WCS 3-Sentence Science

Each year, WCS scientists author or co-author nearly 300 peer-reviewed studies and papers.  “WCS 3 Sentence Science” is a regular tip-sheet – in bite sized helpings – of some of this published work. 


Do you Really Like Wildlife?
Credit: Cristian Samper/WCS
1. Having support from stakeholders is critical to achieving conservation success, but few approaches account for bias arising from reporting errors; that is, reporting a positive attitude towards conservation when the respondent actually does not have one (a false positive error), or not reporting a positive attitude when the respondent is positive towards conservation (a false negative error).
2. Researchers used a Bayesian hierarchical model to quantify attitudes toward Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in India’s Kaziranga Karbi Anglong landscape to allow for a more accurate assessment of stakeholder attitudes.
3. Authors say that regular and reliable assessment of stakeholder attitudes combined with an understanding of factors contributing to variation in attitudes can feed into participatory conservation monitoring programs, help assess the success of initiatives aimed at facilitating human behavioral change, and inform conservation decision-making.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "A Bayesian hierarchical approach to quantifying stakeholder attitudes toward conservation in the presence of reporting error"   from  Conservation Biology
WCS Co-Author(s):  D. Vasudev (Lead) , WCS India Program ;  V. R. Goswami , WCS India Program

Reducing the Sense of Unfairness in East Africa Fisheries
Credit: WCS
1. Researchers evaluated heterogeneity in governance principles, which are increasingly important tools for natural resource management with communities and co-management arrangements, by asking 449 people in 30 fishing communities in four East African countries to rate their effectiveness.
2. Overall, group identity, group autonomy, decision-making process, and conflict resolution principles were perceived to be most effective and likely to be enforced by repeated low-cost intragroup activities; while graduated sanctions, cost-benefit sharing, and monitoring resource users, fisheries, and ecology were the least scaled principles and less affordable via local control.
3. The researchers concluded that management effectiveness in resource-limited situations depends on distributing power, skills, and costs beyond fishing communities to insure conservation needs are met.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Conservation needs exposed by variability in common-pool governance principles"   from  Conservation Biology
WCS Co-Author(s):  Tim McClanahan (Lead) , WCS Marine Program ;  Carol Abunge , WCS Marine Program

Don’t Overlook Even Marginal Habitat
Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
1. In this commentary piece, researchers argue that current Environmental Impacts Assessments, which look at the effect of infrastructure projects on wildlife, are grossly underestimating potential loss of habitat.
2. The authors say this is because they are overlooking even marginal habitat areas, which may become increasingly important as wildlife gets squeezed into smaller spaces.
3. They recommend that habitat of ‘lower perceived quality’ needs to be considered along with higher quality habitat to allow nations to undertake the assessments (and actions) needed to meet their international obligations of halting the biodiversity crisis.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "All threatened species habitat is important"   from  Animal Conservation
WCS Co-Author(s):  James Watson , Director Science and Research Initiative

PNG on Road to Ruin
Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
1. Papua New Guinea has the third largest tropical rainforest on the planet.
2. Using fine-scale biophysical and environmental data, researchers assessed a plan that calls for doubling PNG’s road network over the next three years.
3. The team found that roads would dissect more than 50 of PNG’s critical habitats home to rare species as Goodfellow’s and Matchie’s tree kangaroos and several birds of paradise, and would open up areas to hunting, logging, and land-conversion, including carbon-rich peatlands.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Infrastructure expansion challenges sustainable development in Papua New Guinea"   from  PLOS ONE
WCS Co-Author(s):  T. Mutton , WCS PNG Program ;  A. Brenier , WCS PNG Program

Post Mortem of a Whale Stranding
Credit: C. Dougnac/WCS Chile Program
1. Researchers published results of a mass stranding of long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) in Southern Chile, where some 124 animals stranded and died in July of 2016.
2. Due to an advance state of decomposition, researchers were unable to pinpoint an exact cause of death, but noted several large marine storms in the area just prior to the stranding, theorizing that large waves combined with strong tides could have impacted the whales.
3. The authors note the need for more rapid, coordinated responses to stranding events, which are expected to rise due to climate change.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "A mass stranding event of long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) in Southern Chile"   from  Aquatic Mammals
WCS Co-Author(s):  C. Dougnac , WCS Chile Program

