My favorite podcasts

I only recently started listening to podcasts – I guess ever since I started commuting to office by bus. My topics of interest were – wildlife conservation, natural history, adventure and science. So, I started looking for recommendations and have discovered some accidentally.  Note that all these podcasts are available on Google Play and should probably be available on iTunes too.


So here’s the list:

BirdNote : This is a daily 2-minute podcast on birds. Each episode is packed with bird sounds and nuggets of information about bird conservation and natural history. For those 2 minutes, I am transported to the magical world of birds. That’s how good the production quality is of this podcast.

Favorite episode: Old and new memories of black-capped chickadees

the Dirtbag diaries : I was a little averse to subscribing to an adventure podcast because of the high bar professional athletes set and make me feel insufficient. But, much to my delight, the Dirtbag diaries is about experiences in the outdoors from people of all walks of life. And, not just the about the likes of Alex Honnold.

Favorite episode: Zarsian adventures

Eyes on Conservation : This is a great podcast exploring wildlife conservation issues in N.America. Most episodes are in an interview/radio show format.

Favorite episode: How an Endangered Species can Help Solve a Missing Persons Case?

Radiolab : A popular podcast that often tackles wacky science topics – entertaining is all I have to say!

Favourite episode: Stereotype threat

Our warm regards : A podcast long avoided since it tackles CLIMATE CHANGE, as I felt it would fill me with gloom. The podcast – despite the gloomy vibe that comes with weight of the topic – is an authoritative yet simple resource on tackling various aspects of climate change in our lives.

Favourite episode: Thanksgiving thoughts: Do you waste more or less food than most people?

Mongabay newscast : Mongabay in my opinion has by far the best reporting on biodiversity conservation issues on the internet. Their newscast is a great addition to their articles. Most episodes have a section on the latest news about biodiversity issues and an interview with who’s who of the conservation world.

Favorite episode: Amazon tribe’s traditional medicine encyclopedia gets an update, and conservation effectiveness in Madagascar examined

Urban wildlife podcast : The name says it all. Why do I like it? I can relate to the content , living( & observing nature) in a city and the content is fantastic.

Favorite episode: Robin in Rome

Well, that’s the list and I hope you found something you like! Lastly, I do feel I am missing awesome podcasts from several regions of the world – whole continents in fact. So, feel free to recommend your favorite podcasts on any topic – I’m in the market for more podcasts.

Happy listening! 

Vivek’s citizen science and camera trapping experiences

Snapshot Wisconsin

In this post, I’ll be talking a little bit about my experiences with citizen science and camera trapping projects prior to joining Snapshot Wisconsin.

Before I decided to become a wildlife conservation professional, I was involved with citizen science projects as a volunteer. I found pleasure in natural history, making observations and collecting data for scientists. This was my contribution to saving the world, I thought! As a volunteer, I have done large mammal surveys in India, from counting tiger prey species to collecting carnivore scat. I learned a lot from participating in these projects. More than anything else, I think they provided a welcome distraction from my day job as a software programmer *chuckle*.

Here’s a misty morning scene from Nagarhole National Park, while I waited for the survey start time of 6 am.

I was also involved with conservation groups in the Western Ghats landscape of India. One…

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~ Todo tranquilo en Manabí ~

So, since my first post which gave away a sense of chaos, we(as in Ivan and I) have now settled into a rhythm and are on home run. Things always seem easier the second time around, right? We know the camera trap locations, we know the land owners, we know the escape routes. Todo tranquilo! What it also means is that we are wrapping up our field time in the Manabí coast. We have 6 cameras to review next week and we are done! And, in less than two weeks I’ll be back home in Texas with Deepika! Super chévere!!!

But, before we get there, I have some exciting finds from the field to talk about. From our camera traps on private properties, we have recorded margays, ocelots, tamanduas and jaguarundi! These properties have never been systematically surveyed for mammals and is exciting news for the biological corridor envisioned by Ceiba foundation.

Some pictures from our cameras. You see what I see?


While field work has gotten easier, it never is easy. We wasted a whole day of trekking because we had the wrong co-ordinates on our GPS unit! So, we reached the locations, frantically looked for our cameras and came empty handed. Chuta! But, that was one day and we learnt our lesson soon. On this fateful day, to add to our woes, we have some chainsaws go off in a distance. On one hand you cant find your cameras and on the other the goofy situation of coming across illegal loggers. Luckily, no hola! with the loggers and we returned to the reserve dejected.

Looking back, the 7 weeks of field time have been fun and a great learning experience. However now, towards the end it feels like a slog. I have always enjoyed field work, but I cannot say the same this time. The long walks in tight vegetation filled spaces has taken a toll. Luckily, in Ivan, I have an amazing compañero. He is always cool and collected – invaluable qualities in these conditions.

Ivan and I on a field day


Prepping for my final presentation is the next big step. I plan to detail all I have done in Ecuador and what it means for me and the foundation. Analyzing camera trap data is one of the deliverables we will continue to work on.

