, there were two that he could not put his finger on, and he began his quest to find out more. After 13 years of spotting them, this year, he and his coll

Too close for comfort: Proximity to humans is significantly affecting the behaviours of lion-tailed macaques

The Lion-tailed macaque, an endemic species of primates in the Western Ghats. [Image credits: Ganesh Raghunathan] Warning: This article contains images showing animal injuries that may be disturbing to some readers. In the Annamalai hills of Valparai, Western Ghats, lives a species of primates found nowhere else on the planet—the lion-tailed macaques. For thousands of years, they have lived a life of frolic—jumping from tree to tree in the canopy of the rainforest and feasting on their favouri

Kerala wraps up Asia’s biggest bird survey

A group of enthusiastic birders take part in the survey for Kerala Bird Atlas. [Image credits: Kerala Bird Atlas] Over a thousand birdwatchers, working for over five years, complete Kerala’s first Bird Atlas. In 2015, a group of bird enthusiasts from Kerala decided to start a new endeavour—creating a bird atlas that can map the distribution and abundance of various birds across the entire state. Little did they know that this effort, of 600 days, would turn into Asia’s largest such endeavour.

Toxic pollutants in the air are taking the toll on pollinating insects

New findings show air pollution is affecting the survival, health and genes of honeybees in Bengaluru. Honey, where are the bees? They seem to have gone, away from the trees! For the air in the cities is mal, Choking and killing 'em all! It’s not just the bees. In reality, most insects are dying at a never-seen-before rate, and the world is heading towards an insect apocalypse. In the last three decades, the insect population has silently but surely dwindled by a quarter across the globe. I

Snakebites killed an estimated 1.2 million people in India between 2001-2020

Bengaluru: On a day in June 2020, a father and his two sons finished their dinner and fell asleep in their hut in a remote village in Madhya Pradesh. Little did they know that it would be their last night, for a venomous snake was lurking inside. Come morning, the villagers discovered the three dead due to snakebites. Although an antivenom, given on time, could have saved their lives, it was too late for the three hapless souls. Incidents of snakebites and resulting deaths are no rarity in Indi

The sorry tale of snakebites in India

Russell’s viper (Daboia russelii), a venomous snake responsible for half the deaths due to snakebites in India [Image credits: Chandranuj/ CC BY-SA 4.0] On a day in June 2020, a father and his two sons finished their dinner and fell asleep in their hut in a remote village in Madhya Pradesh. Little did they know that it would be their last night, for a venomous snake was lurking inside. Come morning, the villagers discovered the three dead due to snakebites. Although an antivenom, given on time,

Researchers discover a new species of ribbon worm from Chennai’s Kovalam beach

The Kovalam beach on the outskirts of the Chennai is a quaint fishing village with historical significance. Once a port town, it was conquered by the British and the French when they set foot in India. The bustling fishing village now draws visitors who want to spend an evening watching the waves dance. Despite the many footfalls, it could also be thriving with biodiversity, as researchers have discovered a new species of ribbon worm in the rocky beach of Kovalam. In a recent collaborative stud

Partner or perpetrator: Understanding the causes and consequences of intimate partner violence in adolescents

Numb, bruised and in pain, she tried getting up. It was a cold night, and the hallway was dark. The last thing she remembered was she being pushed down the stairs after an argument about who would do the dishes. The dinner was a happy time. There was her special biryani and his most-liked murgh makhani. Their favourite sit-com was running on Netflix—something they enjoyed from their dating days. They were discussing her thesis and his semester exams—both due in a couple of days. But, it soon tur

With humans around, dogs on the street tend to be friendlier

Researchers show how free-ranging dogs modify their behaviour and personalities based on our presence in urban areas. When we started building cities, about ten thousand years ago, little did we think about the creatures that shared the space with us! Like it or not, our bustling cities are home to a few species of birds, insects, reptiles and mammals, who have successfully adapted to cope with the madness around. Studies have shown that lizards, birds and moths have all devised innovative stra

What influences coronaviruses’ survival on different surfaces?

Researchers find how temperature, humidity and properties of different surfaces influence the evaporation rates of respiratory droplets infected with COVID-19. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world, there is a frenzy of guidelines advocating us to go ‘contactless’. We are urged to use masks, maintain distance from others and avoid touching anything while stepping out. This respiratory illness, caused by a kind of coronavirus, is thought to spread through respiratory droplets of infe

Tackling India’s post-COVID-19 challenges through science

COVID-19, the pandemic that has shaken the world, will perhaps change our lives forever. Often, we now talk of a ‘pre-COVID’ world, where business was as usual, and a ‘post-COVID’ world which is the new normal. While the disease, caused by a tiny virus, has affected millions, it has also brought to fore some often-ignored challenges and opportunities to build a better tomorrow. Science has been in the forefront, driving these monumental changes across the world—from understanding the virus and d

A hardware neuron to help ‘brain-like’ computers solve difficult problems

Researchers develop a powerful stochastic neuron, like those in our brain, using random access memory to aid breakthroughs in artificial intelligence In 2013, Amazon, the world’s biggest online retailer, announced its Amazon PrimeAir service, where drones, flying to your doorstep, would deliver your package in under 30 minutes of ordering. Fascinating? If reports are true, this service could be only a few months away. Advances in machine learning technologies have made innovations like automate

Machine learning helps monitor crop growth

Researchers use radar data from satellites to estimate parameters that determine the growth of soy and wheat. The eyes of satellites see what we cannot. Google Street View, for example, takes you virtually to a street that could be thousands of miles away and puts you in the centre of a road. It does so by using satellite data that captures every detail of the planet at a very high resolution. Many such remote sensing satellites are used for military applications too. In a recent study, researc
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