Seminar: The power of non-invasive approaches to conservation science, Wednesday 1 November, 5pm (Cambridge)

The next Cambridge conservation seminar, on Wednesday 1 November, will feature Dr Sam Wasser, from the University of Washington. Dr Wasser is the Director of the Centre for Conservation Biology, where he has pioneered the use of non-invasive wildlife monitoring methods, including genetic, endocrine and detection dog techniques.

Dr Wasser will be talking about “The power of non-invasive approaches to conservation science”:

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 faeces, 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.

All are welcome to attend this seminar, which will take place in the large seminar room in the David Attenborough Building, at 5pm, and will be followed by a wine reception in the common room.