PhD Programme in Conservation Science and Sustainability Studies

Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) is one of South Asia's leading conservation and sustainable development research organizations with a strong interdisciplinary emphasis. ATREE invites applications for admission to its Doctoral Research Programme in Conservation Science and Sustainability Studies for the academic year 2019. The programme is recognized by Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) and is one of the few programmes in India that provides students training in natural science and social science to conduct interdisciplinary research on biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

ATREE’s research covers the broad themes of environment, development, and biodiversity conservation. Thematic areas include: conservation biology and planning; forest governance and livelihoods; ecosystem   services and well-being; hydrology and water resources; and development and environmental change.

Disciplines represented in the faculty include: ecology, plant and invertebrate taxonomy, conservation genetics, hydrology, water quality, landscape ecology, economics, development studies, institutional analysis, sociology, and political ecology. 

Students with prior training in any branch of the social, natural, or engineering sciences, and humanities are eligible for admission to the PhD programme. Selected students will register for core courses for two semesters, after which they will conduct independent research under the guidance of a doctoral advisory committee that is chaired by the faculty advisor. Five students will each receive a fellowship for a period of three years. The fellowship amount will be Rs. 25,000 (pre-registration) and Rs.28, 000 (post-registration) per month. Contingency support for research at Rs. 50,000 per year for two years will also be provided. Faculty advisors will work closely with their students to obtain fellowship and research funding after the 3rd year to enable students to successfully complete the programme.

ATREE fosters diversity and gender equity at the work place. Women and persons from underprivileged groups are especially encouraged to apply. ATREE’s affirmative action policy will be followed during the PhD selection process.

Admission and eligibility

  1. The candidate must have a Master’s degree in any social science, natural science, engineering or humanities discipline and have secured a minimum of 55% marks or equivalent.
  2. Applicants will appear for an entrance exam in ATREE.
  3. Candidates who have qualified for UGC-CSIR (minimum NET), GATE, ICSSR or equivalent exams, or have an M.Phil. degree are not required to take the entrance exam and will qualify directly for the interview.

List of faculty that are accepting applications

  1. Abi Tamim Vanak
  2. Ankila Hiremath
  3. Aravind NA
  4. Nirmalya Chatterjee
  5. Priyadarsanan DR
  6. Shoibal Chakravarty
  7. Siddappa Setty

Application process

Candidates seeking admission for the PhD programme at ATREE should submit the following documents:

  • A completed application form (download the application form  )
  • Copies of degree certificate (or provisional degree certificate if the degree certificate has not been received yet), and Master’s course mark sheets.
  • A written statement of purpose in the applicant’s own words, which highlights his or her research and career goals (maximum 1000 words). 
  • Confidential reference letters from two referees, sent directly by the referees to the address below by email or post.
  • Updated resume

Applicants should submit completed application and all supporting documents by email to or post to the address listed below by April 12, 2019. Applicants should indicate ‘Application for PhD programme - 2019’ in the subject line (if submitting by email) or superscribe the envelope (if submitting by post). Incomplete applications will be rejected. 

Shortlisted applicants will appear for an entrance exam followed by an interview at ATREE, Bangalore. The academic year will begin on 1st August 2019.

Contact information:

Academy for Conservation Science and Sustainability Studies, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Royal Enclave, Srirampura, Jakkur , Bangalore 560 064


Phone: +91-80-23635555 Extn: 121

The ATREE doctoral programme in Conservation Science and Sustainability Studies is designed to impart training to research scholars, to develop and use integrated approaches in sustainable development and biodiversity conservation. The programme promotes interdisciplinary research and frameworks to integrate tools and approaches from the disciplines of ecology, economics, sociology, and climate science.

ATREE's doctoral programme is affiliated to Manipal University, which is the institution that will award the degree. In accordance with the requirement of both ATREE and Manipal University, students seeking admission should have:

  • a background in natural or social sciences
  • exhibit academic excellence

Students admitted to the programme will work under the personal mentorship of an ATREE faculty member and will also be guided by a doctoral committee of 3-5 members. The committee will consist of ATREE faculty members and external scientists and will include representation of expertise from different disciplines.


Doctoral training will begin with rigorous coursework that will take a year to complete. This will include a set of mandatory courses and a choice of electives. Since students will have either a natural or social science background, we have designed foundation courses in the natural and social sciences, which will introduce students to main concepts in both disciplines. The foundation course in natural science will cover principles in basic ecology and evolution, behavioural ecology, population biology, community ecology, ecosystem ecology, landscape ecology, and soils and hydrology. The foundation course in social science will cover the basic principles of economics and sociology, focusing on classical and contemporary economic and sociological theory, and expanding into ecological economics and environmental sociology. Following these will be two advanced core courses, one in conservation science and one in research design and methods (for both natural and social sciences).

The core course in conservation science is built on three thematic issues that are central to the current debate on the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable economic development viz., the decline of biodiversity, land degradation, and climate change. Within each thematic issue, we will start with a multidisciplinary approach and then move on to discussing more integrated approaches, drawing upon theoretical ideas and comparative analyses of case studies from across the world.

