Wildlife Conservation Society

Borough of Bronx, NY, United States

Wildlife Conservation Society

Borough of Bronx, NY, United States

The Wildlife Conservation Society was founded in 1895 as the New York Zoological Society and currently works to conserve more than two million square miles of wild places around the world. Based at the Bronx Zoo, the organization maintains approximately 500 field conservation projects in 65 countries, with 200 PhD scientists on staff. WCS manages four New York City wildlife parks in addition to the Bronx Zoo: the Central Park Zoo, New York Aquarium, Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo. Together these parks receive 4.5 million visitors per year. All of the New York City facilities are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums . Wikipedia.


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Bennett E.L.,Wildlife Conservation Society
Conservation Biology | Year: 2015

Illegal hunting of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) for ivory is causing rapid declines in their populations. Since 2007, illegal ivory trade has more than doubled. African elephants are facing the most serious conservation crisis since 1989, when international trade was banned. One solution proposed is establishment of a controlled legal trade in ivory. High prices for ivory mean that the incentives to obtain large quantities are high, but the quantity of tusks available for trade are biologically constrained. Within that context, effective management of a legal ivory trade would require robust systems to be in place to ensure that ivory from illegally killed elephants cannot be laundered into a legal market. At present, that is not feasible due to corruption among government officials charged with implementing wildlife-related legislation. With organized criminal enterprises involved along the whole commodity chain, corruption enables the laundering of illegal ivory into legal or potentially legal markets. Poachers and traffickers can rapidly pay their way out of trouble, so the financial incentives to break the law heavily outweigh those of abiding by it. Maintaining reliable permitting systems and leak-proof chains of custody in this context is challenging, and effective management breaks down. Once illegal ivory has entered the legal trade, it is difficult or impossible for enforcement officers to know what is legal and illegal. Addressing corruption throughout a trade network that permeates countries across the globe will take decades, if it can ever be achieved. That will be too late for wild African elephants at current rates of loss. If we are to conserve remaining wild populations, we must close all markets because, under current levels of corruption, they cannot be controlled in a way that does not provide opportunities for illegal ivory being laundered into legal markets. © 2014 Society for Conservation Biology.


Harvey C.A.,Wildlife Conservation Society
Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences | Year: 2014

Across the tropics, smallholder farmers already face numerous risks to agricultural production. Climate change is expected to disproportionately affect smallholder farmers and make their livelihoods even more precarious; however, there is limited information on their overall vulnerability and adaptation needs. We conducted surveys of 600 households in Madagascar to characterize the vulnerability of smallholder farmers, identify how farmers cope with risks and explore what strategies are needed to help them adapt to climate change. Malagasy farmers are particularly vulnerable to any shocks to their agricultural system owing to their high dependence on agriculture for their livelihoods, chronic food insecurity, physical isolation and lack of access to formal safety nets. Farmers are frequently exposed to pest and disease outbreaks and extreme weather events (particularly cyclones), which cause significant crop and income losses and exacerbate food insecurity. Although farmers use a variety of risk-coping strategies, these are insufficient to prevent them from remaining food insecure. Few farmers have adjusted their farming strategies in response to climate change, owing to limited resources and capacity. Urgent technical, financial and institutional support is needed to improve the agricultural production and food security of Malagasy farmers and make their livelihoods resilient to climate change.


Gubbi S.,Wildlife Conservation Society
Biological Conservation | Year: 2012

Success stories in Indian conservation also carry opportunity costs in the form of human-wildlife conflicts, especially to people living in close proximity with wildlife. In India, human-wildlife conflict is a serious challenge to wildlife conservation, which needs a much-improved scientific and social understanding. In this study, I assess the patterns and correlates of human-elephant conflicts around Nagarahole National Park, southern India. I hypothesised that human and livestock demographic variables, and factors such as cropping patterns, availability of irrigated land around the national park, and protected area frontage to be the underlying correlates of conflict. Using applications and documents filed with the wildlife department by affected farmers during the period 2006-2009, I analysed crops affected, compensation payments made by the Government, spatio-temporal patterns of conflict and identified the key correlates of human-elephant conflict. 98.8% of the conflict incidences occurred in villages that lie within 6. km from the national park boundary. Of the 26 crop types affected by elephants, finger millet, maize, cotton, paddy and sugarcane formed 86.34% of the total crop losses. Conflict frequencies were highest during August-November, a period when there was a decrease in rainfall and important crops such as finger millet, maize and paddy were ripening. Multiple linear regression results suggest that villages with higher protected area frontage and unirrigated land were key variables underlying conflict frequency. However, results from this study suggests that there are other probable factors such as elephant behaviour, movement patterns and/or maintenance of physical barriers which could be more important determinants of conflict. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.


