Research Associate

Center for Tropical Conservation
Nicholas School of the Environment
Duke University

Box 90328, Durham NC 27708, USA.

vs12 at duke dot edu



(printable pdf)

(last updated February 2013)

Regeneration dynamics of tropical forests, plant-animal interactions, effects of hunting-induced defaunation on forest plant communities, interdisciplinary strategies for maintaining ecological integrity of tropical forests.


2012-13: Bullard Fellowship in Forest Research, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.
2012- :    Research Fellow, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, San Diego, CA.
2012- :    Research Associate, Center for Tropical Conservation, Duke University, Durham NC, USA.
2008-11: Postdoctoral Associate, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham NC, USA.

2008.   Ph.D.   Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham NC, USA.
Dissertation: “Fruit to sapling: an ontogenetically integrated study of tree recruitment in an Amazonian rainforest”. Advisor: Dr. John Terborgh.
2001.   B.A.     Environmental Studies, magna cum laude, Connecticut College, New London CT, USA.

Specialized courses and workshops
2009. Likelihood Methods in Forest Ecology, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, NY.
2004. Tropical Plant Systematics summer field course, Organization for Tropical Studies, Costa Rica.


Swamy, V. and Pinedo-Vasquez, M. 2013. Status of research on wild meat harvest in tropical forests: existing knowledge base, gaps, and opportunities. White paper, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Bogor, Indonesia.

Swamy, V.,
J. Terborgh, K.G. Dexter, B.D. Best, P. Alvarez, F. Cornejo. 2011. Are all seeds equal? Spatially explicit comparisons of seed fall and sapling recruitment in a tropical forest. Ecology Letters 14:195-201.

Swamy, V. & Terborgh, J. 2010. Distance-responsive natural enemies strongly influence seedling establishment patterns of multiple species in an Amazonian rainforest. Journal of Ecology 98:1096-1107.

Terborgh, J., G. Nuñez-Ituri, N. Pitman, F.H. Cornejo Valverde, P. Alvarez, V. Swamy, B. Pringle, C. E.T. Paine. 2008. Tree recruitment in an empty forest. Ecology 89(6): 1757-68.

Swamy, V., P.E. Fell, M. Body, M.B. Keaney, M.K. Nyaku, E.C. McIlvain, A.L. Keen. 2002. Macroinvertebrate and fish populations in a restored impounded salt marsh 21 years after the re-establishment of tidal flooding. Environmental Management 29(4): 516-530.

Warren, R. S., P. E. Fell, R. Rozsa, A. H. Brawley, A. C. Orsted, E. T. Olson, V. Swamy, W. A. Niering. 2002. Salt marsh restoration in Connecticut: 20 years of science and management. Restoration Ecology 10(3): 497-513.


  • Charles Bullard Fellowship in Forest Research, Harvard University – 2012-2013.
  • Conservation, Food and Health Foundation Research Grant - 2009-11. ($45,936)
  • National Science Foundation DEB 0742830 (co-authored with Dr. John Terborgh) 2008-11.  ($400,000)
  • Wildlife Conservation Society Research Fellowship Program - 2008-09. ($20,000)
  • Amazon Conservation Association (ACA) Postdoctoral Seed Grant - 2008-09. ($10,000)
  • Lewis & Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research, American Philosophical Society - 2007. ($2700)
  • Amazon Conservation Association (ACA) Graduate Research Grant - 2005-06. ($4765)
  • Francis Bossuyt Fellowship, Organization for Tropical Studies - 2004. ($3000)
  • Duke University Graduate School Research Travel Grants - 2006, 2003-04. ($6600 total)
  • Mellon Research Travel Grant, Duke University Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies - 2006, 2002-04. ($4750 total)
  • Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research Award - 2006. ($700)
  • Mellon Science Foundation Grant for Undergraduate Research - 1999. ($3000)


2012. Community-level effects of vertebrate defaunation on forest composition and regeneration dynamics across a western Amazonian river basin. Annual Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology & Conservation (ATBC), Bonito, Brazil.

