Communication, Conservation, Science

The case of cats and conservation

Tanja and I explored another conservation conflict on our Medium blog.

When a potential response to an urgent situation is either unlikely to work at all or unlikely to address the bulk of the problem, under what conditions should we try it anyway?

In this exploration, we wanted to share perspectives on the controversial case of cats in Australia, also by some called the ‘war against cats’. In 2015, the Australian Government launched the threatened species strategy to kill 2 Mio cats in Australia by 2020 with the aim to protect endemic wildlife. Four years after the strategy was launched, Australian researchers in Conservation Letters questioned the motives (conservation or politically driven) and the science behind the decision.

Just how much of a sensitive topic this particular case study is, we noticed by how difficult it was for us to find contributors. Luckily we found two experts from Moral Philosophy that shared their insight with us:

Carlos Gray Santana is an Assistant Professor in Philosophy at the University of Utah. Dr Santana’s uses ethics to shed light on complicated issues such as the environment and human cognition. William S. Lynn is a Research Scientist in the George Perkins Marsh Institute at Clark University. The focus of Bill’s work is the ethics and politics of animal protection and sustainability.

For optional guidance, we asked the experts the following questions:

  • Why is the matter of cats and wildlife so controversial?
  • Why do you think politicians focus on culling cats rather than on habitat loss (as suggested in Doherty et al. 2019) and could open discussions be fostered to move beyond culling?
  • How do you think the public would respond when culling of cats turns out not to be effective in halting endemic species decline?

Curious about what they had to say? Read our blog post here.
And you can also follow us on Twitter!

Photo credits: Pacto Visual on Unsplash

Science

New preprint: Don’t forget about your friends

Remember those friends you never saw anymore after they got hitched? Not in geese.

In our recently published preprint we show that barnacle geese keep hanging out with there favourite early-life social companions also after they pair up. Females show a break during the breeding season but display their social preferences again in the following winter. Males keep their prefered companions throughout the breeding and wintering season and these companionships were predicted by familiarity and genetic relatedness.

We also show that especially males were aggressive during the breeding season towards both males and females and this possibly hampered their female partners to hang out with their own ‘friends’ during breeding but not winter.

In summary, our study reveals the robustness of social bonds formed early in life, carrying over across pair formation, even after extended temporal disruptions. Our findings thus highlight how the early-life social environment can have life-long consequences on individuals’ social life, even in monogamous species.

Reference
RHJM Kurvers, L Prox, DR Farine, C Jongeling, L Snijders (2019)

 

Science

New publication: Repeatability of signalling traits in the avian dawn chorus

Our newest open access paper on repeatability of avian signalling (song)  traits just came online in the journal Frontiers in Zoology.

Repeatability, consistent individual differences, in signalling behaviour is interesting because it means that those receiving the signal (i.e. listening to the song) could reliably learn something about how the individual singer compares to other singers/competitors.

We repeatedly recorded the dawn song of great tit males throughout the breeding season and show that start time of dawn song and repertoire size are individually repeatable both before and during the egg-laying stage of the mate (when she is fertile). Surprisingly the time a male started singing appeared to be more repeatable (consistent) than repertoire size, despite that the start time was also influenced by variable overnight temperatures. Start time was also more repeatable before than during egg-laying and we suggest that this is related to the behaviour of the (assumingly) intended receivers of the song, the females.

For a subset of the singers, we also explored a potential link between the absolute song trait values, the repeatability of these values and personality. We did not find a link but follow-up studies with a larger sample size, and including additional song traits, will be needed to confirm the true absence of such a link.

Reference
Naguib M, Diehl J, van Oers K, Snijders L (2019). Repeatability of signalling traits in the avian dawn chorus. Frontiers in Zoology 16: 1-11.
https://doi.org/10.1186/s12983-019-0328-7 

Conservation, Science

New publication: Effectiveness of animal conditioning interventions

Our systematic map protocol, outlining the background and methods of our approach to map and review the effectiveness of animal conditioning interventions in reducing human-wildlife conflict, is now online.

SysMap_print

This map is part of a special initiative of a team of behavioural ecologists, who all committed to systematically map and/or review a topic in conservation behaviour. Read more about our plans and the protocols of the other team members here.

SysMap_print2

 

Reference
Snijders L, Greggor A.L., Hilderink F., Doran C. (2019) Effectiveness of animal conditioning interventions in reducing human-wildlife conflict: a systematic map protocol. Environmental Evidence 8: 1-10
https://doi.org/10.1186/s13750-019-0153-7

Communication, Conservation, Science

Exploring Conservation Conflicts

“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge” – Thomas Berger –

Tanja Straka and I like asking questions. Even more so, we like animals, nature and people. Unfortunately, these three do not always mix well and we want to learn why.

Coming from our respective backgrounds in social sciences and animal sciences, we want to learn about the ins and outs of wildlife conservation conflicts by exploring different perspectives. Because we are convinced that understanding the diverse aspects of conservation conflicts could also open our minds to a diversity of (new) ways to address them.

With that in mind, we are keen to explore Conservation Biology and Animal Behaviour (Ethology), Moral Philosophy (Ethics) and the Human Dimensions of Wildlife (Social Sciences) and their perspectives on real-life conservation conflict situations.

In a blog on Medium (and on Twitter), we would like to share the different viewpoints we encounter in our daily lives and work and to invite people to share their perspectives.

Connect to us and let’s explore together!

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Communication, Science

A Biologist Love Story

For Valentine’s Day, two colleagues and I conducted a fun writing exercise: we made a loving tribute to our study animals. Thank you, Cecilia and Tanja for all the fun!

Here is my little poetic contribution: 

A Biologist Love Story

Who do I love the most? I cannot choose
My first love affair was with a barnacle goose
We spent a whole winter together, out in the cold
With only a blanket and each other to hold
But in the end, I still had to let you loose

Then came you, with your beautiful black tie
Oh, dazzling great tit, you certainly weren’t shy
Many days we spent, together in the wood
We had so much fun, those times were good
But in the end, we still had to say goodbye

To forget my sorrow, I travelled very far
And in the tropical waters, I found my little star
Pretty little guppy, it was love at first sight
In the dark rainforest, you are my shiny light
I can’t stop thinking of you, it is very bizarre

Even so, I feel alone with you far away
I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to say
Suddenly, a stranger appeared in the middle of the night
A bat swooped me off my feet and took me to a great height
What will happen, who should I choose at the end of the day?

I don’t know
Come what may…