Following Lemmings
Credit: Fritz Mueller
1. Researchers conducted a comprehensive overview of projects monitoring lemmings—a key component of tundra food webs—and found that since 2000, lemmings have been monitored at 49 sites circumpolar Arctic, of which 38 are still active.
2. Researchers are monitoring for abundance at all sites, but health, genetic diversity and potential drivers of population change, were often not monitored.
3. There was no evidence that lemming populations were decreasing in general, although a negative trend was detected for low arctic populations sympatric with voles.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Documenting lemming population change in the Arctic: Can we detect trends?"   from  Ambio
WCS Co-Author(s):  Don Reid , WCS Canada

Do Insects Think about the Future?
Credit: Antoine Morin
1. Researchers looked at whether female red flour beetles (Tribolium castaneum) assess both current and future competition at sites where they lay eggs, testing the theory by manipulating both beetle density, which represented current competition, and sex ratio, which represented future competition, at laying sites.
2. They found that the female beetles responded to both density and sex ratio: they layer fewer eggs in higher density areas and more eggs when the sex ratio was male-biased.
3. Eggs laid at male-biased sites were more likely to develop into adults, so females laying eggs at these sites would have higher fitness than females laying eggs at female-biased sites.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Do female red flour beetles assess both current and future competition during oviposition?"   from  Journal of Insect Behavior
WCS Co-Author(s):  William Halliday , WCS Canada

Latest Pangolin Trafficking Hotspot: South Sudan
Credit: Lucie Escouflaire
1. The 2013–2018 conflict in South Sudan, and resulting insecurity, inaccessibility and political instability, has severely impacted the enforcement and monitoring capabilities and efforts of the South Sudan National Wildlife Service and other law enforcement agencies to monitor the trafficking of pangolins.
2. Though researchers do not do not know the exact trade routes through South Sudan, it is reasonable to assume that pangolin products are also trafficked by road across the borders with Uganda, DRC, Ethiopia and other neighbouring countries due to limited and, at certain locations, nonexistent border control.
3. Given the evidence we present, and the current situation in South Sudan, it is likely that volumes of pangolin trafficking in South Sudan are higher than presented in the study, which warrants monitoring of both the current state of trafficking and pangolin populations, and that enforcement agencies, technical partners and funding partners work together on concerted efforts to monitor and address wildlife trafficking in South Sudan.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "First records of pangolin trafficking in South Sudan"   from  African Journal of Ecology
WCS Co-Author(s):  P.P. Awol , WCS Africa Program

Forest Fragments are Now Havens for Wildlife
Credit: WCS
1. Destruction of tropical rainforests reduces many unprotected habitats to small fragments of remnant forests within agricultural lands, and to date, these remnant forest fragments have been largely disregarded as wildlife habitat.
2. Researchers conducted camera trap surveys within Sumatra’s Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park and five surrounding remnant forest fragments, finding 28 mammal species in the protected forest and 21 in the fragments—including critically endangered species such as Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) and Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), along with species of conservation concern such as marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata) and Asiatic golden cat (Pardofelis temminckii).
3. The biodiversity found within the fragments suggests that these small patches of remnant forest may have conservation value to certain mammal species and indicates the importance of further research into the role these habitats may play in landscape-level, multispecies conservation planning.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "The conservation value of forest fragments in the increasingly agrarian landscape of Sumatra"   from  Environmental Conservation
WCS Co-Author(s):  W. Pusparini , WCS Indonesia Program

New Threat to Wild Lemurs: Worms from Dogs
Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
1. With human encroachment and associated increases in free-roaming dog populations in Madagascar, we examined lemurs for zoonotic canid pathogens and found for the first molecular detection of canine heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) in a wild non-human primate, the mouse lemur (Microcebus rufus).
2. Zoonotic D. immitis infection has been associated with clinical pathology that includes serious and often fatal cardiac and pulmonary reactions.
3. D. immitis presents a new potential conservation threat to lemurs, and the authors highlight the need for wide-ranging and effective interventions, particularly near protected areas, to address this growing conservation issue.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Causative agent of canine heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) detected in wild lemurs"   from  International Journal for Parasitology-Parasites and Wildlife
WCS Co-Author(s):  C. A. Chapman , WCS Conservation Fellow

