2017 Small Grant Awardees
Awardee: Rudianto Sembiring, Indonesian Species Conservation Program
Project: “Mitigating the conservation of Sunda pangolin, Manis javanica, in North Sumatra”
Summary: Pangolins are highly sought after on the black market for their scales, which many believe carry medicinal properties. Despite the lack of evidence that there is any medicinal property in the pangolin scales, demand remains high and populations are in severe decline. Confiscations of illegally traded animals are becoming more common and the animals are often released back into the wild without proper medical treatment and often die due to their illnesses or are recollected quickly by poachers. This projects aims to build a rehabilitation and quarantine center for the treatment and care of confiscated animals with the goal of release back into the wild. In addition, information about wild populations will be collected and community awareness events will conducted to gain local support for pangolins and aid in conservation of the species.
Awardee: Robert Davis, Nottingham Trent University
Project: “The status and behavioral ecology of leopards (Panthera pardus) in a human impacted miombo woodland”
Summary: This study will look at leopard populations and how they are adapting to humans encroaching into their habitat. The study will take place in Malawi, in an area with high rates of environmental degradation due to deforestation and agriculture. Humans are continuing to move into and destroy the forests and it is unknown if leopard populations can survive. Using GPS radio collars and camera traps, researchers will study leopard populations and determine how human activity is altering their movements and habitat utilization. Researchers will also be looking at what leopards are eating to see if they are able to adapt and successfully compete with other predators for food in the altered habitat. This information can then be used to better determine how humans and wildlife can best coexist together for the benefit of both.
Awardee: Kerryn Carter, Elephant Connection Research Project
Project: “Connecting wildlife through Zambia’s transboundary wildlife movement corridors in the Kavango Zambezi Tranfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA)”
Summary: The Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, in southern Africa, is one of the world’s largest conservation areas. However, the Zambian component is facing ongoing habitat loss through illegal land clearing which is threatening several species of wildlife. Researchers aim to study the movements of key species, African elephants and giraffes, by using GPS satellite collars. By studying animal movements through the conservation area, landscape evaluations can be completed and the land use needs of the wildlife can be determined. This will help ensure that vital habitat is protected and remains intact, without human conflict, for the health and continued viability of these wild populations.
Awardee: Elsbeth McPhee, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Project: “A multi-pronged approach to understanding low reproductive success in the Eastern migratory population of endangered whooping cranes”
Summary: The population of whopping cranes is estimated to be around 500, making it one of the most endangered species in North America and most of the birds reside as a single group making them susceptible to natural disasters or infectious disease outbreaks. Since 1991, the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership has worked to establish a second, self-sustaining, population of birds that breed in Wisconsin. The birds have done well but have had low reproductive success with a chick survival rate of <10%. The aim of this study is to understand the cause(s) behind the high chick mortality rate. This will be accomplished by monitoring nests and examining chicks, assessing how cranes utilize the habitat and how habitat selection varies, and by studying the relationship between whooping cranes and bald eagles to see if bald eagles are a cause of chick mortality. Data collected will be used to help modify conservation practices to improve chick survival.
Awardee: Cherie Schroff, Felidae Conservation Fund – Tsavo Cheetah Project
Project: “Tsavo Cheetah Project: Community education and human-cheetah conflict investigations/assistance within group ranches and settlements in between the Tsavo National Parks, Kenya”
Summary: Tsavo Cheetah Project was developed to conserve cheetah populations in Southeast Kenya, where threats to the species include human conflict, habitat loss and poaching. Researchers work with local communities to help find sustainable solutions to issues with human-cheetah conflict and to educate community members about cheetahs. To date, the organization has developed cheetah ecosystem programs in eleven schools in the Tsavo East area and now propose to expand into additional communities in Tsavo West National Park. By expanding education and conservation efforts, researchers can help secure safe corridors for cheetahs to move freely between populations.
2016 Small Grant Awardees
Awardee: Adham Ashton-Butt, University of Southampton, Natural and Environmental Sciences Department
Project: “Quantifying the importance of forest for the provisioning of avian pest-control ecosystem services and avian biodiversity in a forest/oil palm agricultural matrix”
Summary: This project will seek to investigate how deforestation for planting of oil palm plantations affects bird populations in Malaysia. Their theory is that leaving forest intact around oil palm plantations will actually help the plantations be more productive and support bird populations. Bird species eat many of the pests that damage the crops and need intact forest to survive. It is an interesting case of coexistence of agriculture and native forest.
Awardee: Christine Light, Turtle Conservancy, Sulawesi Program, New York, New York
Project: “Conservation of the endemic chelonians of Sulawesi: Forsten’s tortoise and Sulawesi forest turtle”
Summary: This project aims to initiate a long-term species monitoring program for the only two endemic turtle species of Sulawesi, Indonesia. Both species are threatened with extinction due to severe deforestation and unsustainable collection for the pet and bushmeat trades. Researchers will determine where the turtles are found and work towards conservation efforts to protect the remaining populations and their habitat.
Awardee: Denise Thompson, Department of Integrative Biology, Oklahoma State University
Project: “The influence of behavior, physiology and genomics on the reproductive success of Alligator snapping turtles”
Summary: This project will study the effects of behavior, physiology and genetics on reproductive success of Alligator snapping turtles in Oklahoma. This species is part of a head start program to restore wild, native populations. By increasing reproductive success in these animals, more hatchlings can be released to bolster native populations.
Awardee: Zoe Muller, Giraffe Research and Conservation Trust, Nairobi, Kenya
Project: “Understanding the social organization and behavior of giraffes to contribute to conservation planning in-situ and improve the welfare of giraffes in captive collections ex-situ”
Summary: Researchers are studying the social structure and behavior of wild giraffes in order to select the best individuals of a group for translocation to other conservation areas. Giraffes are under severe pressure from habitat loss and current populations are reaching carrying capacity of the land available. By translocating groups of individuals to other areas with suitable habitat, the giraffe population as a whole can continue to grow. The success of any translocation event hinges on selection of ideal candidates based on social structure and behavior.
Awardee: Ken McCravey, Western Illinois University, Department of Biology
Project: “Saving the night for Honduras’ bats, moths and beetles”
Summary: Researchers are working to study pollinator species that are active at night and critical to the health of neo-tropical dry forests. By learning more about these species, crucial habitat can be protected and augmented. Researchers will also work with local communities to help reduce noise and light pollution to reduce disturbances to these species.