It certainly can. But how much of telemetry research - where animals carry devices that track their movement, behavior and physiology - is directly tied to improving management and conservation? A new study in Journal of Applied Ecology suggests that the growing and current conservation crises demand that we take a more pragmatic approach to evaluate the data required to make informed management decisions and how telemetry can best support applied conservation.
Undoubtedly, telemetry research captivates and engages the public and the wider scientific community. This research has yielded astonishing information about the amazing habits and behaviors of many difficult to observe species. Yet despite the revolution in telemetry technology and research, little of this information is directly used to support conservation and management actions, in large part, because of the disconnect between researchers and practitioners. But more can be done to connect telemetry to conservation by focusing attention on two critical questions which aim to directly connect telemetry-derived data to applied conservation decision-making: (i) Would my choice of action change if I had more data? (ii) Is the expected gain worth the money and time required to collect more data? To learn more, click here.
Worldwide, many sharks and rays (also called elasmobranchs) are overfished. These fisheries impacts are made worse because sharks also are caught as bycatch - some of these bycaught sharks are then discarded back into the ocean, while others are sold in markets. But records on bycatch and discards of sharks are notoriously poor. At issue is how to measure the total effect of fisheries which must account for the magnitude and extent of shark and ray retention (for market) as well as discards. Recent research in the Lewison Lab (collaborating with NOAA SWFSC and UNE) is working to take a bite of this challenging problem. Kelsey James (Univ of Rhode Island) led efforts to construct and analyze a large database of shark literature which reported catch and bycatch statistics from 30 countries, 306 elasmobranch species, totalling over 2000 records. This research is currently featured in Environmental Conservation
The goal of the research was to look for patterns in species retention and discards that could help managers navigate the complexity of estimating fisheries impacts on elasmobranchs. While variability in percent retained was high, we found that species type, fishing country, and gear explained nearly 60% of the variance. This suggests that while elasmobranch impacts in fisheries are challenging to track, even without data, we can make some inferences about the magnitude of total elasmobranch capture. When we compared our estimates to global landings data of elasmobranchs from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), we found that FAO landings may grossly underestimate total elasmobranch removals by as much as 400%.
Our work brings attention to the need to improve estimates of elasmobranch removal - to account for all retained catch and discards - and highlights the importance of continued efforts to monitor and report retention and discards of elasmobranchs.
Marisa Trego, a PhD Candidate in the Lewison Lab, recently presented preliminary findings from her thesis research at the 21st Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals. She studies the impact of both known and unknown contaminants on wild marine mammals. To learn more about this collaborative research project check out this article featured in Science News for Students.
SOUTHWEST FISHERIES SCIENCE CENTER/ NOAA FISHERIES
Need a good recommendation for a podcast? Check out The Space Cave, a weekly podcast hosted by comedian David Huntsberger, as Dave explores the world in which we live to learn a little more about planet earth. Lewison lab member, Sheila Madrak, joins Dave to chat about sea turtles, what they do, why we should care, and how studying sea turtles can engage people in caring about nature and wanting to protect it.
On itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-space-cave/id1039075361?mt=2&i=354030064
Ever wanted to meet a conservation biologist? The Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, CA is hosting lab member Sheila Madrak this Saturday, March 21st from 11 AM - 3 PM to discuss and share her interests in sea turtles, spatial ecology, and marine conservation. There will be fun activities and crafts for all ages. If you can't make the event, make sure to check out an interview with Sheila here!
Dr. Rebecca Lewison is the lead author of a paper released today in BioScience that promotes an adaptive approach, using real-time data, to managing ocean ecosystems and the resources within our oceans. Lewison and her coauthors suggest that by incorporating flexibility into the management framework and putting science to work, these complex systems can be better managed, striking a balance between ocean resource use and conservation. Read more in the SDSU NewsCenter press release or BioScience.
“The era of outreach being optional for scientists is now over,” blogs Jai Ranganathan on the Scientific American website as funding agencies like NSF require outreach in competitive grant proposals. One of the best ways for scientists to reach out to the community is by connecting with local K-12 schools, giving researchers an opportunity to share their passion for science with an impressionable audience of students, engaging a new generation in scientific literacy and critical thinking.
A new study led by former Lewison Lab masters student Dr. Lisa Komoroske and her colleagues from UC Davis participated in an NSF-funded education program CAMEOS at the Bodega Marine Lab and share their insights on how scientists can involve themselves with teaching opportunities and how to maximize their efforts in the classroom.
The article explores the obstacles that impede scientists’ involvement in K-12 education: finding time to step away from research, lack of experience in collaborating with grade school educators, and an undervaluation of outreach in academic culture. The NSF has been promoting a cultural shift by requiring broader impacts in grant funding and offering training and incentives to potential teachers. Scientists can also use their experience in the classroom to write publishable papers about education. Despite the challenges, scientist participation in K-12 education can make a research career more fulfilling while promoting critical thinking in the next generation of scientists.
This figure taken from Komoroske et al. 2015 shows that the type of IBL projects that can be successfully undertaken in the classroom depend on the availability of the scientist and the skill level of the students. If the scientist has limited time and/or the students are at an introductory level, Guided Inquiry is best. If the scientist has more time to commit and the students are advanced, an Open Inquiry approach is feasible.
Alexander Gaos, a PhD Candidate in the Lewison Lab, recently helped spearhead research into a previously undiscovered hawksbill sea turtle hotspot in the Choco region of Colombia. During the short expedition, the research team, which in addition to San Diego State, included such organizations the World Wildlife Fund, the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative, CIMAD and Colombian National Parks, located 11 hawksbills inhabiting a pristine coral reef in the waters of Utria National Park. Gaos' current Doctoral research seeks to understand connectivity between this and other hawksbill populations in neighboring countries using genetic tools. Read more about the recent expedition to Colombia HERE. Learn more about the events leading up to this discovery and Alexander's work as highlighted in San Diego's Newspaper UT San Diego or by visiting our Research page.
Lewison Lab post-doctoral researcher, Megan Jennings, has been working to evaluate wildlife movement across State Route 67, a rural highway in San Diego County that has proven to be dangerous to people and wildlife. The California Department of Transportation, CalTrans, has been working to make the highway safer, and we're helping them study how to do that for wildlife. Check out this video to see Megan discuss our CalTrans-funded research to assess wildlife movement across the highway and identify safe and appropriate road crossings.
The Lewison Lab