My research is motivated by innate curiosity in the natural world and also a keen interest in answering questions that can inform conservation and management efforts.

I have strong interests in coral reef ecology, reef fish communities and community dynamics of the marine ecosystem. For the past few years have worked (alongside colleagues) on a range of basic and applied studies in marine systems. The majority of my research is focussed in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, but I have also worked in other regions in India. Currently, I am focusing on (1) documenting patterns and processes of reef ecosystem (2) describing on-going shifts on reef ecosystems caused due to the impact of humans and climate change.

The details of a few recent projects are as follows:

 Impacts of tourism on Coral Assemblages of Grande Island, Goa, India

DSCN4824In this project, we are assessing the status of coral community structure and identifying important indicators of coral health with the aim of strengthening Management and Conservation and to promote sustainable dive tourism at Grande Island in Goa.

Funding: World Wildlife Fund, India

Assessing reef resilience in the Andaman Islands

I am a branching coral waiting for sunlight or diamonds or perhaps something greater than what I am

Young coral of Acropora sp.

Climate change is considered the greatest long-term threat to coral reefs. Managers must, therefore, focus on supporting the natural resilience of reefs. Factors contributing to resilience are multidimensional and contingent on local conditions. Identifying these factors at managerially-relevant scales is important if resilience principles have to be included in rational reef conservation efforts. Reefs of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are most diverse in India and considered a biodiversity hotspot. A multiple series of catastrophic disturbances (including repeated mass bleaching and a tsunami) have impacted these reefs, seriously testing their buffer capacity. In the face of these disturbances, I am interested in understanding what factors makes certain reef resilient and plan to incorporate resilience principles in the prevailing reef management of the Andaman Islands.


  • Department of Science & Technology, Government of India.
  • Wildlife Conservation Society, Research Fellowship Program.

Scenic (5)

Soundtrap 300 

Sounds from the sea

Reef fishes are known to communicate with each other for attracting mates, scaring off predators or orienting themselves. I am interested in understanding their communication. Currently, I’m using SoundTrap 300 to create a sound library of different reef fish.

In addition, recent advances have shown that the collection of acoustical data can complement reef monitoring efforts. Using Soundtrap 300 instrument, I am collecting soundscape level data and working towards establishing a long-term passive acoustic monitoring program in the Andaman Islands.


  • Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.

Fish on a Mission: Assessing the Role of Herbivorous Fish in Maintaining Coral-Algal Balance on Post-Disturbed Reefs of the Andaman Islands, India

Although few studies from the Andaman Islands have shown instances of high algal growth in certain reefs, the role of herbivory in mediating post-disturbance reef recovery is relatively less known. Through this project, my colleague Tanmay Wagh is studying the processes, by which herbivory acts as a top-down force in controlling algal overgrowth and maintaining the coral-algal balance on the coral reefs in the Andaman Islands. The findings will help in understanding how local processes influence post-disturbance reef recovery and thus aid in the existing reef conservation and management efforts in the Andaman Islands.

For further information contact Tanmay:

Funding and support: The Rufford Foundation

Discerning the “illegal” in illegal marine trade in the Andaman islands

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 5.19.08 PM

Shark landing at Wandoor jetty, South Andaman

Though several marine species are protected by legislation in India, the existing knowledge of the illegal marine trade is mainly limited to field observations and grey literature, unsubstantiated by quantitative or contextual synthesis of information. Many of the protected species are long-lived and have slow growth rates, but are often overexploited because of their high economic value. The nature of trade is often complex and frequently carried out through informal pathways, as a result, the true extent is seldom recorded. While curbing marine trade may not be possible at regionally meaningful scales, understanding the factors and details that drive this trade is an essential step towards rational conservation of these species. This project investigates what factors contribute to illegal marine trade in the Andaman Islands.