The core course in research design and methods will train students in advanced statistical, computational, and analytical methods to equip them with the necessary tools to design and implement research, and analyse data and communicate their research findings to quality journals.

Students who have successfully undergone the mandatory core courses are expected to be proficient in the basic principles of ecology, economics, sociology, and conservation science, and also equipped with the tools and technical skills to conduct research and communicate their findings effectively. Building on this fundamental training, student researchers are expected to develop and focus on their special areas of interest. In order to prepare the student for advanced debate on their focus of research, we have devoted considerable attention to designing optional elective courses. These will be advanced courses that discuss the current state of research and understanding on important issues related to ecology, conservation science, and environmental and forest policy and governance.

Courses offered in the second semester (January - May 2018)

C3: Integrated Approaches in Conservation, Environment and Society

Instructor: Sharachchandra Lele (

Co-instructors/Associates: Veena Srinivasan, Nitin Rai, Bejoy K. Thomas

Credits: 3 (48 contact hours in the form of 16 sessions of 3-hours each)

Session time: Monday 9:50am-1pm (starting January 8th, 2018)

C4A: Research Methods in Social Sciences

Instructors: Bejoy K Thomas (coordinator), Siddappa Setty, Shikha Lakhanpal

Credits: 1 credit

Duration: 10 lecture hours + ~25 lab hours

C4B: Philosophy of Science and Natural Science Methods

Instructors: Aravind Madhyastha (Coordinator), R. Ganesan (Co-coordinator), Kartik Shanker, Priyadarsanan Dharma Rajan, Rengaian Ganesan, Soubadra Devy, T. Ganesh

Credits: Two credits

Lectures: Tuesdays (1400-1450) Thursdays (1000-1050)

Field Course: (2-15 May)

C4C: Quantitative Methods

Instructors: Shoibal Chakravarty (coordinator, Som Chattopadhyay, Asmita Sengupta and Jagdish Krishnaswamy

Credits: 2

Lectures: Tuesday and Wednesday (12:00-12:50)

Lab: Thursday (11:00-11:50)

List of courses for the first semester of PhD programme (August - November 2017)

C1A: Ecology

Course instructors: G. Ravikanth (Coordinator), Ankila Hiremath, Melinda Weaver, T. Ganesh
Class schedule:Wednesdays and Fridays (1100‐1150)
Number of credits: 2 credits

C1B: Fundamentals of Environmental Science

Course instructors: Priyanka Jamwal (Coordinator), Jagdish Krishnaswamy, Shrinivas Badiger, Veena Srinivasan
Number credits: 3
Class schedule: Mon (1100‐1150), Tue (1100‐1150), Labs; Tue (1400‐1650)

C2A: Economics for Environment and Development

Course instructors: Durba Biswas (Coordinator), Bejoy Thomas, Sharad Lele
Number of credits: 3
Class schedule: Mon (1200‐1250), Wed (1200‐1250), Fri (1200‐1250)

C2B: Sociology

Instructors: Siddhartha Krishnan (Coordinator‐, Rinzi Lama (, Sony R K (
Credits and contact hours: 3 credits, 48 hours.
Class Schedule: Tuesday (10‐11 AM), Wednesday (14:00‐15:00) & Thursday (12:00‐13:00)

List of elective courses for 2017

E013: Environmental Governance: An Indian introduction

Instructors: Dr. Sharad Lele (Course co-ordinator) and Dr. Shikha Lakhanpal (Co-instructor)

Course description: Environmental governance is broadly the application of a political science and legal perspectives to environmental issues. The term, which has gained prominence recently, highlights the fact that from a period when ‘environmental policy-making’ and ‘environmental management’ was seen as the sole preserve of state agencies, it is now recognized that environmental decision-making involves multiple actors and their interactions. In the Indian context, this would include inter alia the judiciary, civil society groups, and the (rural and urban) communities that actually use and are affected by environmental change.

This course provides an introduction to the theoretical material on why and how environmental governance may be carried out and then will use examples from various sectors in India to understand the link between theory and practice. The topics covered are:

  • Nature of environmental crisis & environmental values
  • Terminology of institutional analysis and governance
  • Property rights and the environment
  • CPR theory
  • Broader framing of institutions and the environment
  • Regulatory theory
  • Environment vs development
  • Politicising governance

The sectors covered will be forestry, wildlife, water, pollution, and mining/thermal power/dam projects.


Credits, sessions, timings: This is a 2 credit course, with two 2-hour sessions each week over 8 weeks. The proposed schedule is Monday and Thursday, 11am-1pmstarting 6th February 2017 and ending 30th March 2017.

Format and assessment: The course will be run in a combination of lecture and discussion mode (roughly 1 hour of each in each 2-hour session). Students will be expected to have read the assigned readings before each class and will be expected to present their analysis of sectoral cases assigned to them. Assessment will be based on in-class presentations (80%) and 1 term paper (20%).

