People of Nature

Dr. Mehreen Khaleel

After pursuing her PhD in Ecological Sciences from IISc Bangalore, Mehreen started working in Kashmir to sensitize people towards biodiversity and its conservation.

Mehreen formalized this into a registered NGO, Wildlife Research and Conservation Foundation (WRCF) in 2018, and since then she has engaged local communities, students and policymakers to normalize using scientific knowledge to conserve nature and wildlife in Kashmir.

As the founder and head, she manages diverse conservation projects, actively promoting women in STEM through WRCF, and has developed significant partnerships with collaborators from across India to work on Kashmir’s biodiversity conservation.

Apart from managing the organization, she also works as an independent researcher and as a consultant for various conservation projects in Kashmir.


Dr. Kalloli Dutta

Landscape Ecologist | Independent Researcher

Kalloli Dutta, is a doctorate in forestry with a decade of experience in biodiversity conservation, landscape ecology and remote sensing/GIS. Her fascination with community conservation motivated her to pursue another master’s degree in Anthropology, to broaden understanding of the diverse intersectional challenges and topics within this domain.

Her portfolio includes projects like USAID’s Forest-PLUS 2.0, IUCN’s Forest Landscape Restoration analysis, and KFW’s habitat conservation initiatives. At Deloitte’s Climate Change & Sustainability team, she managed plantation projects, land acquisition, and played a role in synthesizing nature-based solutions, drafting climate policies and calculating internal carbon pricing.

In future, she aims to delve deeper into the challenges faced by communities, seeking solutions for climate change and fostering sustainable development for both people and the planet. A passionate solo-traveler, she loves spending time in nature either trekking or cycling and exploring different cultures and cuisines.


Deepika Chhetri

Social Impact Professional | Writer

Deepika Chhetri is a writer and development professional. A year ago, she moved to Northeast India as a calling.

Deepika has worked on different thematic areas – waste management, community mobilization, developing alternative livelihoods and developing rural enterprises.

Deepika believes in stories for change. Her earlier writings have been published on ToI, IDR, EcoNE, India Water Portal and HomeGrown. Her poem ‘Roots’ will be published by Zubaan as part of its ‘Assam Anthology’.

Having a Master’s degree in Development from Azim Premji University, Bangalore and a Bachelor’s in English Literature from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi, Deepika is a Young Voice for Conservation.


Vidhi Modi

Senior Research Fellow | Corbett Foundation

Vidhi Modi is a researcher and avid birdwatcher interested in grassland conservation.

Over the last 4 years, her work has focused on the conservation of grasslands and their associated species like the Great Indian Bustard, Lesser Florican, and Cranes.

She thinks the semi-arid grasslands of India are a highly neglected ecosystem that needs to be highlighted as the biodiversity associated with it is facing rapid decline


Adyasha Nayak

PhD Scholar | University of Montana, USA

As a researcher with the Wildlife Institute of India in Kaziranga National Park, Adyasha worked towards bridging the gap between local communities and conservation through ecotourism.

She also worked with local communities to engage them with park management for crafting sustainable, low-cost solutions to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.

These experiences laid the groundwork for her vision of collaborative management, where conservation and community thrive hand in hand.

Adyasha aims to mitigate the conservation issues by incorporating results obtained from scientific studies along with community participation in action.


Dr. Meena Venkataraman

Senior Wildlife Biologist

Dr. Meena is a Senior Wildlife Biologist who has extensively worked on Asiatic Lions.

Her love and curiosity for nature led her to choose some interesting topics of study such as community ecology of small mammals, the distribution of Nilgiri Tahr across their range, phenomenon of musth in elephants.

Each of these experiences made her more inclined towards in-depth long-term studies. After studying rats, elephants, Nilgiri Tahr and Giant Squirrels, she devoted five years to following Lions and studying their social behaviour. Her PhD thesis was on the “Reproductive strategies of male Asiatic lions”.

These experiences have subsequently steered her academic interests towards challenges of wildlife management. She has now added environment education, resolution of conservation management issues in addition to her academic research.


Arunima

Block Coordinator, Hans Foundation | PhD Scholar IIT Kanpur

Arunima is a distinguished environmental management professional, currently making significant strides as a Block Coordinator for The Hans Foundation. 

Since joining in July 2023, she has dedicated herself to forest fire mitigation and prevention in Tehri Garhwal. 

She works in a deeply collaborative manner, involving local communities and the forest department in initiatives like the ‘Forest Walks’ project. 

She uses the Behavior Change Communication (BCC) model and the Citizen Science concept, aiming to educate and empower resilience groups among women and youth about the importance of environmental conservation.

Arunima is pursuing a Ph.D. in Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT Kanpur, with her research focused on community-based forest management systems in Pithoragarh, employing ethnographic research tools.


Divya Bharathi M., IFS

Deputy Conservator of Forests | Sipana Division, Melghat TR

Divya is working as the Deputy Conservator of Forests at Sipna Division, Melghat Tiger Reserve since 2021.

Prior to this, she worked as the Divisional Manager with Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra, Gondia. She also has experience working at the famous Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve as the Assistant Conservator of Forests.

Divya obtained a bachelors in engineering degree in Electronics and Telecommunications in 2013.

After a short stint of corporate jobs, she chose her calling and joined a PG program in Forestry, eventually joining the Forest Department as IFS.

Divya Ji is an avid naturalist and is starving to build the capacity of her staff in research and documentation. Though working in tiger country, she is very peculiar about documenting the tiniest insect fauna in the large forest tracks.


