Jai Ranganathan


Center Associate
National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis
735 State Street, Suite 300
Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Interested in ecology and conservation? There is a new weekly podcast just for you: Curiouser and Curiouser. In the podcast, produced by Miller-McCune magazine, I interview scientists (mostly ecologists) about their exciting research. Intended for everyone interested in the world around them, the discussions are fun and lively, while still delving into the heart of the research. From the secret global trade in frog legs to the future of coral reefs, Curiouser and Curiouser covers a wide range of fun and interesting issues. You can also subscribe via iTunes. Check it out!

You can also listen to my earlier interview podcast, Voyage of the Beagle.


I am a conservation biologist working on two aspects of preserving native species in an ever more human-dominated world.

What role can agricultural landscapes play in conserving species in the tropics? Much of the earth's species are concentrated in the tropics, a region generally experiencing extremely heavy human impacts on the land. Although tropical protected areas are certainly important for conserving threatened species, human demands on the land are too many for protected areas alone to be sufficient for effective species conservation. To increase the playing field for conservation, my research focuses on the role that tropical agriculture can play for saving species. I have found that there is a tremendous potential for sustaining species and local livelihoods in tropical agricultural landscapes, where native habitat patches are preserved and agricultural practices encourage the retention of structure.

Can conservation planners achieve better results for biodiversity preservation by focussing on the bottom line? Given the scarcity of dollars devoted to conservation efforts, my research uses a return on investment approach to investigate how to maximize the conservation bang per conservation dollar spent. I am focussed on developing methods and tools that are directly relevant for planners in the field.


  • W. Murdoch, J. Ranganathan, S. Polasky, and J. Regetz (2010). Using return on investment to maximize conservation effectiveness in Argentine grasslands. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 107 (49): 20855-20862.
    Read the article and supplementary information.
  • J. Ranganathan, J. Krishnaswamy, and M.O. Anand (2010). Landscape-level effects on avifauna within tropical agriculture in the Western Ghats: Insights for management and conservation. Biological Conservation 143 (12): 2909-2917.
    Read the article.
  • T.C. Bonebrake, C.L. Boggs, J.M. McNally, J. Ranganathan, and P.R. Ehrlich (2010). Oviposition behavior and offspring performance in herbivorous insects: consequences of climatic and habitat heterogeneity. Oikos 119 (6): 927-934.
    Read the article.
  • J. Ranganathan and G.C. Daily (2009). Integrating biodiversity and agriculture: a success story in South Asia. In: The theory and practice of ecosystem service valuation in conservation. P. Kareiva, G.C. Daily, T. Ricketts, H. Tallis, and S. Polasky, editors. Oxford University Press.
  • J. Ranganathan, R.J.R. Daniels, M.D.S Chandran, P.R. Ehrlich, and G.C. Daily (2008). Sustaining biodiversity in ancient tropical countryside. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 105 (46): 17852-17854.
    Read the article and supplementary information.
    Selected press coverage: British Broadcasting Corporation, The Economist, Science
  • J. Ranganathan, K.M.A. Chan, K.U.K. Karanth, and J.L.D. Smith (2008). Where can tigers persist in the future? A landscape-scale, density-based population model for the Indian subcontinent. Biological Conservation 141(1): 67-77.
    Read the article and supplementary information.
    Press coverage: New Scientist
  • L. Pejchar, R. Pringle, J. Ranganathan (2008). Birds as agents of seed dispersal in a human-dominated landscape in southern Costa Rica. Biological Conservation 141(2): 536-544.
    Read the article.
  • J. Fischer, B. Brosi, G.C. Daily, P.R. Ehrlich, R. Goldman, J. Goldstein, D. Lindenmayer, A.D. Manning, A.H. Mooney, L. Pejchar, J. Ranganathan, and H. Tallis (2008). Should agricultural policies encourage land sparing or wildlife-friendly farming? Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7 (6): 380-385.
    Read the article.
  • Ranganathan, J. and Daily, G.C. (2007). Biogeography of rural landscapes: opportunities for rural conservation in Mesoamerican landscapes managed by people. In: Conservation of Biodiversity in Fragmented Landscapes in Central America. C. Harvey and J. Saenz, editors. INBIO: Santo Domingo de Heredia, Costa Rica.
  • J. Ranganathan, K.M.A. Chan, and G. C. Daily (2007). Satellite detection of bird communities in tropical countryside. Ecological Applications 17(5): 1499-1510.
    Read the article and supplementary information.
  • K.M.A. Chan, R.M. Pringle, J. Ranganathan, C.L. Boggs, Y.L. Chan, P.R. Ehrlich, P. K. Haff, N.E. Heller. K. Al-Khafaji, and D.P. MacMynowski (2007). When agendas collide: human welfare and biological conservation. Conservation Biology 21 (1): 59-68.
    Read the article.
  • K.M.A. Chan and J. Ranganathan (2005). Testing the importance of patch scale on forest birds. Oikos 111:606-610.
    Read the article.
  • J. Ranganathan and G. C. Daily (2003). Carrying capacity. In: Encyclopedia of Population, Sinauer, New York.