Debottam Bhattacharjee

Contact -
University Indian Institute of Science Education and Research - Kolkata (IISER-K)
Project at the WSC Using “following” to understand how canines “value” human contact
With us since June 2017
Favourite animal at the WSC Pepeo

I am currently a PhD student, studying the behavioural ecology and cognition of Indian free-ranging dogs at IISER Kolkata, India. My thesis includes objectives pertaining to the dog-human relationships covering different parts of India. I have always been fascinated by the area of animal behaviour which led me to study different biological systems like carpenter bees, butterflies, bonnet macaques etc. I have never liked the conventional lab based molecular or cell “biology” where one has to follow the same standardized protocol and wait for the machine to give an output. Probably this aversion made me more connected to the nature, outside of the stressful mechanical life. So, when my friends do technical stuff in their modern day biology, I observe dogs. They pull my leg by saying why do you even get stipend for studying dogs? I really don’t know the answer and smile every time. Somewhere I read - One should not get paid for watching animal behaviour because the pleasure is different…something like that. So theoretically, my salary gets double every time I observe animals.

I wanted to study wolves when I started designing and performing my cognitive experiments with free-ranging dogs. Some of the results we got, were completely different from pet dogs. Only a comparative approach could answer my questions. I feel very happy to be a part of the Wolf Science Center (WSC). People are extremely helpful and friendly here. Getting involved in their experiments and learning about the WSC animals was the first phase, which I completed. Now I am excited as it’s time to start my comparative experiment. I will be studying how canines value human contact when another essential reward like food is present. I will test the free-ranging dogs using the same protocol when I go back home. Thus, I am looking forward to work with the animals here and enjoy my stay at the WSC.