Debangini Ray

Senior Outreach Coordinator, Marine Flagship Project, Dakshin Foundation

Ph.D. Scholar, MIT-WPU Pune

Debangini Roy is an interdisciplinary ecologist with a research focus on urban multispecies ethnographies. 

She’s also the founder of the Urban Owl Project, through which she’s studying anthropogenic threats to owls in Indian cities and documenting perceptions of citizens towards them, as part of her PhD research.

She is passionate about writing, and visual storytelling and has a deep-rooted love for all things marine. She has previously worked with Turtle Survival Alliance-India, the Greater Adjutant Stork Conservation Program at Aaranyak, the Counter Wildlife Trafficking Program at WCS-India and the National Biodiversity Mission at ATREE. 

She is currently working as a Senior Outreach Coordinator in the Marine Flagships programme at Dakshin Foundation, Bengaluru.


Dr. Peerzada Ishtiyak Ahmad

Scientist | Faculty of Forestry, SKUAST Srinagar J & K

Dr. Ishtiyak is a doctorate in Forestry from Forest Research Institute, Dehradun, India. He has contributed to the contemporary projects on forest conservation, certification, climate change adaptation, ABS of Genetic Resources, NTFPs vis-à-vis Medicinal Plants and bioeconomy for livelihood improvement across South Asia, Middle East and Sub- Saharan Africa.

Dr. Ishtiyak has also advised the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) for its prestigious Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Bilateral Project. Prior to joining Faculty of Forestry, He has served briefly as Deputy Director, RCFC North II of NMPB, Govt. of India.

Apart from Teaching, Research and Extension activities, Dr. Ishtiyak is imparting ASCI certified skill development training on Medicinal Plants to unemployed youth of Kashmir, since 2018-19. Currently, He is working on Bioprospecting Biomedicine for Bioeconomy in Temperate Himalayan Ecosystem.


Sneha Shahi

PhD Scholar | ATREE, Bengaluru

Sneha is a PhD scholar at ATREE, Bengaluru. She has completed a Masters in Environmental Science and is Plastic campaign advocate for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), New Delhi. 

She works to increase action and awareness on SDG 6 (Water and Sanitation) through a network of partners and grassroots leaders across India. Her notable work includes restoring streams inhabited by crocodiles in Gujarat with a team of students by her side. 

Sneha’s doctoral work focuses on co-evolution of rivers and societies, in a study that engages in understanding past v/s present through social-ecological systems framework for the river Tamiraparani in Tamil Nadu. 

Sneha is a recipient of many awards. Her work is highlighted in a Docu Film called “She Run the World” on women in sustainability at Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.


Sobiya Syeed

PhD Scholar | TDU, Bengaluru

Sobiya did her 5-year Integrated Bachelors and Master’s degree (B.Sc. M.Sc.) in Zoology from the Department of Animal Sciences (Zoology), School of Life Sciences, Central University of Kashmir in 2020.

Presently, she is registered as a PhD student at Centre for Conservation of Natural Resources (CCNR), Trans-Disciplinary Studies (TDU), Bangalore, 

Before going for PhD programme, I worked as Research Intern on Biodiversity and Climate Change at Mantaqi Centre for Science & Society (2021-22), and Project Assistant at Watson-Crick Centre for Molecular Medicine (2022), both at Islamic University of Science & Technology, Awantipora, Kashmir. 

Sobiya has been a Subject Expert Member of City Biodiversity Index- Jammu City of Union Territory of J&K, prepared and published by UNDP and ICLEI, South Asia, New Delhi and J&K Biodiversity Council (2022).

Sobiya belongs to an area which is still considered conserved for women & has seen conflict & violence from decades, yet today we will get to know conservation optimism through her story.


Sneha Dharwadkar

PhD Scholar | University of Georgia, USA

Sneha is a wildlife biologist, currently pursuing PhD in Comparative Biomedical Sciences. Her work is multidisciplinary and revolves around ecology, evolutionary biology, conservation education and computational biology.

Sneha has broad experience of working with various non-profit organizations on research, conservation, and education programs. Some of her work focuses on understanding the role of freshwater turtles in maintaining the ecology of freshwater ecosystems and quantifying the impact of human activities on the turtles and their habitats, and the interface of humans and freshwater ecosystems.

She is a co-founder of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises Foundation. FTTF India works on the research, education, and community conservation of the freshwater turtles and tortoises of India.

Her PhD thesis revolves around phylogeography of India’s only endemic softshell turtle, the Leith’s softshell turtle, and infectious diseases of freshwater turtles in India.

Sneha is deeply passionate about enhancing diversity and fostering equity and inclusion in the field of herpetology. She also works towards increasing participation of women of colour in herpetology.


Prachi Hatkar

PhD Scholar | WII & MS Baroda University

Prachi completed an MSc in Zoology (Oceanography and Fisheries Science). She is currently pursuing her PhD, at the Wildlife Institute of India focusing on Dugong conservation in the Gulf of Kutch. 

As the first Indian woman to receive an international grant for diving certification from the Women Divers Hall of Fame, Prachi is breaking barriers in the field. 

Her extensive research, including over 17 published papers and contributions to 21 technical reports, informs policymakers and stakeholders, shaping ground action plans for endangered species. 

Prachi’s commitment extends globally as a member of the Marine Mammals of India research team and affiliations with IUCN’s Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) and the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA). 

With a passion for marine life diversity assessment and conservation’s intersection with livelihoods, Prachi is a naturalist dedicated to conserving our marine ecosystems for future generations.