The IFP Newsletter

March 2023


Antoine Petit speaking to the IFP’s team on the terrace 

17th FEB, 2023

The entire IFP team was pleased to welcome Antoine PETIT, CEO of the CNRS and his delegation, including Thierry DAUXOIS, Director of the National Institute of Physics (INP), Michel DAYDE, Deputy Scientific Director, Institute of Information Sciences and Technologies (INS2I), Jérôme GUILBERT, Director of Communications, Amel FEREDJ, Deputy Director for India, Africa and the Middle East, Department of European Research and International Cooperation. They were accompanied by Professor Madhavan Mukund, Director of the Chennai Mathematical Institute, Professor Pascal Weil, Deputy Director of RELAX, Meena Mahajan from the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc), and also the Director of the CNRS office in India, Srini Kaveri, with its Executive Secretary, Deepali Dham.

This was an occasion for Antoine PETIT and the Consule Generale Lise TALBOT-BARRE to inaugurate the renovation of the photographic archives, after a visit of the exhibition Stories from the dark room, launched on this occasion. This visit was followed by an informal meeting with the entirety of the IFP team, over a drink on the IFP terrace overlooking the sea, followed by a dinner at the consulate with Indian partners, a visit of the collections and laboratories and a lunch with the French researchers assigned to the IFP the following day. These exchanges should lead to possibilities of collaboration and financing, for which the IFP’s team now need to work on.

17th FEB 2023

Created in 1956, the photo archives of the IFP/EFEO contain a diverse collection of photographs ranging from archaeological monuments, temples, religious artifacts and sculptures to scenes of everyday life, studio portraits and cityscapes. The inauguration of a new physical archival space for the photo archives is an occasion to celebrate the continuous growth and evolution of this archive.

Stories from the Dark Room engages with the archive’s collections as well as the technologies, processes, and spaces that have given the archive its current form. It attends to show how things enter the archive; how collections have been stored, indexed, accessed and experienced; and the research and scientific productions they have facilitated over the years.

It is a result of collaborative efforts between Sri Subam (UG student, National Institute of Design), Bharat Sundararajan (Archivist at the IFP) and Rameshkumar Kothandapani (Head of the Photo Archives). We would like to thank Zoé Headley and Kasha E. Vande for the loan of a selection of photos from the STARS‘s collection (stars.archive) on this occasion.

Open to the public on weekends, from 10 am to 6 pm. 
Booked tours available on weekdays at

Antoine Petit, CNRS’s CEO and Lise Talbot-Barré, Consule Générale de France


Created in 1956, the physical component of this very valuable archive was in need of immediate attention. Time, climatic conditions, and chemical processes have begun to take their toll on the prints and the negatives, some of which are over sixty years old. 

After training, expertise, and look for financial support, IFP undertook this urgent task. The main components of the improvements have been the construction of a dedicated space able to gather the collections which were before scattered in 4 rooms, with 24-hour air conditioning and humidity control, protected from direct light; a better storage for the negatives and positive prints which have been shifted from the wooden cabinets they were stacked in with a lack of airiness, into fireproof metal cabinets. The positive prints are now stored in archival boxes, separated by sheets of archival paper. The negatives have been transferred along with their pouches into archival boxes made of acid-free paper. A consultation and digitisation area has been added nearby, which will allow better access to the various collections, containing more than 200,000 photographs. This work was made possible by specific funding from the CNRS.

Nevertheless, the current digital database suffers from thin metadata and a lack of consistent description standards for the photographs. The IFP wishes now to improve the digital database of the collection with richer metadata and explore the option of specialized software/database platforms. This will need financial support we are looking for.

The Director of Alliance Française de Pondichéry, Laurent Jalicous, introducing the presenters of the short Doc Film screening- Remi de Bercegol and Shankare Gowda 


Short Documentary Film screening followed by Q&A - Christophe Jalil Nordman (IFP-IRD)- 7th DEC, 2023
"One side of the road - Chronicles of lives and hardships across two extraordinary years of the pandemic in a Tamil village"

Book Presentation - Marine Al Dahdah (IFP-CNRS)- 17th JAN, 2023
"Mobile (for) development: when digital giants take care of women's health"

Short Documentary Film screening followed by Q&A - Remi de Bercegol (CNRS-IFP)- 7th FEB, 2023
"The People of waste. Living Plastic" (IRD-CNRS, 18 min, Rémi de Bercegol, Grant Davis, Shankare Gowda)

Facilitators and participants of the conference during the field visit to Gangaikonda Cholapuram as part of the Mathematics Conference.