McClanahan T.R.,Wildlife Conservation Society
Conservation Biology | Year: 2010

The adoption of fisheries closures and gear restrictions in the conservation of coral reefs may be limited by poor understanding of the economic profitability of competing economic uses of marine resources. Over the past 12 years, I evaluated the effects of gear regulation and fisheries closures on per person and per area incomes from fishing in coral reefs of Kenya. In two of my study areas, the use of small-meshed beach seines was stopped after 6 years; one of these areas was next to a fishery closure. In my third study area, fishing was unregulated. Fishing yields on per capita daily wet weight basis were 20% higher after seine-net fishing was stopped. The per person daily fishing income adjacent to the closed areas was 14 and 22% higher than the fishing income at areas with only gear restrictions before and after the seine-net restriction, respectively. Incomes differed because larger fish were captured next to the closed area and the price per weight (kilograms) increased as fish size increased and because catches adjacent to the closure contained fish species of higher market value. Per capita incomes were 41 and 135% higher for those who fished in gear-restricted areas and near-closed areas, respectively, compared with those who fished areas with no restrictions. On a per unit area basis (square kilometers), differences in fishing income among the three areas were not large because fishing effort increased as the number of restrictions decreased. Changes in catch were, however, larger and often in the opposite direction expected from changes in effort alone. For example, effort declined 21% but nominal profits per square kilometer (not accounting for inflation) increased 29% near the area with gear restrictions. Gear restrictions also reduced the cost of fishing and increased the proportion of self-employed fishers. © 2010 Society for Conservation Biology.


Robinson J.G.,Wildlife Conservation Society
Biological Conservation | Year: 2011

Conservation organizations are asked to be responsive to a number of ethical obligations beyond that of the conservation of biodiversity: the reduction of poverty, the imperative of social justice and cultural integrity, and the improvement in human livelihoods. Yet how a conservation project is designed and structured can negatively impact people's access to resources, privilege one group of people over another, or protect some species at a cost to others. Ideological conflict among nature protectionists, advocates for indigenous people, those promoting a pro-poor agenda, and those seeking to move conservation into the economic mainstream has characterized the conservation debate. I argue that in practice, most conservation programs should adopt a pluralistic and pragmatic approach, adopting multiple goals and making decisions on the basis of what works. Choosing among approaches requires an appreciation of trade-offs, and consideration of biological, social, and cultural values. Ultimately conservation approaches must be sustainable - ecologically, culturally, socially, economically and politically - otherwise they will fail both practically and ethically. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.


Robinson J.G.,Wildlife Conservation Society
Conservation Biology | Year: 2012

The conservation community increasingly views the corporate sector as a positive force for conservation. Collaborations between corporations and nongovernmental conservation organizations (NGOs) seek to mitigate the negative effects of corporate activities and augment positive conservation outcomes. I reviewed the establishment of corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies by corporations; the emerging focus on environmental practices and sustainability; and the history of engagement between corporations and nongovernmental organizations. I considered the ethical and reputation vulnerabilities of these collaborations, which depend especially on the financial nature of the relationship and reviewed how CSR approaches have influenced corporate practices. I concluded that whereas CSR practices can act to mitigate negative environmental impact, to date they have had limited positive effect on biodiversity conservation. ©2012 Society for Conservation Biology.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: ITEST | Award Amount: 858.18K | Year: 2014

