Vulture toxic drugs linger

Diclofenac and other banned vulture-killing drugs are still found in pharmacies, posing a threat to the slowly-recuperating populations of the bird in India, writes Spoorthy Raman
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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

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

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.

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,

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

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

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

A scientist who was a spy?

Samanth Subramanian’s biography is a fascinating portrait of his distinguished scientific career and remarkable life. Haldane is well known for applying statistical methods to show how discrete changes in genes produce a smooth curve of continuous evolution. In the very first chapter of his book, Subramanian tells us what made Haldane “one of the most famous scientists of his age”. It wasn’t just his science, but his writing and politics. Haldane made a point to meticulously reply to every lett

A nuclear war between India and Pakistan could threaten global food security

Since Independence, India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads over Kashmir, a region both countries claim to be theirs. The two countries have made several attempts to find a 'solution' to the Kashmir problem, including three major wars, mediation by the United Nations and other countries, and bilateral dialogues. Yet, the 'solution' has been elusive, leading to the two countries stockpiling nuclear armaments. In recent years, the tension has escalated, pushing them to the brink of a full-blow

Nurturing a support system for India’s women scientists

Today is National Science Day—a day to celebrate the spirit of science and scientific temper across the county. It is a day to commemorate Sir C V Raman’s discovery of the Raman effect. This year, the theme of National Science Day is ‘Women in Science’, celebrating the contributions of women scientists to the field of science in India. However, there is a bit of irony here, considering Sir Raman’s view of women and their ability to contribute to science. The good news, however, is that these no

India's year in Science 2019

While looking forward to 2020, the editorial team at Research Matters looks back on some of the interesting stories that we published during 2019. There were many interesting ones ranging from the first photograph of a black hole to air pollution in Delhi to using vibrations for painless injections. Here is a list to highlight India's year in science during 2019. This is in no way ranked and the order is just incidental. 1. The tale of a lizard’s stripes and colourful tail Why this stands out:

2019: The Year in Science

In line with Newton’s famous quote, “standing on the shoulders of giants”, this year, science has made considerable advances, building on feats of the past. Discoveries, insights and inventions in astronomy, biology, medicine, paleontology and physics marked the year... This year revealed some fantastic facts about our ancient ancestors, the Denisovans, who lived about 100,000 years ago. So far, we knew about them through scrap fossils from the Denisova cave in Siberia, Russia. This year, resea

Indian research barely covered on social media, finds study

About three hundred million and racing towards a billion! Yes, that’s the number of Facebook users in India, the highest in any country. With the number of Internet users in the country projected to reach 627 million in 2019, Indians are increasing their footprints in most social media platforms. However, there seems to be one crucial community, who should, but may have not yet caught on to this trend—our scientists. If the results of a new study are any indication, Indian research coverage on s

Fighting floods the 'expert' way

During the fag end of 2015, Chennai experienced severe floods resulting in the death of about 500 people and economic losses of about INR 50,000 crores. The flooding stranded the city and was termed a 'man-made disaster' resulting from irresponsible water management and rapid urbanisation. The northeast monsoon of the year left most parts of South India marooned, exposing how vulnerable our cities are to such catastrophes. Soon after, with a team of scientists from various institutes across the

Bursting the Bubble of India’s ‘rising’ Women Workforce

Study finds younger women in India do not have better jobs than their mothers India brims with pride for being the fastest growing economy in the world, clocking a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 6-7% over the past five years. Estimates predict that this number could more than triple to a whopping 27% if the women were treated on par with men. Today, a mere 26.97% of India’s women are in the workforce, and our gender discrimination is so high that we rank an abysmal 127 among the 18

India’s computer science graduates: High in quantity and low in quality, finds study

In India, the 21st century began with much hype around the prospect of information technology revolutionising every aspect of the country. Consequently, ‘well-meaning’ parents of most college-going student pressurised their wards to pursue computer science and related fields of study, irrespective of their interest. After all, a degree in computer science came with a promise of well-paid jobs and high flying career, possibly in a foreign country. Of course, they were not wrong. With information
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