Monday, July 22, 2013

Establishing My Roots In Bengaluru

Sunday evening last, my airplane landed in the fading light of Bengaluru, located in the Southeastern corner of the state of Karnataka. Exhausted from traveling and slightly overwhelmed by the exclamations of families greeting one another and the calls cab drivers attempting to snag passengers, I was nevertheless so excited to have finally made it to the country I had always dreamed of visiting. I hopped in a cab and directed him to the Indian Institute of Science, or TATA Institute as they call it here, and sat back to look out the window and take inn the sights and sounds (mostly of horns honking). Vani, one of the PhD studentsI with whom I am working here, greeted me when I arrived, set me up in my one room, one loo living quarters and wished me goodnight. After all the months of communication, preparation and anticipation I was finally here, and I was anxious!

Since hat first day of uncertainty and uneasiness, I have come a long way. The first few days were spent settling into campus; finding my way around the wooded pants (though I still get lost) and getting to know the members of the lab and a sense of the work they do. About half work in the field studying more broad scale projects such as human-elephant conflict in crop raiding, migratory patterns and nerd demographics. The other half works here in the lab at a more molecular level, analyzing dung samples for stress hormone expression and the gene associated with tusk development. As different in focus and magnitude as all this research seems, it really is an intertwined relationship bet ween the fundamental  genetics of the elephant and how this influences it's behavior in its natural environment and human interactions, and consequently how these interactions impact it's biological functions. There is such a wealth of information to take in here form the Centre for Ecological Studies, and I'm trying my best to expose my self to as much as possible. 

The weekend was spent strolling through the neighborhood of Malleswaram, one of the most well known and recommended in the city. Despite the constant threat of monsoon rains, the streets were full of weekend shoppers at the garment stands and the produce and flower markets. And of course a good amount of time and energy went into trying as many types of delicious new dishes of curries and breads and sweets as I could. I don't think that my palette will ever refuse the cuisine here.

The past days have been spent reading up on many articles about every aspect of Asian and African elephants, and working in the lab. Today was an exciting day since the PCR reaction (DNA identification and amplification) that has not been successful for one of the girls I'm working with in the lab turned out perfectly. This success takes us one step further in gathering data to understand crop raiding; when elephants enter farm or plantar property to eat. Ill be working more on this experiment this week before preparing to go out in the field station situated amongst the forest habit and farmland. 

Photos of my travels to come! Love to everyone back at home and big thanks to the SISA program for this fantastic opportunity as well as the generosity and support of every one in Dr. Sukumar's lab here at TATA.

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