Mathematical Texts and Practices in South India
23rd JAN - 27th JAN, 2023

This workshop reviewed textual records such as medieval temple inscriptions, early modern mathematical texts in Tamil, Malayalam with respect to occupational practices such as that of the village accountant, the merchant, the artisan and the astronomer. The participants included social and economic historians, philosophers and mathematicians from different institutions in India.

Comparative perspectives on Computational Practices in South India
30th JAN - 31st JAN, 2023
The objective of this seminar was to discuss different kinds of primary sources to write a social history of mathematical practices in India. The participants included scholars working with these sources in the major South Indian languages.

Philippe Peycam in discussion with members of the Social sciences department of the IFP

23rd JAN, 2023

The Director of the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), Philippe Peycam, and his colleague Dr. Aarti Kawlra, Coordinator of the Humanities across Borders (HAB) program, paid a visit to the IFP in the spirit of strengthening an already active collaboration between the two institutes. An MOU has been signed to officialise and facilitate further exchanges and joint projects.  

Botany students from Manonmaniam Sundaranar University

23rd JAN, 2023

“HoD Doris Barboni explained about the vision and mission of the department and the emerging palynology studies. Ms. Anupama and Mr.Prasad gave a brief explanation about palynological studies and phytoliths which was very interesting and useful. Mr. Lazer’s explanation about his work i.e., the pollen collected by honeybees, and identification of pollen shows the emerging research in pollen and how it is important to protect pollinators, especially honey bees. Mr. Anbarasan explained about the diversity of plants in the Western Ghats region in the states of Tamilnadu, Kerala and Karnataka. He demonstrated the Biotik Software used for Plant identification especially woody plants and lianas. Talk of Mr. Anbarasan showed that the demand for Taxonomy is increasing in Botany. He demonstrated the Dendrometer Scale to estimate the Girth size and estimating above-ground biomass is really useful. Orukaimani helped a lot in taking fresh weight. Ms. Gayathri demonstrated some applications for estimating leaf area and studying leaf functional traits.” - S. Balakumar, II – M.Sc., Botany, Dept. of Plant Science, MS University, Tirunelveli.

Kalarippayattu performance during the gathering of IFP staff and families.

10th FEB, 2023

The yearly General Assembly has been an occasion to take a review of the year 2022 and perspectives, in terms of budget, salary harmonisation, human resources, work organisation and the renovation work carried out at IFP, highlighting the French State's re-investment in the institution. The general secretary reminded the existing architecture of social dialogue instances in the French network in India and Marine Al Dahdah explained how to  "Open Science in the digital era".

In the evening, the families of IFP staff were invited to visit the IFP’s collections, labs and offices, before gathering together on the roof terrace. The evening had a spectacle of Kalarippayattu (Martial Art from Kerala, India) performers from Indianostrum who lit up the stage, followed by dinner, music and dance.

Grand prize winner- Prasad P.K. (Chennai)

11th FEB, 2023

Following the World Wetland Day's theme, the theme of IFP Wetland Photo Contest 2023 was "It's time to restore wetland".

The WPC aims at showing not only the beauty but also the current status of wetlands in TN and Puducherry region where urbanisation, encroachment, agricultural fields are expanding like elsewhere. Photographers, professionals and amateurs were offered the possibility to submit 2 of their best photos. We distributed prizes to the best photos showing polluted wetlands, natural wetlands, humans in wetlands and fauna and flora of the wetlands. They have been exposed for a month at La Promenade, a restaurant on the sea side of Pondicherry.

Click on the link to view the results of the Wetland Photo Contest 2023:

Project Spotlight

Sustaining the Antibiotic Infrastructure: Tools, Actors, Controversies
Marine Aldahdah (IFP-CNRS)

Within the framework of the French priority research programme (PPR) on antibiotic resistance, through the intermediary of Marine Al Dahdah (CNRS-CEMS-IFP), IFP will host the Indian part of the ANR STATIC project led by Henri Boullier (CNRS-IRISSO) on "Sustaining the Antibiotic Infrastructure: Tools, Actors, Controversies”, starting in 2023 for a period of 5 years. IFP becomes the second laboratory supporting this PPR. The team based at IFP will be responsible for the surveys and scientific productions on antibiotic resistance in human, animal and environmental health in South India.

Collection of beach sediment for heavy metal and microplastic estimation.

