An obsession with swamps is never very healthy, but it does have its perks. A lifelong mangrove lover, I recently (cue 2019) began taking an interest in freshwater swamps, not just the estuarine beauties of my childhood, and was introduced to the magical, ancient world of Myristica swamps. I was immediately fascinated by these relic ecosystems. The geologist in me was itching to learn more about the formation of this system and its paleoecology (which, by the way, dates back to the time of the dinosaurs). A field trip to see Myristica swamps in Uttara Kannada district, in the forests parallel to the Aghanashini and the Sharavathi Rivers, is what, however, truly brought my swamp obsession to life.

After god knows how many popular science articles on swamps (much love to the Deccan Herald and for encouraging my passion for writing about lesser known systems), I joined forces with Drs. Ravikanth and Aravind at ATREE, Bangalore, where I was an RA at the time. Together, we spent the pandemic working on a comprehensive literature review on these freshwater swamps, which was published in Wetlands Ecology and Management journal in early 2021. The fact that I actually have published a paper on swamps still surprises me, and I have my co-authors and mentors to thank for giving me free reign and helping me grow as a researcher and writer in science.

The knee roots that threaten to trip you up in a swamp (P.C. G. Ravikanth)

Now, Myristica swamps are once again taking centre stage! Nature in Focus’s Nikhil Sreekandan published a fascinating article on swamps, using my publication as a basis. I was extremely privileged to be interviewed for the piece, along with my colleague Madhushri Mudke, who is an EDGE fellow working on the rare dancing frog, Dr. M.D. Subash Chandran, a senior professor at IISc Bangalore and the first to dub swamps as ‘relic forests,’ and other scientists with years of experience working on swamps. Not only that, but Nature in Focus has also produced a short film titled “The Myristica Swamp Creature” as a part of their Western Ghats on the Edge series. The film can be viewed freely on YouTube by following this link or below:

Yet another stop on my journey through the swamps is a project by Nirupa Rao, who is using art to convey the importance of swamps as a part of a National Geographic project. As one of the consultants on the project, I have spent many a happy hour researching the ins and outs of swamps – and luckily, this information will feed into my PhD dissertation as well!

So onwards and upwards I go, into the evergreen rainforests of the Western Ghats, leeches dropping onto me from above and the gentle gurgle of a stream leading me home to the mystical swamp forests.

I would like to give special thanks to Drs. Ravikanth and Aravind for mentoring me throughout the publication writing and conceptual process (and for being co-authors and guides), Dr. Jagdish Krishnaswamy for taking me on my first swamp expedition in Uttara Kannada, and Dr. M.D. Subash Chandran for patiently answering my endless questions about swamps and their ecosystem services and history. And, of course, many thanks to Nikhil for featuring my work in his article.

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