The nations job market is creating more STEM jobs than jobs in other fields - a trend predicted to continue for the next 10 years. Although there has been a slight increase in the number of STEM graduates in the US, the percentage of graduates from underrepresented populations remains low. This project will study how a hands-on urban ecology research program can positively impact underrepresented teens and lead them to pursue STEM-related courses and majors in college. Through a partnership between an informal science institution (the Wildlife Conservation Society) and a university (Fordham University), 200 teens from underrepresented backgrounds will conduct urban ecology research at one of four zoos in New York City under the guidance of a university professor, graduate and undergraduate students, and zoo education staff. One of the unique features of the urban ecology program will be a tiered mentorship model, in which university professors mentor graduate urban ecology students, who in turn mentor undergraduate students, and together they mentor high school students from communities underrepresented in STEM fields. Ultimately, this project will identify programmatic strategies and student support methods that can help expand and diversify the STEM workforce. This project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants.

This research and development project will advance the field of STEM learning by investigating four key programmatic elements that previous studies have suggested increase interest and participation in STEM: 1) Hands-on STEM experience; 2) Awareness of the utility of STEM learning in the world; 3) Exposure to a role model; and 4) Interaction with peers with shared STEM interest. The research will develop survey-based measurement tools and use multivariate analysis to examine the influence of each programmatic element on short- and medium-term STEM-related outcomes over a five-year period. The research will further address questions to understand the impact of these four principles within a real-world context, including the degree to which non-project factors (e.g. parental support, school coursework, etc.) influence the model, thus limiting or enhancing impact. Additionally, the evaluation component of this project will examine the impacts of the tiered mentorship model in greater depth through a formal case study. The research and evaluation will be complementary, with the research looking across cohorts of participants over time, and the evaluation exploring participant experiences in depth.


An ecosystem vision-making application includes a web server that delivers data from a database for a geographic model together with JavaScript scripts that implement the model, both being delivered to a JavaScript-enabled web browser on a client. Using tools defined by the vision-making application, vision parameters are defined for a vision applicable to a geographic location. Execution of the JavaScript scripts by the web browser enables calculation of an environmental performance indicator which includes metrics for ecologically significant performance indicators for the vision applied to the geographic location. Other performance metrics may be calculated, such as social metrics, economic metrics and livability metrics. These metrics may also be calculated for baseline visions and for visions from other users, thereby enabling comparison with the user-defined vision, and so as to provide for evaluation, change, improvement, commentary, distribution and sharing of the vision.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: SPRF-IBSS | Award Amount: 194.03K | Year: 2015

The Directorate of Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences offers postdoctoral research fellowships to provide opportunities for recent doctoral graduates to obtain additional training, to gain research experience under the sponsorship of established scientists, and to broaden their scientific horizons beyond their undergraduate and graduate training. Postdoctoral fellowships are further designed to assist new scientists to direct their research efforts across traditional disciplinary lines and to avail themselves of unique research resources, sites, and facilities, including at foreign locations. This postdoctoral fellowship supports a rising scientist in the interdisciplinary area of food security and biodiversity. Although biodiversity and poverty are intimately related, surprisingly few scientists have quantitatively investigated how ecosystem health and human health affect each other. An integrated approach to studying humans and their environment can strengthen both conservation and public health policy to align goals and create potential scenarios of co-benefits from interventions. This postdoctoral fellowship will provide funds to expand the disciplinary breadth of a trained anthropologist to explore interdisciplinary approaches to stem biodiversity loss and stabilize food security in a UNESCO World Heritage site. In addition to training a female scientist from the United States, this project creates educational opportunities for a doctoral student from Madagascar and several local Malagasy research assistants. This project has the potential to directly improve child health and the future of endangered species in one of the most threatened and food insecure habitats on earth. It advances the progress of science by informing the decision making of conservation and public health policy-makers by providing much needed information on the dynamic interactions between ecosystems and human health, and the human incentives that drive the illegal hunting of endangered species. Further, it translates these interdisciplinary scientific findings into applied integrated conservation and public health action on the Masoala to advance the health and welfare of both people and forests.