Development of Biogeographic Information System for West Coast of India
Muthusakar Gowrappan (IFP)

The problems of the coastal zone are unique due to the high density of population, loss of land due to coastal erosion, beach sand mining, industrialization, combined with environmental degradation such as pollution, saline water intrusion, rising sea levels and erosion. This study is essential for a stretch of highly dynamic environment starting from Gujarat to Cape Comorin, Kanyakumari and focuses on studying the coastal instability, mapping the ecological sensitive areas, and developing a geo-database for the biogeographic Information System for the west coast of India. It began in 2022 and will finish in 2025.

The project is funded by National Centre for Coastal Research, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India and carried out by Dr. C. Lakshumanan, Professor at Centre for Disaster Management and Coastal Research, Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirappalli, and Dr. R. Arthur James, Professor & Head, Department of Marine Science, of the same university, in collaboration with  Dr. G. Muthusankar, Co-Principal Investigator, Geomatics Department of IFP.


Woman entrepreneur selling 9 types of fried rice varieties on the roadside of Ariyankuppam, Pondicherry. Photo credit: Roja Lakshmi

Women Entrepreneurship around Food in Pondicherry- Roja Lakshmi, Associate Researcher in PATAMIL’s project

I have been visiting and collecting data from women entrepreneurs who are involved in food businesses such as running tiffin centers, small hotels and restaurants, women street vendors who sell tiffins (idly, dosai, Poori, vada and pongal, idiyappam etc.), raagi kuzhu, keerai, naatu muttai, millet snack items, bajji and other snack items. Kasthuri (56) who is running a millet snack shop near Rainbow Nagar Park has been running her business for the last 20 years. Sushila (49) who migrated from Andhra Pradesh started a snack shop on the beach along with her husband. She has switched to the food business from a tea stall based on the demand and profit of the food business. She said business is really good because of a diverse tourist population. She was able to educate her son to be an engineer by doing this food business. Valarmathi (58) sells keerai to the urban customers by explaining the nutritious value of keerai relating to weather. Another women entrepreneur Pushpa (45) sells desi-egg by explaining the consequences of broiler egg and the goodness of naatu muttai (desi egg). Though this can be seen as a business strategy of the women entrepreneurs, the concerns related to health and the importance and goodness of organic foods can also be shared. These women are creating awareness about the nutritious value of organic food products. 

PATAMIL project on Food justice and democracy is funded by the French Region Centre-Val de Loire.

Students' Works

The Monday Colloquium- Team of Students

The will to integrate doctoral students as well as other students in the organisation of the IFP's activities has enabled a new team to be set up to take charge of organising the Monday colloquiums at the IFP. It is composed of Diane Cachau (Ph.D. Student), Oliver-James Crook (VIA), Marine Frantz (Ph.D. Student), Cansu Gurkaya (Ph.D. Student), and Arnaud Natal (VIA, Ph.D. Student). 

The new team wishes to use Monday colloquium as a space for informal exchange that can take several forms: short or long presentations, debates, talks on future projects, etc. The idea is to share experiences, confront the oratory exercise, gain experience, share these questions, and expand the scope of outreach. A new email address is available 

The new team would like to thank Arunkumar, Abhimanue Sulochana and Senthil Babu Dhandapani for their organisation during the last year and their precious help to the new team.

Decadal forest dynamics in logged and unlogged sites at Uppangala, Western Ghats Vincy K Wilson (Ph.D student, Department of Ecology, IFP)

We spent four months conducting a re-inventory in Uppangala, a tropical wet evergreen dipterocarp forest in the central Western Ghats of India. In this ten-year study (2010-2021), we compared a primary forest that has not been logged to one that was once selectively logged to investigate the effects of selective timber harvesting on the diversity, abundance, and structure of tropical forest communities. It was estimated that twenty years would be sufficient to restore the forest to its pre-logging state. So, 37 years after the logging operation, we decided to analyze it. Ten years after the initial study, our research provides valuable insights into the differences between logged and unlogged forests in terms of species diversity, structural features, biomass, demographic rates, and community composition. We noticed significant changes in the forest's structure and composition. Even 37 years after the logging, the composition of the logged and unlogged forests was strikingly different.

Link to the paper:

Uma Maheswari P. (Ph.D student,Department of Ecology, IFP)

Studies on flowering woody plants of Puducherry district and their phytolith morphology, under the supervision of Dr. N. Balachandran and Dr. V. Kumerasan.

The plant diversity in Puducherry territory has not been fully documented. It is our main aim to bring out the flora of Puducherry. In the first step, we surveyed the woody plants of Puducherry district and to study their phytolith morphology. Our objectives​ are to identify, document and describe the flowering woody plants of Puducherry and to construct illustrative taxonomic keys using morphological characters. The phytolith morphotypes can be used as potential markers for the identification of plant taxa.

