Agasthya 6.2 Studying the unseen world
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Centre for Excellence in Conservation Science
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Just the thought was enough to take me out of the packed schedule of course work and tons of reading material. We were going on a field trip to learn plant-animal interactions at Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. After all, going to the fields and to actually experience the world around is a different kind of education in itself. We had been listening about the place and the various plant-animal interactions for a long time throughout the theory classes. The interactions which had stuck in mind were related to the mammals eating and pollinating Cullenia flowers, the spiny-dormouse feeding on Myristica fruits, and the syndrome of white colored scented flowers blooming in evening which attracted moths. We wanted to see all of these!

Now, after completing the course, I realized that we never did see all of these directly. We saw the forest floor spread with fruits eaten by the dormouse, we saw the white flowers but without the moths, and we saw Cullenia, without flowers. We did a study of herbivory which involved beetles and a tree. We could not see the beetle but we spent couple of weeks looking at perforated leaves. We saw a plant which offers brooding sites for small beetles; it was amazing to see tiny insects crawl out of their chambers.

I realized a few things more. First, although my mind was set to see a mammal interacting with plants, the tiny world of insects was as grand. Looking at the perforated leaves of a tree might sound boring but it is not so once you start unraveling the patterns. Secondly, the seasons play important role in the interactions and it takes effort to be at the site at the right season and at the right time. Most importantly, it is the mystery within these interactions which urges the researcher to know more about it. These interaction are often subtle, we don't even understand that our crops are pollinated by bees, or the scent or color of the flowers is not just for us to enjoy but for the variety of pollinators which visit them, nor do we see the small dormouse which steals the fruits and yet the trees grow numerous and tall. We don't need to see these mysteries to appreciate them, but just a glimpse is enough to stir an indolent mind and body into action.



Editorial Team
Editor: Allwin Jesudasan
Associate editor: Rajkamal Goswami
Editorial Review: R. Ganesan, M. Soubadra Devy, T. Ganesh
Design and presentation: Kiran Salagame

Volume 6,  Issue 2
      April 2012

A S H O K A   T R U S T   F O R   R E S E A R C H   I N   E C O L O G Y   A N D   T H E   E N V I R O N M E N T

Studying the unseen world
- Ovee Thorat
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