Funding and support: Ravi Sankaran Small Grant Program

Conservation & management of dugongs in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands

Dugong 3_Havelock island_Photo_ Vardhan Patankar

Dugong surfacing for a breath of fresh air

Since 2007, my colleague Elrika D’souza and I are studying dugongs and their habitats in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. As a long-lived, slow-moving and slow-breeding marine mammal, dugongs are particularly vulnerable to extinction. They are globally endangered and, in Indian waters, they are restricted to a few tiny pockets like the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. They are primarily herbivores and are highly dependent on seagrass meadows in which they graze. In the A&N Islands, where they were once relatively abundant, our studies have shown a clear historical decline.  We are working together with the Department of Environment and Forests in the A & N Islands to evolve a suite of strategies to protect what remains of this population.

Funding and support: 

  • Department of Environment and Forests, Andaman and Nicobar Islands
  • Ravi Sankaran Inlaks Fellowship Program
  • SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund
  • The Conservation Leadership Programme
  • The Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund

Coconut crabs: assessing their status and distribution in the Nicobar archipelago

Coconut_photo by Vardhan Patankar

Coconut crab at Kamorta Island in Central Nicobar

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are one of the few key biodiversity regions in the world where the endangered coconut crabs still exist. The crab is reported to occupy a definite niche both in the ecology and in the livelihoods of the Islanders. We carried out interviews with Nicobari communities to examine the issues regarding their conservation and conducted timed searches in areas where coconut crabs were likely to be found. Of the six islands surveyed in the Nicobar group of Islands, we recorded the presence of 17 and 14 crabs on two islands, respectively. On four islands villagers reported the presence of the crab prior to the tsunami of 2004, and on two of these islands, the species may now be locally extinct. Small population size and fragmented distribution in areas of coconut plantations suggest that the species is threatened. This project highlights conservation needs for the species and gives the recommendation for managing their populations.

Funding & support: National Geographic Society



Darling ES, McClanahan TR, Maina JM, Gurney GA, Graham NAJ, Januchowski-Hartley F, Cinner JE, Mora C, Hicks CC, Maire E, Puotinen M, Skirving WJ, Adjeroud M, Ahmadia G, Arthur R, Bauman A, Beger M, Berumen M, Bigot L, Bouwmeester J, Brenier A, Bridge T, Brown E, Campbell S, Cannon S, Cauvin B, Chen C, Claudet J, Denis V, Donner S, Estradivari E, Fadli N, Feary D, Fenner D, Fox H, Franklin E, Friedlander A, Gilmour J, Goiran C, Guest J, Hobbs J, Hoey A, Houk P, Johnson S, Jupiter S, Kayal M, Kuo C, Lamb J, Lee M, Low J, Muthiga N, Muttaqin E, Nand Y, Nash K, Nedlic O, Pandolfi J, Pardede S, Patankar V, Penin L, Ribas-Deulofeu L, Richards Z, Roberts T, Rodgers K, Safuan C, Sala E, Shedrawi G, Sin T, Smallhorn-West P, Smith J, Sommer B, Steinberg P, Sutthacheep M, Tan C, Williams G, Wilson S, Yeemin T, Bruno JF, Fortin MJ, Krkosek M and D Mouillot. (2019)Social-environmental drivers inform strategic management of coral reefs in the Anthropocene. Nature Ecology and Evolution,

Patankar, VJ (2019). Attitude, perception and awareness of stakeholders towards the protected marine species in the Andaman Islands. Ocean & Coastal Management179, 104830.

Patankar V, Wagh T. & Tyabji Z. (2019). Observations on the female flowers and fruiting of Tape Grass (Enhalus acoroides) from South Andaman Islands, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 11(5): 13617–13621.

Patankar, V., D’Souza & Marathe, A. (2019) Protected areas and benthic characteristics influence the distribution of the Vulnerable bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India, Oryx,


Ghodke M., Chandi M, Patankar V. (2018) Yellow-banded Mangrove Snakes (Cantoria violacea) Consume Hard-shelled Orange Signaler Crabs (Metaplax elegans), IRCF Reptiles & Amphinbians • 25(1):50–51.

