The art of making paper birds

A hummingbird hovering in the air laps up nectar from a coneflower. Newborn bulbul chicks beg their mother for food. A male kingfisher offers fish to a female kingfisher, perched on a mossy piece of driftwood. These are some of the natural history moments captured by artist Niharika Rajput in her lifelike paper sculptures.

I interviewed the artist for Atlas Obscura about her artistic process and all things birds.

Image credit: Niharika Rajput

In Conversation with Deborah Blum

Deborah Blum is a Pulitzer Prize–winning science journalist and author of popular science books, The Poisoner’s Handbook, Ghost Hunters, Love at Goon Park, Sex on the Brain, and The Monkey Wars. She has also published an e-book titled Angel Killer and her most recent work, The Poisoner’s Handbook, was adapted into a documentary film of the same name. Blum calls herself ‘a giant walking book brain’ as she works on her next book project exploring the history of food safety.

Until mid-2015 Blum was a Professor of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in USA – the same university she had graduated from years ago. ‘It felt very strange to go back as a professor where I had been a student. Now I have been a professor there so long that it feels strange to go to another job,’ Blum says as she prepares for her new role as the Director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT, for which she has big plans.

Read the full interview in Current Science.

Photo credit: Mark Bennett

Helping humans coexist with elephants

Promoting coexistence of humans and elephants in Anamalai Hills (literally “The Elephant Hills”), situated in the Western Ghats of southern India, has been the key objective of M. Ananda Kumar for over a decade. A wildlife biologist with the Nature Conservation Foundation, Kumar is a staunch believer in the benefits that involving local communities in conservation work can reap. Kumar’s work on human–elephant conflict resolution in the Ghats has been recognized with the Carl Zeiss Wildlife Conservation Award.

In an interview with me, Kumar speaks of the change that has been brought about in the attitude of people towards elephants—from hostile to tolerant.  

Excerpts from the interview:

What threatens elephant survival in India?

Activities such as setting up of micro hydel projects, dams, power lines or roads in prime elephant habitats pushes these animals out of their habitat into neighbouring towns and villages. That leads to negative interactions between people and elephants, and is detrimental to the elephant population in the country.

Read the rest of the interview at IndiaBioScience.

Photo credit: M. Ananda Kumar.