Eastern Himalaya

PhD Fellowships: Nature-culture transitions in Arunachal Pradesh

By  Sahil Nijhawan December 16 2021, 7:58 AM

Applications for these fellowships are now closed. Shortlisted applicants will be contacted latest by early next week. All applicants will be informed via email about the status of their application at the end of the selection process.

IMPORTANT: These positions are open only to scholars from Arunachal Pradesh.

The Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) invites applications for three PhD fellowships for an interdisciplinary research project as part of an academic partnership between Rajiv Gandhi University (RGU) and NCF. Selected PhD students will join a team of interdisciplinary scholars seeking to understand changing nature-culture relations in Arunachal Pradesh.

Nature-culture transitions in Arunachal Pradesh

Arunachal Pradesh is one of the most biologically and culturally diverse regions in India. The state’s many ethnic communities live within nature, depending materially, economically, and spiritually on the natural world. Currently, Arunachal is undergoing rapid socio-economic and cultural shifts due to infrastructure projects, and religious and socio-political transitions leading to sudden changes in traditional institutions, ecology, and their interrelations. This multi-sited project will integrate anthropological (ethnography) methods and theory with ecological approaches to understand changing nature-culture relations in three ethnic/tribal communities in Arunachal. Doctoral students will spend long periods in each site to understand local relations and everyday interactions with nature, and how these relations, and nature itself, are impacted by socio-economic transitions. This will involve using newer technologies to understand the lives of wild animals and their interactions with people. In addition to generating novel and rich anthropological and ecological insights concurrently from three distinct cultural sites, this project will endeavour to build a collaborative and equitable approach in which knowledge is co-produced ethically with local people.


Duration: Funding is available for 4.5 years, with a possibility of extension up to 6 months.

  • Academic background: We welcome candidates with Master’s degree in any relevant discipline with a proven interest and experience in wildlife ecology, cultural/tribal studies, or anthropology.

  • Stipends: Stipends will correspond to standard UGC JRF scale. All field research expenses will be borne by the project. We also encourage candidates who have qualified for CSIR-JRF/UGC-JRF/INSPIRE Fellowship to apply to the programme.

  • Doctoral registration: There are two pathways to enter this PhD program explained below.

    1. RGU: Those who are currently registered with RGU’s (Zoology or Anthropology) can apply to be a part of the fellowship. If selected, they will maintain their registration with their respective RGU departments while their PhD will become a part of this project.

    2. NCF: NCF is formally affiliated with Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) as a research centre. Selected candidates will register with MAHE for this doctoral program.

  • Doctoral supervision: Selected candidates will be supervised by a Doctoral Advisory Committee (DAC) composed of faculty members from RGU, NCF and their partners, in compliance with UGC’s PhD reporting and assessment guidelines. The RAC will remain the same regardless of the department (or institution) where the candidate choses to register for the PhD.

  • Coursework: The aim of this fellowship is to build interdisciplinary academic capacity in Arunachal with the professional growth of the scholars being a central focus. All selected candidates regardless of where they are registered will be required to undergo mandatory coursework at NCF, as per UGC’s guidelines. Additionally, training will be personalised to each scholar’s background and interests to ensure that they receive training in interdisciplinary methods spanning wildlife ecology and anthropology.

  • Option to engage with NCF’s international academic partners: NCF’s faculty have affiliations with leading international universities and research institutions such as the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and University College London (UCL). Selected candidates will have the option to access training and academic resources available at ZSL/UCL. Additionally, funds are available to participate in at least one international conference/workshop during the PhD.


Candidates are expected to meet the following criteria:

  • Minimum of 55% marks in aggregate or equivalent at the master’s level.

  • Demonstrated interest in interdisciplinary learning.

  • Keen interest in ethno-cultural and natural heritage of Arunachal Pradesh, and ability to live in remote rural locations for long durations.

  • Prior experience with field ecological methods, ethnographic research and writing preferred.

How to apply?

The deadline for receiving the online application is 9th January 2021. In case you have any queries or need help applying, please write to phd@ncf-india.org with a copy to sahil@ncf-india.org.