Conservation, Science

New publication: Systematic reviews and maps as tools for applying behavioral ecology to management and policy

Yeah! Our recent open access paper on systematic maps and reviews in behavioural ecology is now available in, how appropriate, Behavioral Ecology. It is the first concrete output of a group of behavioral ecologists, passionate to effectively contribute to wildlife conservation. This is just the beginning! Many thanks to Oded Berger-Tal, Alison Greggor and Dan Blumstein for bringing us all together.

Paper_head

Summary of the paper:

Although examples of successful applications of behavioral ecology research to policy and management exist, knowledge generated from such research is in many cases under-utilized by managers and policy makers. On their own, empirical studies and traditional reviews do not offer the robust syntheses that managers and policy makers require to make evidence-based decisions and evidence-informed policy.

Similar to the evidence-based revolution in medicine, the application of formal systematic review processes has the potential to invigorate the field of behavioral ecology and accelerate the uptake of behavioral evidence in policy and management. Systematic reviews differ from traditional reviews and meta-analyses in that their methods are peer reviewed and prepublished for maximum transparency, the evidence base is widened to cover work published outside of academic journals, and review findings are formally communicated with stakeholders. This approach can be valuable even when the systematic literature search fails to yield sufficient evidence for a full review or meta-analysis; preparing systematic maps of the existing evidence can highlight deficiencies in the evidence base, thereby directing future research efforts.

To standardize the use of systematic evidence syntheses in the field of environmental science, the Collaboration for Environmental Evidence (CEE) created a workflow process to certify the comprehensiveness and repeatability of systematic reviews and maps, and to maximize their objectivity. We argue that the application of CEE guidelines to reviews of applied behavioral interventions will make robust behavioral evidence easily accessible to managers and policy makers to support their decision-making, as well as improve the quality of basic research in behavioral ecology.

Key words: applied animal behavior, conservation behavior, evidence-based management, literature review, meta-analysis, policy impact, systematic maps.

Link to the paperhttps://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/ary130

Reference
O Berger-Tal, AL Greggor, B Macura, CA Adams, A Blumenthal, A Bouskila, U Candolin, C Doran, E Fernandez-Juricic, KM Gotanda, C Price, B Putman, M Segoli, L Snijders, BBM Wong, DT Blumstein. (2018) Systematic reviews and maps as tools for applying behavioral ecology to management and policy.” Behavioral Ecology.

Science

New guppy publication: the background stories

I am very proud to share my latest publication in Nature Ecology Evolution (NEE). It is the first paper from my ‘guppy’ postdoc at the Leibniz-IGB. It is also the first time (I think) that a manuscript of mine got accepted by the first journal I sent it to, which is also nice for a change :-). Guppies were also the topic of my final year’s highschool science project o, which makes this publication extra special for me. Fish are amazing creatures and I am happy I get to share their stories.

Next to our scientific article, I wrote two background stories:

Social individuals find more food – IGB-website
Guppy_colour_SnijdersHow do you find food when the food is never exactly present at the same place or time? Wild guppies living in the rainforest of Trinidad are faced with this vital question every day. Looking at guppies, it turns out that there are a few keys to finding unpredictable food: being social and surrounding yourself with females. Read more

Being consistent in a dynamic environment: a guppy story – NEE-website
Sometimes things happen that can give you a whole new appreciation of the study system you are working with. For me this thing happened this year. Read more

If you are more of a visual person, I also made a little Youtube video.

The research article can be viewed for free, but please contact me, for example via ResearchGate, if you would like to have the PDF.

Reference
Snijders L, Kurvers RHJM, Krause S, Ramnarine IW, Krause J (2018). Individual- and population-level drivers of consistent foraging success across environments. Nature Ecology and Evolution.

 

Science

Fieldwork is not (just) about data collection

This weekend I came back from a three-week fieldtrip to Trinidad. We went there to collect behavioural data for our guppy research project. However, on the plane back I had some time to reflect on the past weeks and realized that fieldwork is about so much more than just collecting data points.

