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  • Writer's picturejohnfmcevoy

New Year, New Job, New Countries, New Species!Joining the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Updated: Jul 26, 2020

Exciting news! I have just made a big move to lovely Virginia, USA and started a new post-doc at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. As you can see the weather is a little cooler than what I have been used to in the deserts of Australia over the last few years. This is the first time I have been snowed on in nearly a decade and I am pretty happy about it. I'm sure the charm will wear off when I am trapped in my house for a few days by snow drifts.

I am working at the Conservation Ecology Centre (CEC) within the SCBI with a great team of people including Peter Leimgruber and Melissa Songer. Using cutting edge analytical tools and modelling techniques, CEC scientists create conservation scenarios so that practitioners and decision makers can identify the best possible strategies for preserving ecosystem health and biodiversity. At the species level, CEC scientists integrate intensive field surveys with animal tracking and satellite mapping to better understand the processes that control species movement and habitat declines.

This is where I come in! I will be working on two projects during my time at the CEC. The first will be using GPS tracking to assess the movement behaviour of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in Myanmar. We will be particularly focussed on areas of human-elephant conflict and how in-depth knowledge of elephant movement behaviour can help inform possible mitigation strategies. We will be using statistical analysis of tracking data using movement models and behavioural analysis to identify elephant home ranges, bottlenecks and corridors of movement as well as using spatial explicit models with remotely sensed habitat data to predict hotspots of potential human-elephant conflict.

The other main project I will be involved with focuses on advancing the management and conservation of a reintroduced Przewalski’s Horse (Equus ferus przewalskii) population at Hustai Nuruu National Park in Mongolia. These wild horses were once found throughout Europe (and even featured in some very famous cave paintings) but were pushed to the brink of extinction by habitat loss and were last seen in the wild in 1969. Recent re-introduction efforts in Mongolia and northern China (the last known stronghold of the P-Horse) have been successful in bringing this species back from the edge. Use GPS tracking from existing collars and newly collared horses we will identify home ranges and areas of intense utilization of the Hustai Nuruu National Park and use remotely sensed data on vegetation and topography to predict areas of potential importance to the continued survival of Przewalski’s horses in the wild. We will also try to analyze social interactions between individuals and groups of horses in the wild as well as potentially extending the GPS tracking programme to assess the impact of local wolf packs on the movement ecology of this endangered horse species.

So that’s my new job. I will continue updating this blog with news on these projects and others I will be involved with including the awesome “Movement of Life” initiative. Hopefully some exciting and groovy papers on elephants, horses and wolves will be coming in the next year or so, stay tuned!

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