Okay agricultural landscapes have valuable critters. However it still doesn’t quench mingled public curiosity and derision that follows scientists who voluntarily choose solitary confinement in dense tropical forests for 'research'. This is when the real fun begins.
"Why do you care whether an arboreal poisonous snake lives? What if it jumps down from the branches a la Anaconda and bites you?"
"Chhee! You will collect elephant poo for a living! Your fancy degree is worth shit!"
"Ugh…Not bats! What if they attack you in their bat cave and drain out your blood? Who will marry you then?"
"You will die of rabies. Rats are disgusting evil creatures. They can nibble you dead. Why don’t you study Mumbai's dogs instead? "
This prejudice stems from an incomplete understanding of the way ecosystems function, which in turn arises from shortcomings of science outreach, human discomfort about alien creatures, administrative policy and a misplaced deadly reputation (venom, diseases etc.).
How does an amateur begin to explain the consequences, the direct relevance of his/her work to people? Let us take the example of researching snakes. Not all snakes are anacondas (which are not even found on the subcontinent) or cobras, neither are they all venomous (a snake would be 'poisonous' if eating it made you sick or worse, dead), nor do the females exact revenge upon unsuspecting humans by transmuting into celestial nymphs. They control rat populations- certified agricultural pests as any farmer worth his salt would testify. Deep in the forest they feed on rats, shrews, birds etc. Now rats, mice, shrews, birds act as seed dispersers or predators. In either case, they directly influence forest composition by deciding how many trees should grow and which trees ought to be nipped in the bud.
Besides controlling global temperatures, trees maintain the hydrological cycle, and ensure smooth functioning of ecosystems. The disastrous flash floods exacerbated by deforestation along mountain slopes in Uttaranchal are a recent example of how forest destruction can prove deadly for human life. Trees provide food to a host of wildlife including macaques that transition into human landscapes and often into rural households following deforestation and cause mayhem and severe monetary loss to humble farmers. In northeast India, bamboo flowering (bamboo flowers only once in its lifetime, after the flowering event all the bamboo in the area dies off) causes mass exodus of rodents from the forest into fields resulting in famine across the region. Thus, studying the ecology of even the smallest rodent in a non-modified landscape- knowing what it eats, where it lives, what is its population will help us formulate plans to control if not prevent such infestations. All of this has direct relevance to human health and well-being.
So if we look at research from a broad perspective and back it up with some common sense knowledge about ecosystem functioning (I admit thinking on the same topic for more than 30 seconds is decidedly difficult in today's world of instant likes- but trying to think never killed anybody), we can rationalize the importance of ecological research in anthropomorphic terms.