During this project, the research team is designing, applying, and testing the effects of an interdisciplinary conservation and human health action plan in on the Masoala Peninsula of Madagascar, a UNESCO world heritage site. The three-phase multi-disciplinary project aims specifically to integrate quantitative and qualitative methods from anthropology, political economy, conservation biology, ecology, and public health to complete a rigorous interdisciplinary study of human incentives, human health, hunting behavior (including illegal harvest), ecosystem characteristics, and wildlife population dynamics (including five endangered species). Over 24 months at 14 sites, this research team is quantifying the dynamic interactions between the health of forests, people, and endangered species by: interviewing members of over 400 households about their health, resource use, and livelihoods; measuring the health of over 2,000 people through anthropometry and hemoglobin sampling; monitoring the daily behavior of five focal hunters; monitoring forest ecology at 150 habitat plots; and surveying ten lemur species in 140 regional transects and across a trans-peninsula transect of over 110 aerial kilometers. Using these data the team is building a system dynamics model of human-forest-lemur interactions to design and simulate the effects of an integrated human-health and conservation action plan. This action plan is being implemented in 7 test communities to attempt to solve issues of increasing human-wildlife conflict and to determine whether there are possibilities for co-beneficial objectives of conservation and public health intervention.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: DYN COUPLED NATURAL-HUMAN | Award Amount: 295.75K | Year: 2014

Coastal systems are changing rapidly across the globe, resulting in the need for human societies to adapt. Given the combination of environmental changes, population growth, and climate impacts, projections suggest that subsistence agriculture and coastal fisheries will fail to support the food needs of many Pacific countries by 2030. The Solomon Islands in the Western Pacific, with their unique cultural, agricultural, and biological diversity could constitute models for how systems adapt to recurrent change. Although Solomon Island communities have a long history of effectively addressing major unpredictable environmental and social changes, traditional strategies such as reef closures or fisheries restrictions are now faltering in many areas in response to outside forces such as emerging markets for marine resources that were previously unexploited by local people. This project will study the relationship among pressures such as climate change and increasing human population size, the health of inter-related human-natural systems, and benefits derived from these systems such as food security, clean water, and biodiversity in order to better inform effective management of people and the land and seascapes that support them. The project will inform future scenarios and resource management planning across a community-driven conservation network developed over the last decade in partnership with the principle investigators. This project will also contribute to recommendations for incorporating resilience thinking into policy development for climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction and natural resource management in the Pacific and globally. The researchers will also engage in innovative ways to evaluate and broaden who is participating in the research and management process, in part by exploring technologies that embrace and use local knowledge and cultural identity. The project will improve the ability of social and biological scientists and of decision makers to manage community landscapes for sustainability at local levels. Additional broader impacts include training postdoctoral researchers and masters students from the United States and undergraduates from the Solomon Islands. This project is supported as part of the National Science Foundations Coastal Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability program - Coastal SEES.

Across Pacific Island human and natural communities, recent social and ecological pressures may be changing biocultural states, defined by coupled and interwoven sets of feedbacks among social, ecological, and evolutionary processes that shape land- and seascape mosaics, communities, and resource values. Resource use may be shifting due to underlying pressures from demographic, market, and climate changes. Use of the term biocultural emphasizes that resource management cannot be fully understood from social or biological standpoints alone. This project will uncover relationships among changing pressures, biocultural states, and socio-ecological benefits. Researchers will use a pressure-state-benefit-response framework to describe and inform reef-to-ridge management across Solomon Island communities in a multivariate analysis of biocultural state and potential system resilience to ongoing or future shocks. This project will: 1) evaluate the impact of contemporary landscape mosaic transformation on biocultural state, as defined by indicators of local ecological knowledge, biocultural connectivity, and governance; and 2) assess relationships between the current biocultural state and the state of well-being, both human (as measured by food security and access to sufficient freshwater resources) and ecological (as measured by biodiversity values at the ecosystem scale). Researchers will analytically relate landscape transformation, biocultural state and well-being benefits to inform future scenario planning. Researchers will model future shifts with an emphasis on the influence of climate change, market forces, and resource use scenarios to understand how components of a given biocultural state foster resilience potential. The co-creation of empirical, culturally relevant indicators of biocultural state, combined with participatory scenario planning, will serve as a model for effective integration across western scientific and local knowledge. This project represents a key advance for the broader scenario planning community by integrating cultural, economic and ecological considerations in a spatially explicit, transparent, and dynamic manner.

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