Study Finds Female and Immature Hammerhead Sharks Need More Protection
Credit: Barry Peters from Wikipedia Commons
1. Study Finds Female and Immature Hammerhead Sharks Need More Protection
2. From January to December 2017, researchers from WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) gathered data on scalloped hammerhead sharks landed at Kutaraja fishing port in Banda Aceh, Aceh Province, to understand the characteristics of the fisheries, and inform the design of potential management options.
3. The data revealed that hammerheads are caught both deliberately and as bycatch, and that the majority of landed individuals are immature, with more females captured than males, indicating the need to introduce fisheries management rules to alleviate pressure on this species, and in particular to prevent negative impacts on reproductive capacity due to skewed capture of females.
WCS Media Contact:  John Delaney, +17182657908, jdelaney@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Size distribution and sex ratios of scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini) in Banda Aceh fisheries"   from  IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science
WCS Co-Author(s):  M. Ischan (Lead) , WCS Indonesia Program ;  B.M. Simeone; E. Muttaqin , WCS Indonesia Program

Limited Data on Indonesia’s Sharks and Rays Leaves Species Vulnerable to Overfishing
Credit: Hollie Booth
1. Fisheries management measures are urgently needed to reduce the threat of overfishing to shark and ray populations, but a lack of in-depth information on the ecology and life histories of shark and ray species in Indonesian waters—a global hotspot of shark and ray diversity—is a serious obstacle for designing science-based management for this highly threatened species group.
2. The researchers in this study used a modified version of maximum intrinsic rate of population (Rmax) increase to estimate vulnerability of shark and ray species to overfishing, which is a method typically used for management of bony fish such as cod and tuna, but was modified to take into account the life history traits of sharks and rays.
3. Using Rmax, the researchers were able to calculate risk values for only 26 out of the 208 species of shark and ray found in Indonesia’s waters (just 12.5 percent of the shark and ray species), which highlights the high vulnerability of species for which data is available as well as the importance of gathering basic biological information for the rest of the shark and ray species found in Indonesia’s waters.
WCS Media Contact:  John Delaney, +17182657908, jdelaney@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Quantifying vulnerability of sharks and rays species in Indonesia: Is biological knowledge sufficient enough for the assessment"   from  IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science
WCS Co-Author(s):  U. Mardhiah (Lead) , WCS Indonesia Program ;  H. Booth; B.M. Simeone; E. Muttaqin; M. Ischan; and I. Yulianto. , WCS Indonesia program

Researchers Use DNA-barcoding to ID Sharks in World’s Largest Shark Fishery
Credit: Hollie Booth
1. Indonesia is the world’s largest shark fishing nation with a wide range of shark species in trade, some of which are threatened and protected but difficult to visually identify, particularly for semi-processed non-fin products.
2. Through a collaboration between WCS and Bogor Agricultural University, researchers in Indonesia tested a DNA barcoding method for identifying the species of origin for a range of shark products sold in local markets, including meat, skin, cartilage, and liver oil.
3. The method was successful—with all of the products identified to species level with an accuracy of 97-100 percent—with the results showing an alarming frequency of threatened and internationally regulated species such as wedgefish, silky sharks, hammerhead sharks and thresher sharks, a finding that indicates the need for improved fisheries and trade management at the local level to alleviate pressure on these species.
WCS Media Contact:  John Delaney, +17182657908, jdelaney@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "DNA-barcoding as molecular marker for seafood forensics: Species identification of locally consumed shark fish products in the world’s largest shark fishery"   from  IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science
WCS Co-Author(s):  E. Muttaqin (Lead) , WCS Indonesia program ;  M. Ichsan; B.M. Simeone; I. Yulianto; and H. Booth. , WCS Indonesia Program

