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Centre for Ecological Sciences

The Pests of Pests: Relationships between Termites, Parasites and Mutualists

Relationships between various organisms stem to achieve an ultimate objective - survival. In mutualistic relationships, all involved in the relationship help each other survive, whereas in parasitic relationships, only one of those have an upper hand. But in spite of this chaos, how does nature maintain a balance? In a new study, scientists have studied examples of such relationships between termites and fungi - both mutualistic and parasitic - and have uncovered some interesting strategies adopted by these fungi to survive and thrive.

Research says unscientific dumping of waste is affecting Bengaluru’s lakes and wells

“There is no such thing as ‘away’. When we throw something, it must go somewhere”, said Annie Leonard, a famous critic of consumerism. But what happens around “somewhere” when we throw out our wastes? A recent study by a team of researchers at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, has analyzed the composition of the water that passes through landfills and has dissolved and suspended matter from it, called leachate, from the infamous Mavallipura landfill and has examined its effects on the nearby lakes and wells. Prof. T. V. Ramachandra from the Centre for infrastructure, Sustainable Transportation and Urban Planning (CiSTUP) and his team have also highlighted the resulting ill effects and suggested some steps to minimize the same.

Can Lantana Be Weeded Out? Study Says No

A team of Indian ecologists has found that completely eradicating the common weed, Lantana camara, one of the world’s worst invasive plant species, is going to be much harder than previously thought. This study finds that removing lantana poses a major challenge in the Indian landscape owing to its easy dispersal by fruit eating birds. A group of researchers from the Nature Conservation Foundation, Wildlife Institute of India, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Indian Institute of Science from India and CSIRO Land and Water, Australia jointly conducted the study.

The color ‘decoder’

Charles Darwin, in his treatise ‘On the Origin of Species (1853)’, introduced the world to the struggle individuals partake to survive the hostilities of the environment and most strikingly, the sheer diversity and extravagance of natural forms and colors that appear to defy strategies of survival. Over the past century and a half since Darwin, great strides have been made to uncover the hidden complexities in a species’ survival and reproductive game. Spirited new breeds of modern evolutionary biologists have been relentlessly invested in streamlining and magnifying the foci of their investigations. Bolstering such endeavors, novel syntheses and approaches are gradually unveiling the rules of the survival game that species and individuals play by.

Scientists identify environmental factors that constrain Mudumalai forest fires.

In the month of May, over 6000 personnel from the National Disaster Relief Force were deployed for rescue operations in Garwhal and Kumaon districts in Uttarakhand. A rather uncommon, unappreciated disaster had struck that region – forest fires. A recent study by researchers at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore is a significant step towards understanding the cause of devastating forest fires.

Understanding Volatile Communication in the Plant Kingdom

Do plants talk? Contrary to popular beliefs, plants are as equally adept in the art of signalling and communication as their animal counterparts. Prof. Renee M. Borges from the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, has spent many years delving on the many aspects of plants communication and their language.

Malaria- it is not just a human disease

Our world is changing - too much and too fast. Species are moving into higher latitudes and altitudes, often carrying new infectious agents with them. As climate changes, vectors of infectious diseases such as mosquitoes, often find themselves in excellent breeding environmental conditions for extended periods of time. They thrive in these altered climatic conditions, and so do the diseases they carry. Many of these vectors infect wild populations of birds. Many aspects influence disease transmission in birds - evolutionary history of the species, whether it is a migratory or non-migratory species, whether it evolved in isolation (such as on an island) or the mainland (where it was exposed to many parasites), the presence and diversity of vectors (mosquitoes and other arthropods) in its habitat, the structure and composition of the forest it inhabits, and climatic variables that influence bird migration and vector breeding.

Understanding Insect Talk

The first land animals to communicate using sound were, in all probability, insects. Insect acoustics is an exciting field of study that addresses questions such as how insects use their sounds to communicate, how different are the 'languages' or the 'words' that various insects use and how acoustic signals are interpreted by them. An expert in this discipline is Prof. Rohini Balakrishnan from the Center for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

Getting richer as you go higher: New Insights on Soil Variability in a Dry Tropical Forest

“Each soil has its own history”, wrote Charles Kellogg in his book The Soils that Support Us (1956). Indeed, there are several processes happening in the background that are responsible for the dynamic nature of the soils that support our forests and agriculture. These processes can give rise to variations in the soils that are evident in as little as a kilometre in the same geographic area, as examined by a team of scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The variation in the soil, also known as soil heterogeneity, plays an important role in forest ecology. The spatial differences in the soil may ensure that the same substrate can be differentially utilized by multiple species, thus enabling co-existence of diverse plants and maintenance of the community structure.

Scientists decipher a wasp’s way back home

Suppose you were blindfolded and dropped off in a strange place, will you ever be able to get back home?

For us, the ‘intelligent’ Homo sapiens, the answer would depend on where you are stranded. If you are close to a human inhabited region, and you possess certain technological devices – the product of our intellectuality, chances are high that you can return safely. But for the little Indian Paper Wasp, it seems that many of the foragers can return, when displaced within a certain radius. This unique ability of these wasps has attracted scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, to study the homing behavior of the wasps – the ability of certain animals to navigate through unfamiliar areas towards known territory, or to its nest.