I have been passionate about wildlife ever since I was young. I used to love observing insects, amphibians and birds but like many others in my position, I did not know about a potential career in Ecology. When the time came to make a career choice, I decided to become an engineer hoping that an aptitude for mathematics would translate into interest in engineering, and in my case, mechanical engineering. Engineering never had me excited and the moment I found out about this MSc, I jumped at the chance. Nevertheless, I do not regret having done engineering as I realize now that a strong mathematical and quantitative background is invaluable in Ecology and in all science.

Before my MSc, I worked in Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh and developed a keen interest in Tropical Ecology. I am broadly interested in processes which maintain spatial structure and diversity in tropical forests. My dissertation research in Namdapha TR, Arunachal Pradesh, guided by Dr. Aparajita Datta and Dr. Suhel Quader, focused on fine-scale heterogeneity in patterns of seed dispersal by birds and on the selection pressures which avian dispersers exert on seed size. I also investigated whether post-dispersal survival of seeds was density-dependent at these fine scales.

I feel that mathematical methods can be used to generate very insightful predictions about the impacts of various processes on spatial structure in tropical forests. I worked with Dr. Vishwesha Guttal at Indian Institute of Science (IISc) on characterizing patterns of vegetation and identifying early warning signs of regime shifts in semi-arid ecosystems. In the future with the help of mathematics, I would like to study the impact of the loss of large dispersers on patterns of seed dispersal, plant traits, post-dispersal processes and the spatial distribution and diversity of affected species.

I began my PhD at ETH Zurich in January 2014 supervised by Dr. Robert Bagchi and Dr. Jaboury Ghazoul. I am studying the role of specialized biotic interactions in facilitating coexistence between tree species and the effects of forest fragmentation on these biotic interactions which regulate tree diversity. My field work is in the contiguous and fragmented forests of South Coorg and Sakleshpur in Karnataka.


Current Designation/Affiliation:

Ph.D. Student, Ecosystem Management Group, Institute of Terrestrial Ecosystems, ETH Zurich (January 2014 – )



M.Sc. Wildlife Biology and Conservation, National Center for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bangalore (2010-2012)

B.E. (Honours), Mechanical Engineering, Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences (BITS), Pilani (2005-2009)

Indian School Certificate Examinations (ISC), The Frank Anthony Public School, Bangalore (2003 – 2005)      

Indian Certificate of Secondary Education Examination (ICSE), Sishu Griha Public School, Bangalore ( – 2003)


Academic and Work Experience:

Project Assistant, Theoretical Ecology and Evolution Lab, Indian Institute of Science (October 2012 – December 2013)

Santa Fe Institute Complex Systems Summer School 2013, Zapallar, Chile (11 to 21 November 2013)

Research Assistant, Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore (April-May 2010)

Research Associate, Tripura Forest Department, Tripura (February-March 2010)

Research Assistant, Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore (August-October 2009)



Incorporating the effect of fruit crop size in the dispersal kernel of a bird dispersed tree: how important is a temporally explicit approach? (In prep.)

Dispersers exert selection pressures on seed size of Prunus ceylanica (In prep.)

Seed dispersal by avian frugivores: non-random heterogeneity at fine scales (Accepted 2014, Biotropica)

Observations on the diet and foraging behaviour of purple cochoas Cochoa purpurea (Accepted 2014, Forktail)

Naniwadekar, R., Viswanathan, A., Kumar, R., & Dalvi, S. 2013. First record of Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami from India. Indian BIRDS 8(5) 134-135

Naniwadekar, R., Shukla, U., Viswanathan, A., & Datta, A. 2013. Records of small carnivores from in and around Namdapha National Park, Arunachal Pradesh, India. Small Carnivore Conservation 49 1-8



National Talent Search (NTSE) Scholar (2003)

Ranked 83 in the 5th National Science Olympiad (2003)

Ranked 6 in the Karnataka Regional Mathematics Olympiad (2004). Received Training for the Indian National Mathematics Olympiad in the Department of Mathematics, Indian Institute of Science (IISc)

Among 20 students selected worldwide to participate in the SFI Complex Systems Summer School in Zapallar, Chile, from 11 to 21 November 2013

Received the 2nd runners up award for a poster presented in the Students Conference on Conservation Science (SCCS 2012), Bangalore