The Internet and Nature: How I Got Here

So, on Thursday I gave a TED talk.


It was about this blog. And it was about birds. And it was about… well, it was about a lot of things.

Mostly it was about the Internet, and nature, and what happens, has happened, and will happen, between them – for better or worse.

And I think this would be a good place to tell you how I got to where I am today. In bits and pieces, and out-of-order.

But it roughly goes like this.

I suppose it began with a finish line. The Green Corridor Run, 2013. And a couple of pocket field guides for sale, a long deliberation, and finally selection of the butterfly one.

Then again, maybe it began with the rainforest project. Seventh grade science, the ecology unit, unsure but excited, walking up the steps and a huge Atlas moth, and me thinking: hey, I actually like this.

It was probably both. Though if we want to find beginnings, we’ll have to dig deeper than that: through rabbits, and clubs, and whales, and moving.

But that is not the time for that. This is the time for Project Noah, and butterflies, and a girl ready to discover the world.

On my first ‘excursion’ I walk fifty meters and find a lime butterfly. It is Chinese New Year, so they are abundant. Then, however, I do not know what species they are, and I fantasize about rarities, discoveries. Then Project Noah informs me they are unbearably common.

This does not deter me. I vow to discover. One day, I say to myself. One day. (In case you’re wondering, that day still hasn’t arrived.)

I traverse my condo armed with nothing but a bright green iTouch and snap blurry pictures of everything I find. Then I upgrade, to a digital waterproof camera I got for my tenth birthday. My photos are slightly less blurry and I try to figure out how to focus.

I am learning: about cruisers, about where butterflies hang out, about what hides under logs. About what surrounds me, what is there under the surface, what is there above it. About how things are not always what they seem. I learn about Cuban Todies and chat with people halfway across the world. I realize what I have been missing.

I get a 120% on the rainforest project. (The requirement for Project Noah submissions was 10. I had close to 100.)

On the bus home I write down the butterflies I have seen. Painted Jezebel. Lime Butterfly. Chocolate Pansy. I memorize the names. The green pamphlet becomes ragged. I look out the window, hoping for something. Once I see a flash of blue disappearing over a canal. I write down, under the butterflies: kingfisher.


Then, on the way home one day, I hear something calling from a tree. I run home and grab a camera. It is a juvenile yellow-vented bulbul, and it will take me places.

Beginnings in Bulbuls
Beginnings in Bulbuls

I realize photography works. I start examining other’s work critically. I am unreasonably proud of my first deduction: people like clear backgrounds. I take photographs, filling up hard drives faster than red-billed queleas destroy ecosystems.

I see a leopard, and it teaches me to step back.

Journal Journeys: The 'Chui' (Guest Post)
Journal Journeys: The ‘Chui’ (Guest Post)

I see more and more birds on my way home – rainbow lorikeets. Mynahs. Pink-necked green pigeons. As I wear out a groove in the butterflies within my condo, I explore the other avian denizens, one by one. (I am still exploring. It is hard to finish.)

And then, and then, and then. Bukit Brown Cemetery, MacRitchie Reservoir, snakes and birds and lizards and such, such amazing things. More and more and more and this world has opened up to me, full of wonder, and I am bursting to share it, so I start this blog.


I realize I am not alone. I realize science is not a lab coat. I realize the Internet and biodiversity are not polar opposites.

I find problems. I look for solutions.

And I explore.

13 thoughts on “The Internet and Nature: How I Got Here”

  1. Congratulations Tanvi! So proud of you. Your photographs are incredible-each has a unique story to tell. Keep going on this crazy, fascinating journey of yours and may you speak at many more events! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One of the best ever posts I have read through WordPress. Honesty just foams in its mouth. And we, the readers, feel proud of you!

    Everything needs more butterfly-chasin’ and bulbul-lovin’ soldiers like you, especially the nicest parts.

    Liked by 1 person

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