Climate Change and Shifting Alaskan Forests
Credit: Lauren Oakes
1. Climate change is altering the conditions for tree recruitment, growth, and survival, and impacting forest community composition.
2. Researchers found that climate-induced forest mortality of Alaska yellow-cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis) is driving alternate successional pathways that are likely to lead to long-term shifts in forest community composition and stand dynamics.
3. The analysis fills a critical knowledge gap on forest ecosystem response and rearrangement following the climate-driven decline of a single species, providing new insight into stand dynamics in a changing climate.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "From canopy to seed: Loss of snow drives directional changes in forest composition "   from  Ecology and Evolution
WCS Co-Author(s):  Lauren Oakes , Conservation Scientist and Adaptation Specialist

Community-Based Fisheries Management Fails to Protect Two Fish Species
Credit: Tim McClanahan/WCS
1. Community-based fisheries management that integrates local knowledge and existing user rights is often seen as a solution to the failures of top-down fisheries management in the Pacific.
2. Researchers found that in Roviana Lagoon, Western Solomon Islands, where a network of community-based marine protected areas was established in the early 2000s to conserve declining populations of bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) and other locally valuable fish species such as humphead wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus), fisheries have continued to decline and now meet the IUCN Red List thresholds for Critically Endangered (CR).
3. The probable causes of these declines are sustained fishing pressure, poor enforcement of community-based management measures, and loss of fish nursery habitats due to logging, and suggest urgent co-management of the ridge-to-reef system is needed to prevent further fish population declines in Roviana Lagoon.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Community-based management fails to halt declines of bumphead parrotfish and humphead wrasse in Roviana Lagoon, Solomon Islands"   from  Coral Reefs
WCS Co-Author(s):  Alec Hughes , Program Manager, WCS Melanesia ;  Tingo Leve , WCS Marine Technical Officer

Planning for Coastal Run-Off
Credit: Wade Fairley
1. Planning for linkages among terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems can help managers mitigate the impacts of pollution from land-based run-off on water quality and coastal ecosystem services, which affect the livelihoods of millions people on the world's coasts.
2. A team of researchers examined the approaches used for land-sea planning, with particular focus on the models currently used to estimate the impacts of land-use change on water quality and fisheries.
3. They found a disconnect between the dynamical models that can be used to link land to sea processes and the simple tools that are typically used to inform planning, and propose some guiding principles for where and how dynamic land-sea connections can most effectively be built into planning tools.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "A guide to modelling priorities for managing land-based impacts on coastal ecosystems "   from  Journal of Applied Ecology
WCS Co-Author(s):  Stacy Jupiter, , WCS Melanesia Program ;  Sangeeta Mangubhai, , WCS Melanesia Program

Cat Claw Conundrum Confuses Conservationists
Credit: WCS Myanmar Program
1. Researchers have long believed that the IUCN Endangered fishing cat (Prionailurus Viverrinus), was the only small-to-medium sized cat species in Southeast Asia that left distinct claw marks in its tracks.
2. Using camera traps, researchers have documented that the more common leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) also leaves claw marks.
3. This photo-documentation shows that claw marks are not diagnostic of fishing cat, and, more generally, serves to re-emphasize the need for great caution in identifying small carnivore signs to species based on “common knowledge.”
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Claw imprints in leopard cat tracks – implications for footprint-based fishing cat claims"   from  Cat News
WCS Co-Author(s):  Steven Platt , Associate Conservation Herpetologist, WCS Myanmar Program

Helping Montanans Plan for Drought
Credit: Jeff Burrell/WCS
1. As research recognizes the importance of ecological impacts of drought to natural and human communities, drought planning processes need to better incorporate ecological impacts.
2. Researchers incorporated ecological impacts into drought planning in the Upper Missouri Headwaters (UMH) region (Montana, USA), combining ecosystem services elicitation using the Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (ES) and a vulnerability assessment using semi-structured interviews.
3. The interviews resulted in more discussion about ecological transformation from future droughts, suggesting that some combination of open-ended vulnerability assessment methods and ES elicitation using a structured framework can result in greater understanding of ecological drought vulnerability in a given region.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Planning for ecological drought: Integrating ecosystem services and vulnerability assessment "   from  Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews-Water
WCS Co-Author(s):  Molly Cross , Director WCS Climate Change Adaptation

