//
you're reading...

Conservation

From Animal Tracking to Conservation

Hays GC, et al. (2019) Translating Marine Animal Tracking Data into Conservation Policy and Management. Trends Ecol Evol 34(5):459–473. 

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to ride on the back of a whale? The shell of a sea turtle? The fin of a shark? The wing of a seabird? Scientists are now able to vicariously travel alongside these and many other types of marine animals thanks to the development of increasingly small, portable, and advanced devices that they use for tracking.

Ari Friedlaender, one of the authors on the 2019 review paper, tags a pilot whale with a suction cup tag in this photo (U.S. Navy photo by Ari S. Friedlaender via Wikimedia Commons).

Why track animals?

Tracking animals provides fascinating information including where animals spend their time, how they get from one place to another, when they move around, and how they move around. From a purely biological standpoint, the insight provided by animal tracking is invaluable for understanding the complex systems present in the oceans. But these data also have important applications for conservation; without understanding more about animals and the environment, it’s impossible to effectively protect them. For example, how do policymakers decide where to implement a marine protected area without knowing where the animals that need protecting are?

Translating scientific research to conservation policy and management is vital but is also far from simple, as the authors of a new review paper in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution point out. The road from scientific research to conservation policy is not a direct one, even though it may appear that way in scientific literature. Policy and science are often disjointed, and it can be hard to connect all of the moving parts. Nevertheless, Hays and co-authors are optimistic in their review paper, describing conservation success stories and providing recommendations for scientists and policymakers alike.

A green sea turtle with a satellite tag deployed by the US Geological Survey in the Southeast US (USGS via flickr).

Animal tracking data have been used around the world, on local and international scales, and for a variety of species, such as fish, seabirds, sea turtles, and marine mammals. Tracking data have been used to inform policy decisions like endangered species listings and fisheries management, as well as for the establishment, expansion, and refinement of marine protected areas and other conservation zones. When policymakers have access to tracking data, it allows them to make decisions based on which habitats are important for a species, how much that species moves, and the scale of risks the species is facing. The key point here is that policymakers must have access to the data they need in order for conservation efforts to move forward.

A white shark with a satellite tag attached at the base of the dorsal fin (Phillip Colla via Wikimedia commons).

Lessons for the future

Hays and co-authors’ synthesis of case studies is powerful in its the ability to collate advice for future research and policy based on what has been successful in the past. The first recommendation the authors make for streamlining the use of tracking data in conservation policy is for communication and engagement between the researchers and policymakers early on, so that both groups understand what is needed by the other.

The other two recommendations made by the authors are often heard in general discussions about improving the use of scientific data beyond academic studies: better data accessibility and science communication. Making not just the resulting publication of a study but also the tracking data itself available to interested parties allows a faster and easier connection between scientists and policymakers, and will also continue to become more important for conservation that crosses international boundaries. Finally, expanding the sphere of influence of scientific studies through effective communication increases public awareness. Keeping the public informed about the latest findings in marine conservation keeps management a priority.

Recent advancements in the study of ocean animals are allowing us to make exciting steps towards uncovering what is still mostly unknown about the largest ecosystem on the planet. Not only is tracking animals an exhilarating prospect, but it also allows for effective conservation and management of marine life.

Discussion

No comments yet.

Post a Comment

Instagram

  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Happy Earth Day! Take some time today to do something for the planet and appreciate the ocean, which covers 71% of the Earth’s surface.  #EarthDay   #OceanAppreciation   #Oceanbites   #CoastalVibes   #CoastalRI 
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    Not all outdoor science is fieldwork. Some of the best days in the lab can be setting up experiments, especially when you get to do it outdoors. It’s an exciting mix of problem solving, precision, preparation, and teamwork. Here is
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    Being on a research cruise is a unique experience with the open water, 12-hour working shifts, and close quarters, but there are some familiar practices too. Here Diana is filtering seawater to gather chlorophyll for analysis, the same process on
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #oceanbites  we are featuring Hannah Collins  @hannahh_irene  Hannah works with marine suspension feeding bivalves and microplastics, investigating whether ingesting microplastics causes changes to the gut microbial community or gut tissues. She hopes to keep working
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 10 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 10 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 12 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 12 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 1 year ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com