Group research recognized at the 27th International Congress on Conservation Biology

A hearty congratulations to our postdoc Dr. Paul Elsen for winning the ICCB Student Awards Competition in Montpellier, France this summer! Paul presented a talk entitled “Global Mountain Topography and the Fate of Montane Species under Climate Change”. His talk featured a global analysis of mountain range topography to illustrate that not all mountains are shaped like pyramids, but that there is actually a diversity of shapes. Some mountain ranges have more land area in the middle of the elevational range, some have more area at the top of the mountain range, and some have peaks of area at the bottom and the top. Given this diversity of mountain shapes, Paul showed that we can expect species undergoing climate-induced range shifts to show variable responses. Some species may encounter elevational “pinch points” before they reach mountaintops, while other species may actually gain area as they shift upslope in certain mountain ranges. By accounting for underlying topography, he suggests that conservation practitioners can target investments towards critical bottleneck zones, allowing for species to adapt to climate change.

Student Award Finalists at the 27th ICCB.
Student Award Finalists at the 27th ICCB.

In addition, two lab group projects were highlighted at the conference. Kaitlyn Gaynor presented results from an ongoing collaboration among group members in a talk entitled “Wildlife and war: pathways through which armed conflict affects fauna.” The project emerged out of conversations among group members who work in conflict-affected areas including Colombia, Mozambique, and Sierra Leone, and developed after the group realized that research and policy more often focus on describing and addressing war-related outcomes for animal populations than on understanding and mitigating the underlying pathways between conflict and wildlife decline. At ICCB, Kaitlyn presented a systematic assessment of the wide range of tactical, social, economic, and institutional pathways linking armed conflict to wildlife and identified key trends in salient pathways across taxa and regions.

Alex McInturff presented another lab group collaboration at the ICCB, entitled “Toward a tropical hunting footprint: regional patterns of wild game depletion and dependence in eastern and southern Africa.” In this project, the group brought together case studies, modeling, and GIS to help understand patterns of bushmeat hunting at unprecedentedly large scales. This research is not only important for the many wildlife species that are threatened by high rates of harvest, but also for the many communities of people who depend on bushmeat for food security. Having a grip on patterns and processes at the continental scale contributes to the science of wildlife ecology and opens new territory for interfacing with bushmeat policy.