Tyabji Z. & Patankar V. (2018) Entanglement of a Juvenile Olive Ridley Turtle in a Ghost Net in the Andaman Islands, Indian Ocean Turtle Newsletter, 1 (26), 5-7. 

Patankar V., Paranjape A., Tyabji Z., Wagh T., Marathe A. (2018) Occurrence and distribution of Tetraodontiform fishes of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India. Check List 14 (3): 529–537

Bopardikar I., Sule M., Jog K., Patankar V., Sutaria, D., Klinck H. (2018) Description and classification of Indian Ocean humpback dolphin (Sousa plumbea) whistles recorded off the Sindhudurg coast of Maharashtra, India. Marine Mammal Science, DOI: 10.1111/mms.12479


Jog K., Sule, M., Patankar, V. Bopardikar, I., Sutaria, D. (2017) Living with Dolphins: Fishers Perceptions and Conservation Implications along the Sindhudurg coast of Maharashtra, India. Marine Mammal Science, DOI: 10.1111/mms.12466

Patankar V., D’Souza E. and Marathe A. (2017) Latitude and live coral cover independently affect Chaetodontid and Pomacanthid fish community distribution in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, India, Marine Biodiversity. DOI: 10.1007/s12526-017-0790-4.


Patankar V. (2016) Synchronous spawning of the sea cucumber Holothuria (Lessonothuria) Pardalis Selenka, 1867 in the Andaman archipelago, India, Journal of Bombay Natural History Society, 112 (2), November, 1, 31.

Patankar, V., D’Souza, E., Alcoverro, T., & Arthur, R. (2016). For traditional island communities in the Nicobar archipelago, complete no-go areas are the most effective form of marine management. Ocean & Coastal Management, 133 (1), 53-63.


Patankar V., D’Souza E., Alcoverro, T. and Arthur, R. (2015) Erosion of Traditional Marine Management Systems in the Face of Disturbances in the Nicobar Archipelago, Human Ecology, Volume 43 (5), 697–707.

D’Souza E., Patankar V., Arthur R., Marbà N., Alcoverro T. (2015) Seagrass Herbivory Levels Sustain Site-Fidelity in a Remnant Dugong Population. PLoS ONE 10(10): e0141224. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0141224.

Patankar, V. (2015) Illegal marine trade in India, Economic & Political Weekly, in Letters, September 26th, Volume 1 (39)


D’Souza, E., Patankar, V., Arthur, R., Alcoverro, T., Kelkar, N. (2013) Long-Term Occupancy Trends in a Data-Poor Dugong Population in the Andaman and Nicobar Archipelago, PLoS ONE 8(10): e76181. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0076181.


Patankar, V., D’Souza, E., Kumaraguru, A.K., and Arthur, R. (2012) Distance-related Thresholds and Influence of the 2004 Tsunami on Damage and Recovery Patterns of Coral Reefs in the Nicobar Islands, Current Science, 102(8): 1199-1205.

Patankar, V. and D’Souza, E. (2012) Conservation Needs of the Coconut Crab (Birgus latro) on the Nicobar Islands, India, Oryx, 46: 175-178, doi:10.1017/S0030605311000408.


D’Souza, E. and Patankar, V. (2009) First Underwater Sighting and Preliminary Behavioural Observations of Dugongs (Dugong dugon) in the wild from Indian waters, Andaman Islands, Journal of Threatened Taxa 1(1): 49-53.

2005 to 2007

Patankar, V. (2007) First Post-Tsunami Sighting of the Coconut Crab in the Nicobar Islands, Oryx,   41(3) 1-2.

Gaur, A.S., Sundaresh and Patankar, V. (2005) Ancient Shell Industry at Bet Dwarka Island, Current Science, 4(89): 941-946.