United We (Conservationists) Stand
Credit: Mileniusz Spanowicz
1. The publication in May 2019 of the United Nations’ first global assessment of the state of biodiversity was a stark reminder that urgent action is needed if we are to stem the drastic deterioration of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
2. A survey of more than 9,000 conservationists in 149 countries reveals that, despite broad diversity in people and ideas, the global conversation community is not divided.
3. Conservation policy will benefit from drawing on this diversity as international negotiations around the post-2020 agenda for conservation proceed.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Diverse contributions benefit people and nature "   from  Nature Ecology & Evolution
WCS Co-Author(s):  James Watson (Lead) , Director WCS Science and Research Initiative

Wild Camels Not so Wild
Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
1. Researchers investigated male lineages of both wild and domestic bactrian camels (Camelus bactrianus) for the first time.
2. They found that wild and domestic camels were clearly separated into two different genetic populations that share a common ancestor, though they found a domestic paternal lineage within one wild camel – concerning given the importance to conserve the genetic integrity of these highly endangered species in their natural habitat.
3. The research provides a baseline that will help conserve the integrity of the highly endangered wild two-humped camel gene pool.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "A first Y-chromosomal haplotype network to investigate male-driven population dynamics in domestic and wild bactrian camels "   from  Frontiers in Genetics
WCS Co-Author(s):  Cristian Walzer , Executive Director Wildlife Health, Wildlife Health Program

Penguins are not Eating Your Lunch
Credit: Cristian Samper/WCS
1. Researchers examined the diets of Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) at two breeding colonies in northern Argentina that were close to commercial fishing areas.
2. They found that the diets varied with each colony and included a variety of prey species, but commercially valuable Argentine Hake (Merluccius hubbsi) and Argentine Shortfin Squid (Illex argentinus) were not widely consumed.
3. These findings suggest a low trophic overlap with commercial fisheries, and helps further the understanding potential penguin-fishery interactions.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Diet composition of expanding breeding populations of the Magellanic Penguin"   from  Marine Biology Research
WCS Co-Author(s):  Pablo Yorio , WCS Argentina Program

Helping Wildlife Prepare for a Warming Planet
Credit: WCS Climate Adaptation Fund
1. A team of researchers identified priorities for securing potential sites where wildlife can take refuge as areas of habitat become climatically unsuitable.
2. They developed and compared two planning scenarios: one that that permits both the retention of high quality habitat and the restoration of land used for forestry and agriculture; and a scenario that favors the retention of high quality habitat above land restoration efforts.
3. The results of the study provide immediate guidance for on-ground management actions, and provides a robust methodology that can support climate change adaptation decisions in multi-use landscapes around the world.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Retention and restoration priorities for climate adaptation in a multi-use landscape"   from  Global Ecology and Conservation
WCS Co-Author(s):  James Watson , Director WCS Science and Research Initiative

Sea Stars Get a Check-Up
Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
1. Sea star wasting disease has killed millions of seas starts along the Pacific coast since 2013, so there is a need for diagnostic tests to evaluate their health.
2. Researchers used a non-invasive technique that is used to access the body fluid of sea stars and tested it on 26 sea stars in aquaria.
3. The results provided a useful baseline and diagnostic tool for health assessments of sea stars.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Coelomic fluid evaluation in clinically normal ochre sea stars Pisaster ochraceus: Cell counts, cytology, and biochemistry reference intervals"   from  Journal of Aquatic Animal Health
WCS Co-Author(s):  Harley Newton , WCS Zoological Health Program’s Aquatic Animal Medicine and Pathology Department

Reef Fisheries Get a Scorecard
Credit: Fakhrizal Setiawan
1. Researchers used ten “ecosystem approach indicators” to assess the status of the management of five commercially important coral reef fish species living in a marine protected area – Karimunjawa National Park (KNP) Jepara, Central Java, Indonesia.
2. The results indicated seven of the ten indicators were at a moderate level, but tactical decisions are necessary to push indicators to achieve a better level.
3. Three indicators still received a poor status: fish abundance, fishing gear modification, and fishing capacity.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Using ecosystem approach indicators for assessing the ecological status of reef fisheries management in a marine protected area"   from  Biodiversitas
WCS Co-Author(s):  Shinta Pardede , Science coordinator, WCS Indonesia

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