University of Cambridge > > CCI Conservation Seminars > 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 E Allen.

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 separate these and determine what pressures 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 is in itself 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 very low collection bias. DNA can determine species and individual identities, sex as well as what the animal ate. This can provide reliable capture-mark-recapture data free of capture heterogeneity, geospatial genetic maps to distinguish populations, including poaching hotspots, assess resources selection and measure dietary overlap associated with interspecific competition. Endocrine measures of stress, reproductive and nutritional health from these same samples can help tie disturbance events to their eventual demographic outcomes. Impacts of toxin exposure can simultaneously be measured from these samples.

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 CCI Conservation Seminars series.

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