Book chapters

Hines, E. M., Adulyanukosol, K. Poochaviranon, S. Somany, P., Ath, S.L., Cox, N., Symington, K., Tun, T., Ilangakoon, A., DeIongh, H. H., Aragones, L.V., Lu, S., Jiang, X., Jing, X., D’Souza, E., Patankar, V., Sutaria, D., Jethva, B. Solanki P. (2013). Dugongs in Asia. In Sirenian conservation: Issues and strategies in developing countries. Ellen Hines. John Reynolds, Lemnuel Aragones, Antonio A. Mignucci- Giannoni, Miriam Marmontel. (Ed.) Florida: University of Florida Press.

D’Souza, E., Raveendran, E.K., Rajan, P.T., and Patankar, V. (2010) Status of Dugong dugon (Muller) in Andaman and Nicobar islands based on past records and traditional hunting by indigenous tribes, in: Ramakrishna R, C. and Sivaperuman, C. (ed) Recent Trends in Biodiversity of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Zoological Survey of India, Kolkatta, 443-448.

Gaur, A. S., Sundaresh and Patankar, V. (2005) Ancient Shell Industry at Bet Dwarka Island, in: Gaur, A.S., Sundaresh, Vora, K.H. (ed) Archaeology of Bet Dwarka Island, An Excavation Expedition, Aryan Book International and National Institute of Oceanography, New Delhi, 71-82.

Popular articles

Patankar V. (2018) Understanding reef resilience in the Andamans, Hornbill, Bombay Natural History Society Magazine, April-June, 42-45.

Patankar V. (2018) The Trials and Tribulations of the Andaman Fisheries, The WIRE.

Patankar V. (2017) Camping at Jahaji beach. Nature In Focus. August.

Patankar V. (2017) The Stars of the Sea. Nature in Focus. June.

Patankar V. (2017) The Crocodile Story. Andaman and Nicobar quarterly magazine. February-April.

Patankar V. (2017) Lost in the eyes of a Crocodile fish. Sanctuary Cubs, March issue.

Patankar V. & Pendharkar V. (2016) Attacks in the Andamans, Down to Earth, 16 to 30th November issue.

Patankar V. & Pendharkar V. (2016) On the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, humans and crocodiles are locked in conflict, Firstpost, 29th October.

Arthur R., Namboodhiri N. and Patankar V. (2016) Living with change: local responses to global impacts, Current Conservation, August-September, Issue 10.2

Tyabji Z. & Patankar V. (2016) Is there a future for the wetland birds of Sippighat in South Andaman?, Down to Earth, June web archive.

Patankar V. (2016) Bay Island Lizard: my work companions, Sanctuary Asia, January web archive.

Patankar V. (2016) “Live Like You Have a Hundred More Years To Go”: A Tribute to Dr Chhapgar, Sanctuary Asia, March web archive.

Patankar V. (2015) Jewels of the Seabed, The Hindu, In School, October 14th.

D’Souza E. & Patankar V. (2015) A day of dugong—story of their conservation, Daily Telegram, 4th October 205.

Patankar V. (2015) How I wish I was a fish!, The Hindu, July 1st.

Patankar V. & D’Souza E. (2015) Marine Meadows, Sanctuary Asia, February issue.

Patankar V. (2014) The Fancy Sea Fan, The Hindu, December 25th.

Patankar V. (2014) The Mermaid’s Second Life, Down to Earth, October issue.

D’Souza E. and Patankar V. (2014) The Constant Gardner, Current Conservation, September issue.

Patankar V. (2014) The Back Kick, in Royal Enfield, My trips Newsletter, May issue.

Patankar V. (2013) The Florid Magnificence of the Lost City, Indian Review, November issue.

D’Souza E. and Patankar V. (2013) Where have all the Dugongs gone? A Study on Long-term Occupancy Trends in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, India, Sirenews, Newsletter of the IUCN Sirenia Specialist Group, Vol. No. 60.

