SEMESTER INDIA PROGRAM
WITH THE UNIVERSITY OF KERALA

Tropical Biodiversity Studies in Kerala

Kerala as a biodiversity hotspot

Kerala is a green wonderland with a unique geography and is known internationally as a hot spot in biodiversity. Known as ‘God’s Own Country, this tropical paradise is an excellent natural history destination for biodiversity studies. Kerala’s spectacular tropical rainforests in the Western Ghats are the home for exotic wild life, diverse plants, beautiful birds and butterflies. The endemic regions like Silent Valley and Agasthyamala hold the secrets for speciation and evolution. The inventory of species diversity in Kerala is very impressive: 4500 species of flowering plants, of which 1500 are endemic. There are 6000 species of insects, 508 species of birds, 169 species of reptiles, 89 amphibians, 202 freshwater fishes and 102 species of mammals. Backwaters and estuaries of coastline areas, swamps, mangroves and wetlands of lowland Kerala, the agrobiodiversity of the midland Kerala and the various forest types and mountains of Western Ghats are natural laboratories for students to learn about the diverse ecosystems of a tropical region. Kerala’s forests like Tropical evergreen, Semi evergreen, Moist and dry deciduous forests, Shola forests and Grasslands support biological communities with a remarkable array of genetic variations. This lovely land has all the factors for field study, adventure and research.

IISAC’s Tropical Green School

Tropical Green School is the division of IISAC to promote International education and research in the fields of tropical biodiversity, tropical Zoology, tropical Botany, tropical marine sciences and tropical medicine (www.tropicalgreenschool.org) Tropical Green School associates with NGOs and teaching and research institutions in Kerala to develop various field studies and research programs for US universities. A field exposure to Kerala will give an understanding of the ecosystems, bioregions, cultural traditions and history of a tropical country that is so different from a temperate country like USA. Over the years, IISAC has been associating with the Tropical Institute for Ecological Sciences (TIES) at Kottayam, Kerala to provide field study opportunities for American professors and students in the areas of taxonomy, forestry, wildlife management, genetic diversity, tropical pathogens, edible mushrooms, pollution control, potable water, organic agriculture, ethnomedicine and green energy.

Program Highlights


IISAC’s Faculty-led Programs in Tropical Field Biology

IISAC established as a not-for-profit professional organization in 1998 by a group of professors and experts in New Jersey, associates with similar organizations like the Tropical Institute of Ecological Sciences (TIES) in Kerala to provide several short term study opportunities in the fields of nature and environment.

IISAC partnered with five US universities for their faculty-led program in the following subject areas.

IISAC prepares and organizes customized courses for US faculty members in various areas of tropical Biology. Given below is the course description for a tropical biodiversity course of 20 days covering various ecosystems of Kerala and nearby islands. For course proposals and travel itinerary on any practical aspect of tropical biology, a US professor can directly contact the program director of IISAC at sunny.luke@semesterinindia.org. He will send the course proposal to develop a joined field study program in Kerala.

Tropical Biodiversity Course description as an example

This study tour course introduces students to the biodiversity, ecological processes, and human modification of a variety of tropical environments in South India, from the coral reefs and mangroves of the Andaman Islands, to the tropical forests and spice plantations of the Western Ghats and the coastal plain and backwaters of the southwest state of Kerala. Emphasis will be placed upon the identification of tropical biota, ecological interactions within tropical communities, and human uses of and impacts on tropical ecosystems while traveling in south India. Students will also be exposed to the cultures and religions of south India. Students will hone their scientific communication skills with papers, presentations and group discussions.

Click here for further information on Tropical bio diversity travel intinerary and suggested field Biology excersise

Short term research programs

Students have the opportunity to involve in short term projects of one month to three months in any research area related to biodiversity. Research proposal will be made in consultation with the institute’s scientist and will directly involve in research in its laboratories. At the end of the project, the student is expected to provide a lab report and is expected to defend the data in public scientific presentation. The research credits will vary from 3 credits for a two months project to 6 credits for a four months research. Home stay accommodation is available for students near Tropical Institute of Ecological Sciences in the town of Kottayam in Central Kerala.

Thrust areas of research

Biodiversity, ecosystem management, ethnobiological studies. Public health issues, epidemics, river pollution and toxicological studies, sustainable agriculture, toxicological studies, waste management, DNA marker studies, genetic profiling, microbiology and immunology.

For additional information on any identified area on Tropical Biology, please email sunny.luke@semesterinindia.org

Tropical Naturalist Training Courses

IISAC in association with TIES provides several nature related workshops on a one to one basis or to a small group in the following areas:

Tropical wildlife
Bird watching and identification
Tropical forests and types
Tropical crops and identification (Agricultural Botany)
Butterfly gardens
Tropical trees and identification
Tropical ornamental plants and identification
Green architecture
Biodiversity gardening
Alternate energy resources
Natural farming and organic food
Biodiversity assessment techniques
Kerala tribes and traditional knowledge conservation
Kerala’s homestead gardening
Kerala’s sacred groves
Forest Botany
Medicinal plants and Ayurveda
Heritage plants of Kerala
Pollution and waste management
Water quality and testing
Toxicological studies
Eco-friendly life styles
Biodiversity inventory
Green audit