In conversation with Dincy Mariyam, PhD Student at the Centre for Wildlife Studies, Bengaluru

From the dense wet evergreen forests of Kerala and Karnataka to the dry scrub forests of Madhya Pradesh to the mangrove swamps of West Bengal, a doctoral student strives to understand what makes people visit national parks in India today.

Can you tell us a bit about your PhD research?

My PhD research looks at nature-based tourism and the opportunities to expand conservation efforts beyond protected areas – national parks and wildlife sanctuaries – through models of wildlife-friendly land and nature-based tourism. I am looking to understand the perspectives of two stakeholder groups – the tourists themselves, and the local communities that live beside protected area and who are prime candidates for nature-based tourism in private land parcels. I want to help mould our current tourism model to benefit local communities while simultaneously enhancing tourist experiences. My research looks at multiple national parks across the country so as to capture the variety that India has to offer in the realm of tourism.

What did you study to reach your current position?

I received my dual B.Sc.-M.Sc. degree in Biology from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) – Pune. After that, I joined the Centre for Wildlife Studies, where I am currently a doctoral fellow, as part of a project on nature-based tourism. This actually fed my interest and ended up influencing me to take up tourism as my topic of PhD research. But while at the Centre for Wildlife Studies, I also was part of projects on human-wildlife conflict. This exposure taught me about the many sides to living alongside wildlife and the livelihoods of local communities.

What made you interested in researching nature-based tourism?

Nature-based tourism is a growing enterprise, but there is inadequate understanding of how to balance limited resources while meeting the growing demands of tourists.

What advice do you have for youngsters interested in pursuing a PhD in conservation science?

In this field, passion and determination are going to be your key motivators, not money. This is definitely not the field for you if you want to earn in lakhs starting out your career. But it’s really rewarding – understanding about our natural world, working to conserve habitats and wildlife, and spreading awareness about conservation issues. You believe that someday your work will make a difference in peoples’ lives, and that feeling will carry you through the highs and lows of your PhD. What got me through my PhD was that I considered it a small part of my journey towards a bigger dream. A journey can be smooth and rough and tough at times, and a PhD is a milestone in that journey.