Coursework details and schedules for the second semester

C3: Integrated approaches in Conservation, Environment and Society 
Credits: 3 credits (16 sessions of 3 hours each)
Instructors: Nitin Rai (coordinator,, Durba Biswas, Ankila Hiremath, Siddhartha Krishnan, Jagdish Krishnaswamy, Sharad Lele, and Veena Srinivasan.

C4a: Research Methods in Social Sciences 
Credits and contact hours: 1 credit, 16 hours
Instructors: Siddappa Setty (coordinator:, Bejoy K Thomas, Siddhartha Krishnan and Ulka Kelkar.

C4b: Philosophy of Science and Natural Science Methods 
Credits: 2 credits (32 hours)
Instructors: Priyadarsanan (Course Coordinator: ), Aravind Madhyasta, Soubadra Devy, T. Ganesh and R. Ganesan.

C4c: Quantitative methods 
Number of credits: 2
Instructors: Abi Tamim Vanak (Coordinator:, Milind Bunyan, Jagdish Krishnaswamy.
Teaching Assistant: Nachiket Kelkar
Guest lecturers: TBA

Coursework details and schedules for the first semester (August 2015-November 2015)

C1A: Ecology 
Credits and contact hours: 3 credits, 48 hours
Instructors: G. Ravikanth (co-ordinator:, Abi Tamim Vanak (, and Soubadra Devy (

C1B: Fundamentals of Environmental Science 
Credits and contact hours: 3 credits, 48 hours
Instructors: Shrinivas Badiger (SB) – Course Coordinator (; Jagdish Krishnaswamy-JK (; Priyanka Jamwal-PJ (; Veena Srinivasan-VS (

C2a: Economics for Environment and Development 
Credits and contact hours: 3 credits, 48 hours
Instructors: Durba Biswas (coordinator), Bejoy K Thomas, Ulka Kelkar

C2b: Sociology & Environmental sociology: Theorizing society, nature and their interactions 
Instructor: Siddhartha Krishnan

P1: Basic Math 
Credit and contact hours: 1 credit, 16 hours
Instructor: Veena Srinivasan

Coursework details and schedules for Semester 1: August-December 2013

C1A: Ecology (Click for course details and schedule)
3 credits, 48 contact hours
Instructors: T. Ganesh (Coordinator), Abi Tamim Vanak, Ravikanth G and Ankila Hiremath

C1B: Fundamentals of Environmental Science 
3 credits, 48 contact hours
Instructors: Jagdish Krishnaswamy(Coordinator), Shrinivas Badiger, Priyanka Jamwal, Veena SrinivasanandSharachchandra Lele

C2A: Economics for Environment and Development 
3 credits, 48 contact hours
Instructors: Bejoy K. Thomas (Coordinator), Durba Biswas, Sharachchandra Lele

C2B: Sociology and Anthropology for Environment and Development 
3 credits
Instructors: Siddhartha Krishnan and Nutan Maurya

P1: Basic Math 
Instructor: Veena Srinivasan

P2: English writing 
Instructor: Samuel Thomas

Coursework for Semester 2: January-April 2014

Semester 2: Core courses

C3: Practising Interdisciplinary Research on the Environment
3 credits, 48 contact hours
Instructor: Sharachchandra Lele

C4a: Research Methods in Social Sciences
1 credit, 16 hours
Instructor: Bejoy K. Thomas (coordinator), Siddhartha Krishnan, Siddappa Setty

C4b: Research Methods in Natural Sciences
1.5 credits, 1.5 hours
Instructors: Abi Tamim Vanak, Priyadarsanan, Priyanka Jamwal, Shrinivas Badiger, Soubadra Devy, Siddappa Setty, T. Ganesh, N. A. Aravind

C4c: Quantitative Methods
2 credits
Instructor: Jagdish Krishnaswamy

Semester 2: Elective courses

E1: Systematic Biology
3 credits
Instructors: R. Ganesan, G. Ravikanth and N. A. Aravind

E2: Plant-Animal Interactions for conservation
3 credits
Instructors: Soubadra Devy and Priyadarsanan Dharma Rajan

E3: Landscape ecology, GIS and Remote Sensing of the Environment
3 credits
Course instructors: Jagdish Krishnaswamy, Sharachchandra Lele, Muneeswaran M.

Semester 3: Elective courses

E4: Urban Water
2 credits
Course instructors: Veena Srinivasan, Priyanka Jamwal, Shrinivas Badiger

E5: Gender and Environment
1 credit
Course instructors: Durba Biswas

E6: Invasive Species – Ecology, Impacts, and Management
2 credits
Course instructors: Ankila Hiremath

E7: The ecology and socio-economics of Non-timber Forest Produce
2 credits
Course instructors: R. Siddappa Setty

E8: Environmental Anthropology
1 credit
Course instructors: Nutan Maurya

E9: Introduction to Political Ecology
2 credits
Course instructors: Nitin Rai

E10: Perspectives in Human-Wildlife Relations
Course instructors: Abi Tamim Vanak (coordinator), Swati Shresth, Siddhartha Krishnan