Estimating the Size of Animal Populations from Camera Trap Surveys

Below is a press release about the Methods paper ‘Distance sampling with camera traps‘ taken from the Max Planck Society.

A Maxwell's duiker photographed using a camera trap. Marie-Lyne Després-Einspenner

A Maxwell’s duiker photographed using a camera trap. ©Marie-Lyne Després-Einspenner

Camera traps are a useful means for researchers to observe the behaviour of animal populations in the wild or to assess biodiversity levels of remote locations like the tropical rain forest. Researchers from the University of St Andrews, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) recently extended distance sampling analytical methods to accommodate data from camera traps. This new development allows abundances of multiple species to be estimated from camera trapping data collected over relatively short time intervals – information critical to effective wildlife management and conservation.

Remote motion-sensitive photography, or camera trapping, is revolutionising surveys of wild animal populations. Camera traps are an efficient means of detecting rare species, conducting species inventories and biodiversity assessments, estimating site occupancy, and observing behaviour. If individual animals can be identified from the images obtained, camera trapping data can also be used to estimate animal density and population size – information critical to effective wildlife management and conservation. Continue reading

New Tool to Assess Effects of Powerful Man-Made Underwater Sounds

Below is a press release about the Methods paper ‘An interim framework for assessing the population consequences of disturbance‘ taken from the University of St Andrews:

A team of scientists from the University of St Andrews has developed a new desktop tool for assessing the impact of noise from human disturbance, such as offshore wind development on marine mammal populations.

PCOD_PR_imageThe team, led by Prof. John Harwood, have developed the interim Population Consequences of Disturbance (PCoD) framework for assessing the consequences of human induced noise disturbance on animal populations. The study was published yesterday in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

Changes in natural patterns of animal behaviour and physiology resulting from animals being disturbed may alter the conservation status of a population if the activity affects the ability of individuals to survive, breed or grow. However, information to forecast population-level consequences of such changes is often lacking. The project team developed an interim framework to assess impacts when empirical information is sparse. Crucially, the model shows how daily effects of being disturbed, which are often straightforward to estimate, can be scaled to the duration of disturbance and to multiple sources of disturbance.

“We have developed a novel framework that can be used to broadly forecast the consequences of anthropogenic disturbance on animal populations, which in principal can be applied to a range of marine and terrestrial species and different types of disturbance.” – Dr Stephanie King

One important application for the interim PCoD framework is in the marine industry. Many industries use practices that involve the generation of underwater noise. These include shipping, oil and gas exploration, defence activities and port, harbour and renewable energy construction. Continue reading

A Dog’s Nose Knows: The Science is in on Wildlife Sniffer Dogs

Below is a press release about the Methods paper, ‘An assessment of the effects of habitat structure on the scat finding performance of a wildlife detection dog, taken from Science for Wildlife:

Badger the Wildlife Sniffer Dog

Scientists have for the first time tested wildlife detection dogs to see how they perform in different habitats, and the results are very impressive.

Wildlife sniffer dogs are trained to find the scats (poo) or scent of hard to find wildlife species. As threatened species continue to drop in numbers, they become much harder to find and conserve. Detection dogs are a potential solution to that problem.

Despite their amazing skills the use of sniffer dogs by wildlife management agencies is still limited, partly because there are many factors that might impact the dogs’ performance. One well-toted theory states that dogs might not perform well in thicker vegetation, compared to open areas. The lead author of the new study, Dr Kellie Leigh from Science for Wildlife, explains “Scent is heavier than air so it pools and gets caught up in vegetation and depressions, rather than dispersing from its source. That means the dogs might have more trouble finding the scent in some areas.”

Working together with professional dog trainer Martin Dominick from K9-Centre Australia, Dr Leigh ran an experiment with Badger, an Australian Shepherd trained to find the scat of spotted-tailed quolls. The quolls are the largest marsupial predator on mainland Australia and are becoming very hard to find in some areas. Over 120 searches, Badger scoured for quoll scats in three different Australian habitats, from open grassland to thick vegetation, under both winter and summer conditions. Continue reading