The certificate course in basic ornithology was conducted between 11-13th December, 2019 at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Tirupati. This introductory course was designed for Undergraduate, Postgraduate, and early PhD students with a focus on ornithology research and conservation. The main aim of the course was to encourage research in the field of ornithology and to introduce a basic understanding of various topics to one hundred students from across India. The course was a collaboration between four organisations – Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Indian Institute of Science Education and Research - Tirupati, and Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON).
The first day and a half were on avian biology and the next day and a half were on ornithological techniques. After a short introduction on why study birds, there were talks on diversity and classification of birds, evolution, speciation, and morphology. This was followed by anatomy, physiology, and life histories of birds to provide some background and basic understanding of ornithology in general. The next few lectures were on various behaviours – foraging, mating, breeding, social, and vocal – and finally bird migration. There were then talks on bird populations, communities, biogeography, and macroecology. Between the avian biology and technique sessions, there was a long talk on bird conservation where the speakers used case studies to elaborate the complexities of conservation through real examples. The sessions on research methods began with a talk on bioacoustics and laboratory techniques, then techniques for studying bird communities and populations which tied in to the previous sessions on bird populations. The other topics included capture and tagging of birds, techniques used to study bird behaviours, methods of science, posing research questions, and research design – which were critical to get students thinking about the importance of being research oriented. The students were also required to write an assignment using all the knowledge and information they had accrued during the course.
The entire course was recorded and the video lectures are available on a website created by NCF (www.ornithology.in) and on YouTube as well. The website contains additional reading material and other resources.