For me, I realized, fieldwork is about all the little big things that come along with it. For example, living closely with people who all contribute in their own unique ways: someone who plays the guitar in the evening, who bakes tasty tortillas for dinner, who makes funny jokes at the end of a hard working day or who takes the team on expeditions in search of remarkable birds, snakes, insects and spiders.

Its about the surprising new people you meet, which can result in eating ‘Guinness icecream’ and making Chinese dumplings while on a tropical island.

Its about seeing your entire fieldsite get flooded in about an hour and having to ‘survival’ your way out of the rainforest. And lying in a hammock shortly after.

Its about seeing all the other critters that occupy your fieldsite: the little greedy crab, the colourful jumpy lynx spider, the small vocal male frog (sometimes with tadpoles on its back), but also the forever annoying killifish and the hundreds of biting insects.

Its about getting to know a little patch of nature very well, but never completely. Its about learning about your study species by observing it in between the actual trials. Its about getting new exciting ideas for next year’s fieldtrip.

Its about all these things and so much more. So the next time you see the datapoints of a fieldstudy, remember that they are not just units of analysis, they are stories, experiences, insights and surprises as well. For me, each one is a reminder of why I love being a biologist.

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Ralf is doing some ‘in-situ’ behavioural tests
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On a birding expedition
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This is our fieldsite before the flooding
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This is our fieldsite during the flooding
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This is me after the flooding. Unfortunately the only moment I actually had time to enjoy the hammock 🙂

 

 

Science

Guppies on a preprint server

This week I submitted a manuscript to a preprint server for the first time. This is a bit scary because a preprint is not peer-reviewed and so is missing a ‘security check’, something that always makes me feel a bit more at ease when communicating my results [but see: http://thebrainissocool.com/2017/12/19/peer-review-is-not-all-that-is-cracked-up-to-be/%5D. However, I think preprint servers are a great idea, because you don’t have to wait for months before you can finally share your results and show people what you are working on. More importantly, preprint servers provide a way, for those interested, to read your findings without having to pass a pay-wall. A version of your study will thus always stay open-access. So, I put my fears (somewhat) aside and decided to submit my recent manuscript to BioRxiv, before submitting it to a scientific journal.

In the manuscript, we describe a field experiment with wild guppies in Trinidad by which we studied foraging success in the wild. We tested if foraging success in the wild differs consistently between individuals and if these differences can be explained by individual traits such as sex and social type, but also by population traits such as sex-ratio. I think the results are very exciting and also somewhat unexpected. If you would like to find out more, then please read the preprint on BioRxiv.

Guppies_BW_Snijders

 

 

 

 

Conservation, Science

Conservation behaviour

How can a behavioural ecologist contribute to conservation? It is a question I often ask myself. Therefore I am very happy to have become part of a team of behavioural ecologists that asks the same question. Together we followed a workshop by Mistra EviEM on how to conduct a systematic map or review and are now answering questions about the effectiveness of conservation interventions. In our case, behavioural interventions.

It is not an easy challenge, to gather and review all the literature that is out there on a given intervention, academic and grey. But, without a good overview of the best evidence available, how are we going to stop ourselves from doing the same thing over and over again? Are certain interventions effective, also on the long-term, or not at all? Are there certain conditions to be met for them to be of use?

I set out to answer these questions for an intervention in a very urgent and increasingly bigger conservation challenge: Human-Wildlife-Conflict (HWC). More specifically, I will map and review studies on the effectiveness of conditioning-interventions in reducing HWC with vertebrate carnivores. In other words Can carnivores be taught to stay away?

It will be a long, challenging, but useful task and I am very keen to work on it!

 

 

 

 

 

Conservation, Science

Linking animal social network theory to conservation

Available for free until September 7, 2017Click this link

Last week, June 22, a for me very important paper was published online in the scientific journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution. With this Opinion paper, me and my co-authors hope to stimulate a closer collaboration between animal social network scientists and conservation practitioners. You can read more about it in our press release below. If you are interested in reading the complete scientific article, but do not have access, please send me a message/email. 

