Surendra P Singh received BSc and MSc from Agra University. In 1966, he joined as Lecturer in the Department of Botany, DSB Government College, Nainital. Influenced by ecological value of lakes and forests of Kumaun and the deteriorating environmental condition of the planet, he chose ecology as his research field and did his PhD on 'lake ecosystem of Naukuchiyatal' under the guidance of Professor SN Chaturvedi of Agra University. Singh joined Kumaun University, Nainital (1977) and contributed to the development of a major ecological group there. He also worked as a Vice Chancellor of the HNB Garhwal University.
Academic and Research Achievements: Singh made pioneering studies on Himalayan vegetation, both terrestrial and aquatic, from tropical to alpine, with major emphasis on forest ecosystem processes and on applications of ecology to solution of environmental problems. The range of ecosystems he studied is extraordinary, encompassing a gradient of approximately, 3300 m altitude and 16oC mean annual temperature. He used the data generated from the diverse forest ecosystems of central Himalaya for expanding the focus to encompass the biosphere level understanding, constructing and improving generalizations and theories in ecology. Of particular interest are analyses of plant adaptation and ecosystem level responses to the characteristically seasonal monsoon climate, consequence of leaf property on forest structure, primary productivity and turn over of nutrients and dry matter; effects of economic and societal factors on ecosystem structure and functioning and general biology of the region and forest ecosystem services and upstream and down stream linkages. He has made original contributions to ecology through his research on response surfaces of aquatic macrophytes in Nainital lake, chronic disturbances in forests, foraging niche of livestock in species-rich alpine grassland, recovery of land slide damaged sites, human-induced secondary succession, and relationship between species diversity and ecosystem stability. From this group, nearly 50 students earned PhD within a period of about two decades, Singh being the advisor of 35 of them.
Other Contributions: Singh took several initiatives in participatory research in which communities are involved, helped Uttarakhand state to get its ecosystem services recognized in national accounting systems, enabled local communities to participate in carbon trading and ensured new dimensions to academics in HNB Garhwal University where he worked as a Vice Chancellor. He worked to establish partnership between Indian ecologists and the Ecological Society of America.
Awards and Honours: Professor Singh won the Birbal Sahani Medal for contributions to Botany and received Peace Prize from Italy for Social Contributions. He was elected Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad.