Chemical Ecology

We live in what is now called the “Anthropocene Age”, where humans are having unprecedented effects on our Earth and its inhabitants. India is a country containing 20% of our world’s population and nearly 17% of our world’s biodiversity hotspots. India’s future is, therefore, our future as a planet.  To promote our world’s natural resources in the face of our changing human landscape, we must first understand them. To understand Nature, you must also speak her language. Chemicals are fundamental units of life, and all life, from fungi to elephants, use chemicals to communicate with their world. Chemistry is therefore the single language by which all organisms on this planet can interact. Chemical Ecology is dedicated to using the universal language of chemistry to understand the interactions of plants, animals, and microbes in India’s diverse ecosystems.

We are currently helping to lead a large multi-institutional and multidisciplinary project to build capacity for chemical ecology in the incredible biodiversity of the Himalayas. Much of the ecology of the Himalayas is largely unstudied.  In addition, the Himalayas have been highlighted as one of the world’s most susceptible zones for climate change, with rapidly intensifying strain on food, water and energy resources. Chemical ecology provides the perfect forum to appreciate and sustain this environment in the face of change. Through the universal language of chemistry, we can uncover interactions between plants, microbes, and animals to understand the organisms and their role in supporting the ecosystem.  The native peoples of the Himalayas also have a remarkable history of living with, and learning from the natural world. Their tribal knowledge contains an astonishing grasp of the importance of ecology, and they have countless examples of plants, insects, and other creatures that serve various essential roles for humans and the ecosystem in general. This project thus provides an extraordinary opportunity for scientific, educational, and cultural discovery in one of our world’s most vulnerable regions.

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North Sikkim, India

 

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