Outside work, we have been making day trips exploring beaches around the Pacific coast. Last weekend, we took a longer break and decided to explore parts of Machalilla National Park. Machalilla is Ecuador’s only coastal national park and is a gem of a landscape. We took a boat tour of Isla De La Plata- dubbed as mini Galapagos-  a small island included in the national park. No giant land turtles or sea lions here. But, we got to observe hump back whales, green sea turtles, blue-footed boobies, frigate birds and more.

We have one more week at the Lalo Loor preserve. One more week to catch a glimpse of the amazing wildlife we have here. Some critters from the reserve below:

So, wrapping up, we will be doing the last of our camera reviews and handing over the process to the field staff to continue the survey. And, then I make my way to Quito. A couple of days in the the Ecuadorian Andes and then I fly out.

PS: If you plan to visit Ecuador, please consider travelling to the beautiful Manabí coast. Hit by a massive earthquake in 2016, the region is slowly but surely recovery. I urge you to support the region with your tourism $$.

Thanks for stopping by! Hasta pronto!

Ecuador: The First Three Weeks


Moving on from my initial post, I started for Ecuador on the 24th of May. The delayed flight meant I reached Quito past mid-night. This city, nestled in the Andes, has many valleys and is surrounded by active volcanoes.

On my first day in Quito, I visited the Ceiba office( the organisation I’m working with) for my orientation. The staff also took me to a public health center for a Yellow fever vaccine. The vaccine was free which would have otherwise cost me 270$ in the U.S. ( Socialism 270: Capitalism 0). I then caught up with Adrian, my wildlife biologist friend whom I met at a Stats course in Virginia. He kept his promise of treating me to ceviche in Quito and that was the start of some amazing food experiences in Ecuador.

Photos from Quito:



Since I could only start work at the reserve from Monday, I had the weekend to spare. So, I went to check out the really cool and bio-diverse cloud forests of Mindo Valley ( 2 hours from Quito). In Mindo, I went birding and hiking alone and with a bird guide over the 2 days. I also got some delicious local food. It started to feel like a vacation but I had to get to the coast and start project work from the Bosque Seco Lalo Loor preserve( operated by Ceiba Foundation).

And from Mindo valley:



After a day long journey from Mindo to Quito and then to the Pedernales, I made it to the reserve on Sunday evening. The reserve has a visitor center/office and an ecolodge for interns and researchers. We are served ultra local food with most dishes having fresh cheese and fruits( lots of plantain). The rural area where the reserve is located is unsophisticated and rustic. But, I quite like the slow life on the coast. Local football league matches happen every Wednesday and Saturday. Something I am looking forward to catch up this week.

Lalo Loor Dry Forest Preserve:



Our camera trap project is aimed at understanding the mammalian communities in the Dry Equatorial Forests of coastal Ecuador. Our sites include the Lalo Loor Preserve and private lands with standing forest cover. With the collected data and analysis, we hope to influence the forest management policies of the region. Several private lands in the area are large and still retain plenty of forest cover, giving hope to our conservation actions.

Map of the project site
Map of the project site – in thick green are the truly coastal Equatorial forests


For the first two weeks, I collected camera trap data from existing ones and set up new camera traps with Ivan Polo (my classmate from Nelson Institute) and Luis Fernandez (Ceiba field staff). We have mostly been walking to get to our field sites, which adds miles to the off-trail bush-whacking miles to get to our camera trap locations. On days when I was using my Garmin tracker, we averaged more than 15 km. To be honest, walking on steep vegetation-covered hills in near 100% humidity is one of the most physically challenging things I have done. For one camera trap, when we started walking, were at sea level and by the time we reached our location we were at 380 meters above sea level!




This week, Ivan and I spend time cooling our heels at the office doing data entry, while our cameras try to record every critter passing their way. Next week, we will be back with in the field with GPS and machete in hand, to collect photos from our traps. Exciting times as we have been seen very interesting species and behavior in existing data.

I will post more updates from the field in upcoming blogs. Thanks for visiting!

PS: More pictures below!

Food gallery:




Random non-wild critter gallery:



Recording my placement experiences

Hello, world! And, thank you for visiting my new WordPress blog!

I had a blog on Blogger with *ONE* post. So, I really did not have a very successful career blogging, before this one. Hoping to turn things around this time ;). I certainly like WordPress more, simply because it is so easy to edit and customize.

The main motive behind creating a fresh blog is to record and share my summer placement experiences as part of my Master’s program (MS in Environmental Conservation). I will be working with Ceiba Foundation in Ecuador. I’ve never traveled to South America, so that’s exciting!!

Much of my work would involve collecting and analyzing biodiversity data( mostly mammals). I travel to the field site next week.

Below is the flight path for my journey (I hope to catch a glimpse of Cuba).

flight path

So, please visit this URL more often as I will add more posts in the coming days. I will also try to reach out on social media whenever I post something new.