As with humans, most animals prefer to associate with some individuals and not with others. The social structure can influence how a population responds to changes in its environment. Examining social networks is a promising technique for understanding, predicting and – if for the better – manipulating this structure. However, whereas the contribution of behavioural biology to conservation is already well recognized, the usefulness of animal social network analysis as a conservation tool has not yet been addressed. A group of behavioural ecologists led by Lysanne Snijders from the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) outlines how the understanding of relationships between animals could be applied by wildlife managers and conservationists to support their work in disease management, breeding programs, reintroductions or relocations, or for controlling problem behaviours – to name just a few.

Animal social network studies examine how the individuals of a population are socially connected, how they interact and associate. Knowledge of the social structure can help to identify the flow of information or the spread of disease, and has potential to be used as an indicator of upcoming population changes. Information of that kind would be less – or not at all – noticeable using methods purely based on population size or the observation of single individuals.

Dr Lysanne Snijders, Post Doctoral Researcher at the Department of Biology and Ecology of Fishes at IGB, describes this approach with the help of Aristotle: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Combined effects of social interactions in wildlife populations do not only have important theoretical but also practical implications. Linking animal social network theory to practice can therefore stimulate the design of new practical conservation tools and generate novel insights into how animal social networks change over time.”

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An example from real wildlife

For many species, it is not just diseases that can spread rapidly. Social information can also be transmitted via various routes within a group, for instance, innovative ways to search for food. In the case of the California sea lion, novel foraging strategies have led to conflict with a fishery conservation scheme. The sea lions had discovered that salmonids migrating upriver became more concentrated at a dam, making them easy prey. Unfortunately, those salmonids were endangered species. A recent study [1] showed that knowledge of the network structure could have helped wildlife managers to detect that at first it was only a few successful individuals who “recruited” the others, and that the selective removal of these information spreaders could have contained the problem. In this case social network analysis could therefore have assisted in protecting the endangered salmonids while culling fewer sea lions.

Snijders also suggests a possible example for how animal social network analysis could be used in conservation work in Europe: “In cases of recently reintroduced group living animals, such as the European bison, social network analyses could give insights into how a population’s long-term persistence might vary with particular behavioural processes within the group. But also into how group and individual movements might be effectively manipulated to avoid human-wildlife conflicts such as entering restricted areas like farm land.”

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Perspectives for implementation

In a field in which funds and time are limited, any newly suggested approach should have a distinct added value. Not every conservation challenge that is linked to a species’ social behaviour will require a social network approach to address it. The scientists also acknowledge that their proposal has to overcome another important hurdle first: before applying the knowledge of social relationships to management practices, it should become feasible and cost-effective to collect the required data in the first place. But with technological options becoming more common and affordable, an animal social network analysis approach could increasingly become an option.

There are several methods out there that have been successfully applied to map wildlife social networks, ranging from sampling individuals at fixed locations, to walking transects, to automatically spatially tracking the animals. Rapid advancements in technology, like proximity loggers and GPS tags, allow for ever smaller animal species to be tracked, while at the same time becoming more affordable. In addition, collaborations between research institutes and conservationists might provide opportunities for sharing the costs or the technology.

A video introduction to animal social networks by Lysanne Snijders >

Article:

Snijders, L., Blumstein, D. T., Stanley C. R., Franks, D. W. (2017): Animal Social Network Theory Can Help Wildlife Conservation. Trends in Ecology and Evolution.

Read this article >

References:

[1] Zachary A. Schakner, Michael G. Buhnerkempe, Mathew J. Tennis, Robert J. Stansell, Bjorn K. van der Leeuw, James O. Lloyd-Smith, Daniel T. Blumstein (2016): Epidemiological models to control the spread of information in marine mammals. Published 14 December 2016. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.2037

 

See original press release here.