We try to apply the best tools available (biostatistics, molecular genetics, population modeling, stable isotope chemistry and natural history observation) to leverage science to help managers keep endangered species extant. We are more generalists than specialists. We work around the world. The following projects have been our most recent focus. See recent publications for more details.
Conservation of giant Galapagos tortoises
We collaborate as scientists with the Galapagos National Park (GNP) to effectively conserve giant Galapagos tortoises and the ecosystem services they provide. Long-term collaborators include Washington Tapia of GNP, Steve Blake of the University of St. Louis, Gisella Caccone’s group at Yale, and Linda Cayot of the Galapagos Conservancy. Recent graduate work by Elizabeth Hunter has significantly advanced this effort. Support has been provided by the Galapagos Conservancy, National Geographic Society, and National Science Foundation. On the right are images from a recent publication in Restoration Ecology on the effects of removing feral goats on tortoise populations.
Snow leopards and argali conservation in Altai Mountain Region of Russia and Mongolia
We collaborate with The Altai Project (Jennifer Castner), Altaisky Zapovednik (Sergei Spitsyn), and WWF-Russia (Misha Paltsyn, currently PhD candidate at ESF) to help advance conservation for flagship conservation species (primarily snow leopards and argali) in the Russian/Mongolia trans-boundary region. Our work focuses on improving survey and monitoring strategies, anti-poaching support, cultivating alternative livelihoods for poachers living in poverty, and assessment of climate change implications for rangeland, wildlife and herders in the region. Current funding from the Weeden Foundation and Trust for Mutual Understanding (Russian side) and USAID (Mongolian side).
Vernal pool restoration in the northeastern United States
Vernal pools are a unique wetland type that undergo an annual cycle of flooding and drying. Increasing scientific and regulatory interest in these unusual wetlands has accompanied a growing awareness of their importance in supporting biological diversity. Construction of new pools has been proposed to offset historic losses and to augment critical habitat for vernal pool-dependent species. We are evaluating ecological outcomes within a network of 71 pools constructed in 2010 on a SUNY ESF research property by the Upper Susquehanna Coalition (USC). Doctoral student Jim Arrigoni has been leading on the field component of the research. Funding has been provided by the USDA McIntire-Stennis program.
Conservation of the eastern massasauga rattlesnake
The eastern massasauga rattlesnake is endangered in New York State and a candidate for federal listing. Cicero Swamp Wildlife Management Area near Syracuse represents the easternmost and among the most northern occurrence of the species. EMRs at the site are threatened by woody encroachment into open-canopy basking habitats and past unregulated collection and killing. We collaborate with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to provide to monitoring and research to underpin NYSDEC’s long-term adaptive management of the site. Our key collaborator has been Mr. Tom Bell of NYSDEC. Funding has been from NYSDEC and the Sussman Fund. Recent graduate work by Kevin Shoemaker and Brent Johnson has significantly advanced this effort.
With colleagues Sean Burnett and Greg Carney we have developed a small enterprise (Wildlife Intel) for R&D and deployment of technology for trespass detection and real-time reporting from remote areas outside of cell phone networks to assist in anti-poaching efforts world-wide.
Conservation education and conservation science capacity building.
We have long been interested in assisting others in enhancing capacity for undertaking relevant high quality conservation science, particularly colleagues in developing countries. These efforts have taken many forms including the Problem-solving in conservation biology and wildlife management textbook and the related Network of Conservation Educators and Practicioners project at the American Museum of Natural History. These efforts also have been manifested in recent professional engagement as “Viejo Sabio” with Prometeo Program (National Secretariat of Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation of Ecuador, Ecuador), as Member of External Evaluation Committee of the Instituto de Ecologia, Xalapa, Mexico, and as International Scholar with the HESP Academic Fellowship Program (Russia-Ukraine-Moldova) of the Open Society Foundation to facilitate exchange and training opportunities between SUNY-ESF and Ukrainian universities (particularly the National University of Kyiv – Mohyla Academy) in the area of conservation biology. Key long-term collaborators have been Eleanor Sterling and Mac Hunter.
Some recent appointments reflecting my interest in capacity building in conservation science:
- “Viejo Sabio”, Prometeo Program, National Secretariat of Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation of Ecuador (SENESCYT), Ecuador, 2012-2013.
- Member, General Assembly, Charles Darwin Foundation (elected 2012)
- Instituto Ecologia, Xalapa, Mexico, Member of External Evaluation Committee (appointed 12/10)
- Vice Chair, Altai Assistance Project (on-going)
- International Scholar, HESP Academic Fellowship Program (Russia-Ukraine-Moldova), Open Society Foundation, 2011-2012.