Hi, I am Gaurav Vashistha. I am a Ph.D. student at Department of Environmental studies, University of Delhi. Currently, I am studying population of Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) in Katerniaghat wildlife sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh. I did my master’s in Environmental Studies from the University of Delhi, where my master’s thesis focussed on the reproductive biology of dancing frogs (Genus: Micrixalus) in Western ghats in India. After my master’s, I started field training in surai forest range in Haldwani, Uttarakhand under Dr. Parag M. dhakate (I.F.S.), surveying herpetofauna and camera trapping. For camera trap training, I worked on several sites across Uttarakhand such as Nanda devi biosphere and Kedarnath wildlife sanctuary, to monitor snow leopards, tigers, and leopards. On September 2015, I visited Katerniaghat wildlife sanctuary for the first time and was realized that the gharial population in Girwa river (Katerniaghat) is residing in a river- reservoir ecosystem. Habitat modification has regulated the population dynamics and was affecting the gharial population. Later I joined the University of Delhi as a Ph.D. student, to continue studying the girwa population. My work primarily involved collecting baseline population data such as population count, breeding adults, nesting, etc. During my work, I realized that the modified habitat is undergoing rapid change and the breeding ecology of the resident gharial population is getting affected. So I started collecting data about the long-term habitat dynamics and population trends with the help of researchers across the world. All of us worked out the landscape changes in the katerniaghat river ecosystem and further worked with the Uttar Pradesh State forest department , to mitigate its effects on the gharial nesting.
My work has been supported by several agencies worldwide, starting with the Rufford’s small grants in 2016 and 2018, IDEA WILD in 2016, DU DST 2016–18, IUCN CSG SRAS in 2020. Besides these, Gharial ecology project (GEP) based in Chambal has been my constant guide and support for field studies for several years now. I did radio tagging of gharials in November 2019 with the GEP team. Dr. Jeff Lang had contributed generously to my understanding of gharial ecology, through discussions and sharing relevant scientific documents. Together, we have experimented with an in situ habitat restoration for degrading gharial nesting sites in Girwa. The artificial sand bank construction method proved successful in increasing gharial nesting and hatching success, and is now an active part of forest department’s annual gharial conservation plan.
After my Ph.D. I plan to further pursue field studies in Girwa river as well as in Corbett national park, another less studied gharial population. Besides this, I plan to study effects of habitat modification on nesting of gharials at a further higher resolution, to understand the effects of substrate and environmental variable on hatchling survival and recruitment.