Dr Lidita Khandeparker, Principal Scientist, CSIR-National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, has been conferred with Dr Anna Mani National Award for Woman Scientist for the year 2020 by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India. This award recognises her outstanding contributions in the field of aquatic microbial ecology, marine biofilms and their relevance in the oceans. The award carries an amount of Rs 1, 00,000 and a citation.
Dr Lidita has made important contributions to understand the significance of microbes in the realms of diversity, food web dynamics, bio-communication, the spread of pathogenic bacteria and functioning of the tropical monsoon-influenced marine environment. Her studies have indicated that bacteria, which form a major component of biofilms of the intertidal habitats play a significant role in the recruitment of marine invertebrates, especially the sessile and sedentary forms. Her studies characterised microbial communities from geographically close habitats and elucidated that the population structure is significantly influenced by localized interactions.
She evaluated microbial community structure and unravelled the genetics of uncultured organisms by the genomic analysis of environmental DNA (metagenomics). Further, she could relate the influence of land run-off on the pathogenic bacterial variations in the estuarine environment. She could also elucidate that allochthonous input to the estuarine system facilitates bacterial production, whereas, in the absence of such an input, the estuarine system depends on the emergence of the specific bacterial population to utilise the in situ production. The changes caused by allochthonous input and reduction in salinity due to freshwater inflow forces a change in the bacterial community.
She further reported that such a change can challenge the immune response in higher organisms. She led a series of observations at different major ports of India to elucidate the diversity of marine pathogenic bacteria and the possibility of their translocation to alien environments. The bacterial population also contribute significantly to the food web dynamics by fueling the microbial loop in the oceans. She contributed to the differentiating of bacterial populations in the open ocean and shelf regions and used their physiological status to provide important insights into food web dynamics of the North Eastern Arabian Sea (NEAS).
She is also a recipient of CSIR-Young Scientist Award in the field of Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean and Planetary Sciences in the year 2008 and is the first lady scientist in CSIR-NIO to receive this award. She has played a lead role in many National and International projects funded by different agencies, has more than 60 research publications, authored book chapters, and has presented more than thirty research papers in national and international conferences. She has been mentoring graduate, postgraduate, and PhD students from various universities of India and interns of Indian Academy of Sciences.