Tag Archives: conservation

What To Do About “Overkill Conservation”

This is your friendly reminder that dinosaurs are not going to be coming back anytime soon, but the imaginative science behind this idea is currently bringing back some other near-extinct species. Yes! In case you missed it, 2020 saw the birth of the first cloned black-footed ferret. This marked the first successful attempt to clone species in the brink of extinction using frozen cell lines, and consequently, our expectation around species conservation in the coming years.

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The Numbers Game of Species Conservation

Deciding which species to conserve is hard enough, but deciding how many of a species is a viable goal is an entirely different matter (Image Credit: Frank Wouters, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped)

When talking about species conservation, my concern is always around how many individuals should there be in a population of species. What should be our numeric goal in re-establishing a species? Should the endangered anoa become as many as their domestic relative, the water buffalo, of which there are at least 3 million individuals in Indonesia? How about the songbirds? Should each species be as abundant as the chicken?

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How You Can Help Ancient Ungulate Conservation Using Ancient DNA

We write so much here on Ecology for the Masses about the danger that countless species face in today’s world. So every now and then we need to give tangible solutions and talk about how to actually save an endangered species. It’s not an easy task, and every one comes at it from a different angle. But right now, I want to talk about the fate of two amazing species, the work my colleagues and I have been doing to try and save them using DNA from museum collections, and how you can help. Yes, you. Our awesome readers. Here is a story about my research.

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Fear and Hope for Britain’s Mammals: An Overview

Look to the wilderness of Northern Europe and you will find brown bears, grey wolves, wild cats, and some of the best remaining strongholds for large mammals on the continent. Look to the UK on the other hand, and you see a state of overgrazed grasslands, skeletonized hedgerows, and monocultured forests. In the face of the global extinction and climate crisis, even the most praised of Britain’s mammals are facing decline, as the IUCN red list declares one in four species at risk of extinction, and the persecution of wild populations continues. 

In this article, I offer a brief summary of some of the UK mammal species that have experienced their share of ups and downs throughout 2020, and hopes for UK mammal conservation for the future.

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Surprises From the Past: The Revelations of Ancient DNA

Forest Tundra on the Taymyr Peninsula between Dudinka and Norilsk near Kayerkan, Russia, taken in 2016. Was it always look like this? Should it look like this?
Image Credit: Ninaras, CC BY 4.0, Image Cropped

Although obtaining ancient DNA can be quite a headache, it is a very rewarding headache. After all the work that goes into obtaining DNA from a bone, fur, hair, or Viking’s leftover meal, researchers have to make sense of the apparent random sequence of nucleotide bases. But once that’s taken care of, there are a series of really interesting questions we can start to answer. Were DNA strands that are present in the modern times inherited from the past? How similar are today’s species to their forebears? Where is my pet velociraptor?

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Fostering a Sense of Place: Citizen Science for Conservation Decision Making

Volunteers collect data as part of the Centennial Saguaro Survey in Arizona, USA. (Image credit: US National Park Service, CC0, Image Cropped)

When it comes to making conservation decisions, science is just the first step. Putting scientific research to work addressing conservation challenges requires collaboration between researchers, stakeholders, and the public. And increasingly, researchers point to citizen science as a way to engage the public in conservation.

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Should We Conserve Hybrids?

Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped

The ultimate goal of species conservation is to preserve a species’ existence in the natural world. To effectively do this, we must know the extent of “species” that we want to conserve. That may sound simple, but the concept of hybridisation can blur the lines of where one species begins and another ends beyond recognition.

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Girls, Cats, and Problems With Peer Reviews

Image Credit: Kennet Kjell Johansson Hultman, CC0 1.0, Image Cropped

Last week saw International Day of Women and Girls in Science. It’s an important day, recognising the importance of a strong female presence in the scientific community, and how far all scientific disciplines have to go to achieve gender equality.

So naturally the journal Biological Conservations decided to release a paper entitled Where There Are Girls, There Are Cats*. It’s an ill-informed, ill-conceived paper that essentially blames women for free-ranging cat populations. It is insulting to women, and quite frankly insulting to any scientist who has had a paper rejected in the last year (yes, I’m bitter). It’s also kind of hilarious in all the wrong ways. As such, there was justifiable mockery and jaw-droppage on Twitter. Yet as with the recent #PruittGate debacle, most of the community has veered away from directly attacking the researchers. They’ve been focussing on the real problem here – in this case the peer review system.

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The Why and How of Genetic Diversity

Whilst cichlid fish might look incredibly diverse, they are actually all relatively genetically similar. So how do we define genetic diversity, and how do we conserve it? (Image Credit: Emir Kaan Okutan, Pexels Licence, Image Cropped)

Biodiversity has become an immensely popular buzzword over the last few decades. Yet the concept of genetic diversity has been less present in everyday ecological conversations. So today I want to go through why genetic diversity is important, how we define it, and why there is often controversy about its application in conservation science. Read more

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