Shikhara Bhat


Mathematics without natural history is sterile, but natural history without mathematics is muddled. ”

- John Maynard Smith

Hi there!

I'm Shikhara, an evolutionary ecologist and PhD student at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. I am broadly interested in studying systems which have a strong interplay between ecological and evolutionary processes, and in uncovering broad generalities in such systems. I believe that the best way to approach this is to use the powerful insights provided by rigorous mathematical theory and modelling while relying on empirical data to shape, guide, and verify these mathematical constructs. This approach not only requires integrative approaches, but also requires extensive communication and collaboration between theorists and empiricists. I am interested in approaching this interface from the theory side, using models that are informed by empirical data.

I am currently a PhD student in Prof. Hanna Kokko's group in the Institute of Organismic and Molecular Evolution (iomE) at the University of Mainz. Though I'm still determining the exact projects I will work on for my PhD, I'm currently most interested in questions pertaining to sexual dimorphism (broadly, how it relates to sympatric speciation and coexistence theory) and the evolution of aging (broadly, modelling ‘function-valued’ traits that confer fitness differently at different points of an organism’s life and how such traits affect the evolution of senescence).

In May 2023, I completed my BS-MS degree from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Pune, India. For my Master's dissertation, I worked with Prof. Rohini Balakrishnan and Prof. Vishwesha Guttal at the Centre for Ecolocial Sciences (CES) at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India. I used methods from statistical physics and stochastic processes to develop analytical theory to describe evolutionary dynamics in finite, fluctuating populations from first principles. You can read more about this work over here, or read the actual thesis itself by clicking on this link (warning: links to a PDF). In the past, I have worked on vocal behaviour in frogs, alternative reproductive tactics in tree crickets, and Lotka-Volterra communities. An extensive list of my work can be found over at the Projects page. Some of these projects occasionally lead to publications in peer-reviewed journals. Such publications (and preprints) can be found on the Publications page.

In my free time, I enjoy reading, listening to country music, sipping a hot cup of strong coffee, and sometimes watching or playing Dungeons & Dragons. I'm particularly fond of popular science books, and you can find a list of books I liked over on the Resources page. I've also collected other resources related to academia, such as resources for learning about various things like math, biology, presentation skills, coding, writing, etc., on the Resources page in the interest of making it easier for other people to find the things that have helped me at various times. I also enjoy collecting quotes (usually about modelling or ecology/evolution) that I think are profound, pretty, or funny, and you can find some quotes I particularly liked over on the Quotes page. I am also an avid naturalist and wildlife lover, and love going on treks and hikes. When I find the time, I like dabbling in wildlife photography (mostly macro stuff), and you can find images I've taken over on my instagram account.

My Erdös number is 5.