University of Cambridge > > Departmental Seminar Programme, Department of Veterinary Medicine > The Power of Non-invasive Approaches to Conservation Science

The Power of Non-invasive Approaches to Conservation Science

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Fiona Roby.

Conservation science has many challenges. Human pressures are widespread, come in multiple forms, yet individual pressures rarely occur in isolation. The same can be said of natural pressures. How do we partition these pressures and determine those most critical to mitigate? How do we compensate for the time lag between a disturbance and its demographic outcome when other events occur in-between? How do we monitor the impacts of mitigation efforts on a time scale that allows course corrections before it’s too late? Addressing these questions often requires measures collected over large spatial but short temporal scales, which in itself is a challenge.

My lab has pioneered highly accessible noninvasive tools to address such challenges. We developed methods to extract DNA , hormones and toxins from feces, located by detection dogs with high frequency and very low collection bias. DNA from these samples can determine species and individual identities, sex, what the animal ate, and composition of the host’s microbiome. These measures can, in turn, provide reliable capture-mark-recapture data free of capture heterogeneity, geospatial genetic maps to distinguish populations, resources selection and dietary overlap data associated with interspecific competition. Endocrine measures of stress, reproductive and nutritional health, as well as microbiome from these same samples can help tie disturbance events to their eventual demographic outcomes. Impacts of toxin exposure can simultaneously be measured and examined in relation to other co-occurring pressures.

I will attempt to illustrate the value of this approach through case studies conducted by my lab on a diverse array of species. I will then open the floor to discuss applications to your own work.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminar Programme, Department of Veterinary Medicine series.

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