People of IFP

10th FEB, 2023

Barathan Narayanan, known as Ravi to many colleagues, retired in February 2023 as a Technician at the IFP who specialized in Herbarium maintenance and Forest Ecology field work. He served for 38 years, and remained an invaluable part of different ecological teams and researchers. He joined the IFP in 1985 and, not much later, the ecology researchers tried him in forest field works, where he participated with efficiency. He was then inducted into the Ecology Department. During his service there, he made an indelible impression among his colleagues and his work was, and still is, central to one of the IFP's precious Collections - The Herbarium. The meticulousness shown by him while discharging his duties and his friendly team spirit were appreciated by everybody who interacted with him. It is only fitting that the retirement of such an invaluable person was felicitated on the IFP  terrace on 10th February 2023 when the IFP colleagues (past and present) gathered and wished him a happy retired life.

From The Garden

New comb (white) built over the old (dull brown) one Bees show ingenuity in managing their space and for storing their resources. Photo Prasad S.

A recent tour of the beehives in the IFP garden indicated that our little winged pollinator friends (Apis cerana) needed some help in the maintenance of their living spaces and around it. So the ecology/palynology team (Lazar J., & Prasas S.) set out to first clean the outer coverings and then the base of the pot hives and the bottom boards of the bee boxes. The bees themselves had pushed out a lot of debris including their chief predators, the wax moths. As the combs were lifted out and replaced after checking, the bees' ingenuity was intriguing: they used the hardened old comb as a substrate to build new combs and as nectar and pollen are available they are storing both in the newly built combs. There is always something to learn with the bees.

to Europe- 
Stories from IFP Permanent Indian Staff

Venkatasubramanian Govindan (Research Engineer, Department of Social Sciences, IFP)

I had been invited to France by IRD labs DIAL and CESSMA for two months between September and November 2022, under the “programme de mobilité Sud-Nord de l’Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD)”. The aim of this mission was to present papers in 4 conferences related with the ongoing projects, prepare the PATAMIL methodology discussion, finalise a book chapter “indebted women” and do comparative study of France and India on rural dynamics, diaspora of Tamil migrants in France, and find new partners for research collaboration.

Apart from the above mentioned I experienced the social movements with various insights and comparative observations. For example, the youth and activists were mobilising systematically, as a community, to resist infrastructure projects that take up green spaces that had initially been intended for public participation. On taking this movement to other spaces, people joined in large numbers, eventually reaching the notice of the government to bring in change by the policy makers.

I observed urban garden spaces are a collective network between people who decide to share their gardening responsibilities and their garden produce amongst each other. The take- home message from this is mutual benefits as a community.

I saw eco-tourism training for the public in France as a highlight. Each small town and village is encouraged to document their history and display it with pride. This got me thinking about how historical, social and cultural knowledge of local regions in France is promoted and children in each school know about it. The solidarity between rural farmers seemed quite evident as I experienced in their farmers markets. The importance given to regional foods and produce is impressive.The subscription system for local produce supports and gives confidence to farmers. 

I discovered the concept of local money in different regions and the concept of ethical banks, which seemed to be an effective way of decentralization of wealth and revitalisation of local economies. There are around 86 local currencies created in France during the last 5 years and only around 20 continue to operate. The local currencies have different names according to the region and it has partial legal support from ethical banks. 

To conclude, I have returned with multiple comparative perspectives and outlooks.

Building renovation

The structural restoration of the French institute required the replacement of 12 beams and 90 rafters throughout its patrimonial building, which had been damaged by termites, water infiltration and time. This tedious work lasted 6 months and required moving a large number of cupboards, desks, books, manuscripts and the reshuffling of researchers. The process respected the traditional techniques, using milestones as in the 18th century when the building was built. IFP thanks the DIL (Direction des immeubles et de la logistique) for its financial support, its technical and logistical assistance, as well as INTAC, consultants for the project, Viva Constructions and all its team as project management, in particular Viviya Reddy, chief engineer, and Vijaya Prashanna, engineer who was present on the site every day. The next step will now concern the impermeability of the roof but also an upgrade of the fire safety requirements. 

Some changes in ground floor rooms allowed us to open a new conference hall, brighter, more spacious, with less sound reverberation and easier to air-condition, in which it is definitely more comfortable to exchange ideas and listen to presentations, with the support of a good sound system and smart screen. 

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