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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Climate Change or Habitat Loss? New Study Weighs Which Influences Birds More

In 1900, on Christmas Day, 27 birders in 25 locations across the United States donned winter gear and binoculars, then stepped outside to list all the birds they could see in 24 hours. They didn’t know it then, but they were launching what would become the world's longest-running community science project on birds. Much has changed since that first count: Global temperatures have risen by 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, the U.S. population has more than quadrupled, and 64 percent o

Translators’ Roundtable: Bringing Science to New Audiences

Today, most breakthrough science is published in English. But in many parts of the world, English is not a native language, making translations essential to bring news, information, and perspectives to diverse audiences. Moving science-focused content across language boundaries requires more than running articles through Google Translate or flipping through a multilingual dictionary in search of a word-for-word translation. Translations have to be both accurate and culturally sensitive—a tough t

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

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:
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