D’Souza E. and Patankar V. (2013) Protecting the dugong: better late than never, in a special bulletin of the 59th Wildlife Week Booklet Department of Environment and Forests, Andaman and Nicobar Administration, September issue.

Patankar V. (2013) A Day in the Life of a Butterflyfish, The Hindu, July 10th.

Patankar V. (2013) Dugongs in the Andaman Islands-a saga, April 26, Andaman Chronicles.

Patankar V. (2013) Securing Habitat of Nemo, Friday, April 12, Andaman Chronicles.

Patankar V. (2013) Shadow of the Tiger, Bushchat, NCF Newsletter, February-April 2013.

Patankar V. and D’Souza E. (2012) Dugongs, Mermaids of the Sea, The Hindu, September 26th.

Karkare R. and Patankar V. (2012) A Thousand Leopards in the Sea, The Hindu, September 29th.

Patankar V. (2012) Expedition North Andaman, The Hindu, September 13th.

Patankar V. (2012) No Mermaid Fairytale, Down to Earth, August issue

Patankar V. (2012) Hidden Treasure of Andaman Islands, A Photo Story in Care4Nature Magazine, March issue

Patankar V. and Arthur R. (2012) The Fading of an Invisible Map, The Hindu, February 11th, Magazine Section

Patankar V. (2010) A Blow to Marine Life, Bushchat, NCF Newsletter (Special issue)

Patankar V. (2010) My Burrow the Center of My Life, In Hornbill, January-March, 26-29.

Patankar V. and D’Souza E. (2009) In Troubled Waters, Hindustan Times, 21st January.

D’Souza, E. and Patankar, V. (2008) Out of the Blue, Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXVIII No.1, 40-45.

Sutaria D., D’Souza E. and Patankar V. (2009) The future of the dugong in the Indian sub-continent, Sirenews, Newsletter of the IUCN Sirenia Specialist Group, Vol. No. 52.


D’Souza, E., Patankar, V., Kelkar, N.,  Alcovero T. and Arthur R. (2016) Recovery of Dugong dugon of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Final report submitted to the Department of Environment and Forests, Port Blair 1-87.

Sule, M., Jog, K., Bopardikar, I., Patankar, V., and Sutaria. D (2016). The Status of Cetaceans along the Coast of Sindhudurg Maharashtra. UNDP-GoI-GEF.Submitted August 2016, pp 1.140.

Patankar, V., D’Souza, E. and Arthur, R. (2013) Coral Reef Resilience across the Andaman Archipelago. Report submitted to the Wildlife Conservation Society, Research Fellowship Programme, 1-29.

Karkare, R., Zambre A., Patankar, V., Ibrahim, M.K., and Arthur, R. (2012) Grouper Spawning Aggregation in the Lakshadweep Archipelago: baseline survey and behavioural observations, A report for the Society for the Conservation of Reef Fish Aggregations, 1-23.

Patankar, V. and D’Souza E. (2010) Study on Coral assemblages of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and change from 2002-2009, A Report submitted to the Forest and Plantation Development Corporation Limited, 1- 20.

Kulkarni, S. Patankar, V. and D’Souza, E. (2008) Status of Earthquake and the Tsunami affected Coral Reefs in Andaman and Nicobar islands, in CORDIO Report, Sweden, Edited by Obura, D. O., Tamelander, J., Linden, O., 173-184.

Kulkarni, S. Patankar, V. and D’Souza, E. (2008) An Education & Awareness Program on Coral Reefs in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, in CORDIO Report, Sweden, Edited by Obura, D. O., Tamelander, J., Linden, O., 439-440.


Patankar V. (2014) Post-tsunami Changes in the Coral Reef Communities and Marine Resource Utilization in the Nicobar archipelago, PhD thesis, Nature Conservation Foundation and Madurai Kamaraj University, India.

Patankar, V.  (2004) The Brachyuran Crab Fauna along the Goa coast, Master’s thesis, Goa University, India.