Symposium organizer: “Regeneration dynamics in defaunated tropical forests - a pantropical survey
ATBC Annual Meeting, Arusha, Tanzania.

Intra- and inter-cohort spatial organization in western Amazonian forests confirm the predictions of the Janzen-Connell hypothesis. ATBC Annual Meeting, Arusha, Tanzania.

Tree recruitment patterns across a western Amazonian river basin. ATBC Annual Meeting, Bali, Indonesia.

A basin-wide study of seed rain patterns in lowland western Amazonia. 5th International Symposium-Workshop on Frugivores and Seed Dispersal, Montpellier, France.

Tropical tree recruitment: dispersal is critical, density is a red herring, distance is the key. ATBC Annual Meeting, Paramaribo, Suriname.

Pervasive distance effects control early-stage tree recruitment in an Amazonian rainforest. Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America (ESA), San Jose, California.

Community-level distance effects are pervasive through multiple stages of tree recruitment in an Amazonian rainforest. ATBC Annual Meeting, Morelia, Mexico.

From fruit to sapling: constructing an integrated picture of tropical tree recruitment. ATBC Annual Meeting, Uberlandia, Brazil.

Macroinvertebrates and fish populations in a restored impounded salt marsh 21 years after the re-establishment of tidal flooding. New England Estuarine Research Society (NEERS) Spring Conference, Portland, Maine.


  • Harvard Forest Seminar, Petersham, MA, USA. 12/2012.
  • Connecticut College Department of Biology Seminar, New London, CT, USA. 04/2010
  • Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology & Environment, Bangalore, India. 01/2010.
  • Center for Ecological Studies, Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore, India. 01/2010.
  • National Conservation Foundation, Mysore, India. 01/2010.
  • National Museum of Natural History Seminar, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., USA. 05/2008.
  • Dept. of Environmental Science, Policy & Management, University of California, Berkeley, CA. 05/2006.
  • Dept. of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA. 05/2006.


Biological Conservation; Journal of Ecology; PLoS ONE; Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences; National Science Foundation, Division of Environmental Biology.


2010, 2012: Co-Instructor, ENV 217: Tropical Ecology, Duke University, spring semester.
2008: Invited Lecturer, Amazonian Ecosystems & Global Change field course, Organization for Tropical Studies, Peru.
2007: Co-Instructor, Amazonian Forest Ecology & Ethnobotany field course, Connecticut College in Peru Fall 2007 study abroad program.
2007: Course Instructor, ENV 298.77: Topics in Tropical Forest Ecology and Conservation, Spring 2007, Duke University.
2002-06: Teaching Assistant, ENV 217: Tropical Ecology (taught by Dr. John Terborgh), Duke University.


  • 3 master’s thesis projects at Duke University (2008-12)
  • 1 undergraduate honors thesis at Connecticut College (2011-12)
  • 3 undergraduate thesis projects of Peruvian students at Universidad Nacional San Antonio Abad Cusco (UNSAAC), Peru (2011-).


2008-09  Station manager, Cocha Cashu Biological Station (CCBS), Peru; Member, CCBS Advisory Board.
- coordinated and oversaw logistics of day-to-day operations and financial accounting.
- participated in strategic planning meetings on the field station’s administrative and financial future.


1999-2001 Salt Marsh Restoration
- examined restoration of invertebrate and fish populations on formerly impounded salt marshes in Barn Island Wildlife Management Area, Stonington, CT, USA.
- received Rankin Award for Best Undergraduate Student Presentation, New England Estuarine Research Society (NEERS) Spring 2000 conference, Portland, Maine.

2000  Center for Science and Environment, New Delhi, India.
- conducted field interviews of farmers, regional administrators and agricultural scientists in Uttaranchal State, northern India.
-  prepared a detailed report on the ecological and socio-economic implications of the decline in traditional agroecosystems and agricultural biodiversity.

English (native), Spanish (fluent in reading, writing, conversation), Portuguese (basic), Hindi & Tamil (basic).


All images are property of Varun Swamy, copyright protected.

Last updated: February 2013.