From Past to Present: Reflecting on AYRN over the years

By The AYRN Team

AYRN, the ATREE Young Researchers Network, began its journey in 2016. It has hosted wonderful blog posts by students, staff and interns over the years. As we stand at the threshold of a new year 2021, we are happy that 60+ blog posts have been published reflecting diverse experiences, hopes and struggles in our paths. Let us take a peek into how this journey started…

AYRN was seeded by two enthusiastic doctoral students – Nita Shashidharan and Hita Unnikrishnan – who wanted this blog to be a safe space to encourage young research folks at ATREE to write and share their stories with the ATREE community. They could be academic stories, they could be experiences while in the field, they could be reflections and aspirations as researchers or anything of relevance to the ATREE community. It was based on the premise that we all have stories to tell, and that everyone can write if given a little support, and this can be a place to encourage writing and to share them. 

Nita and Hita were not alone. It started as a joint initiative along with encouraging fellows who volunteered to be faculty reviewers – Ulka Kelkar, Veena Srinivasan and Kartik Shanker. Since then, AYRN has been shaped by many volunteers and faculty reviewers. As of 2020, AYRN has grown to having as many as 8 volunteers – Anjan Katna, Ananda Siddharatha, Anuja Date, Apoorva R., Chitra Lakhera, Nakul Heble, Nita Shashidharan and Vikram Aditya. Our current enthusiastic faculty reviewers are Ankila Hiremath, Veena Srinivasan, Aravind Madhyastha, Soubadra Devy and Durba Biswas. 

AYRN’s journey has seen myriad contributions over the years, thanks to the interest of our young research community and encouraging readership. We take this opportunity to recap and walk you through what you may have missed.

Our earliest contributors shared stories of a trek depicting the Serenity in the Garhwal and the experience with the Conservation Leadership Programme. The top viewed articles over the years have been Soumya K.V.’s Use Your Smartphone Smartly: Apps in Ecological Research, Chandrima Home’s The “Unruly” World: Unearthing the “Madness” in Nature, Anoop N.R.’s Moyar: The Raptor Valley of the Western Ghats and Rathnavel Pandian’s Kannapuram Cattle Market – learnings from an 800 Year Old Institution.

Why not read Ranjeet’s “A Fishy Childhood Tale” or “Arriving At My Field Sites” by Rahul Muralidharan as he tells you about living with artisanal fishers and humpback dolphins? Field stories will take you on a Rendezvous with KMTR, leave you pleasantly surprised with A Pheasant Surprise, make you follow The Case of a Lazy Snow Toad Crossing the Road or the Pawprints in Khandar Fort, or to the tales of human communities, human-environment interactions, conservation and livelihoods: We, the People of Jayanti, Maṅgana kāyile sanśōdhane (Research on Monkey Fever), ‘Garh’, Mahua, Its People and Few Questions, What’s in a Name, and A prayer from the plains for a river from the rains. And also a note on an everyday interaction and observation at ATREE by Obaiah.  

Wait this is not it, there is much more…. 

There are stories that take you to different landscapes a) Banni written by Ovee and Ramya, b) Bastar by Vikram Aditya, c) Pushkar by Priya describing events as well as minute observations that the authors note about the landscapes. Not to forget some interesting notes on field visits, observations and research on diverse species – bats (Landscapes of fear, landscapes of hope), birds (Avian diversity in human-dominated ecosystems in and around Delhi, The Vultures of Moyar), insects (The creepy crawlies that excited me), the Indian pangolin (Burrowing into oblivion, How the cyber revolution is fueling wildlife poaching), frogs (Of Forests, Frogs and Fascinating History), elephants (Memorable Monsters) and rewilding the arctic fox

Have you looked at the posts which talk about how water is closely linked to culture (Erappinkara has lost its sound) or what our water networks look like in mountain towns (Visibility of Water Infrastructure)? Life during unexpected events and calamities have also been penned, including the new normal of wearing the mask, Return of the Stranded, and The Bride and the Flood.

Workshops, conference experiences and visits have also been shared. Thanks to support from the ATREE-Royal Norwegian Embassy grant, ATREEans have also had the opportunity to go to Norway as part of an exchange programme, or have been there for workshops or conferences. They share their experience going solo as well as with family and exploring Norway

Reflections have also been shared by academics asking “How can I help?”, “Why are rights necessary?”, and The “Backstage” of a PhD. An interesting note on art in The ‘Aping’ Monkeys.

We have even had visitors to ATREE share their stories with us. Danielle Lindamood shares her ATREE experience, while Daniel Phillips shared about his work on Biodiversity in Bangalore.

With the amazing library that ATREE has, how can we not be sharing book reviews? We hope that we can share more book recommendations from the avid readers at ATREE in the coming months. Here are two for starters: Tony Joseph’s Early Indians, and Richard Dawkin’s The Ancestor’s Tale.   

Do not miss the poems – Gubbachi, Of Land and Rights – or fiction woven from researchers’ experiences a) as an aid-worker after the 2004 tsunami, and b) the interaction with the administrator (The White Scar). Take a look at our Graffitis (Schrödinger’s data, and What’s the similarity between a unicorn and apolitical ecology?)     

While you enjoy revisiting and reading these stories, we hope that you will be inspired to write and share your thoughts, experiences and reflections. You can check more About AYRN and our Guidelines to know how you can contribute. We look forward to listening and learning from each other as young researchers in our exciting journeys. This new year is time for you to wear your writing hats and join us as AYRN’s journey enters a new phase. Wish you a Happy New Year!

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