Protected Areas: Do they improve outcomes for key species?

Earthwatch Lecture Series 2012

Unfortunately I am not in London at present, but if I were then I would definitely be putting this date into my diary as it is the perfect opportunity to visit a really historical building, The Royal Geographical Society, home of exploration and geography, and many famous British Explorers.  But more than that, it is an opportunity to listen to a very interesting talk from two Scientists working in the field.  One in Belize, and one in Madagascar.

This is not some boring lecturer in a suit talking to you about things a million miles away, but two fellow humans who are not just passionate about their work and the world, but who are also extending the invitation to you to learn more about what they do and for you to join them in the field….in Belize working on coral reefs, and in Madagascar working with little fluffy animals known as fossas. (Picture from Earthwatch)

Maybe you had no idea that it was possible to participate in this thing called citizen science? Maybe you thought you had to be a trained scientist with many letters after your name and a big budget? No matter, what your thoughts, why not go along for the evening and find out more about the work that charity Earthwatch is doing all around the world.  You might even learn something new!  And what’s more, you can go to the Explorer’s bar afterwards, chat to like minded people, and maybe even have the chance to talk with the two scientists over a cool beer or a nice cup of tea.

Tickets must be booked in advance, but are free of charge thanks to sponsorship from the Mitsubishi Fund for Europe and Africa.  You can register for your ticket here:

The event takes place on Thursday 15th March with reception from 6pm, lecture between 7pm-8.30pm, and the event finishes at 10pm.  I believe Earthwatch will try and post the lecture series online following the event, for those who are unable to attend in person, like myself.

To take part in either of the expeditions (fossas or Belize) follow these links to participate, and meet with the Project Leaders at the RGS talk:

Carnivores of Madagascar:

Before and After in Belize:

More Information about the Event here (courtesy of Earthwatch)

Event Synopsis

Protected areas (PAs) are a cornerstone of biological conservation strategies worldwide. They play a vital role in protecting biodiversity from external pressures such as resource exploitation, land-use change and habitat destruction. The first PA was established in the 1800s in Yellowstone Park, USA, and the initiative has spread. Over 13% of the world’s land surface area is now protected, though the figure for our oceans is a mere 1.17%.

Environmental scientists work hard to establish and maintain protected areas, but do these reserves work in practice? Two leading researchers will share their insights about the potential of natural protected areas – located in Madagascar and Belize – to improve the odds for endangered species

Dr John Cigliano will share his findings from research into populations of queen conch in the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve, part of the Belize Barrier Reef. The project was established in response to local stakeholders’ concerns about the rapid decline in numbers of conch due to over-fishing. Queen conch, an important species both economically and culturally, are also vital to the health of coral reef ecosystems. They keep algae in check, and their cast-off shells provide refuge for many small marine creatures.

Significantly, with the help of Earthwatch volunteers, Cigliano’s team have collected data at the site both before and after its protected status was enforced in 2010. This allows a more rigorous comparison than can be achieved with more common inside vs outside studies of protected area effectiveness.

Preliminary analysis suggests that the protection afforded by designation encourages a faster recovery of conch populations. Also, the extent of continuous high quality reef habitat could allow young conch to disperse more easily, also helping populations to bounce back.

Dr Luke Dollar heads up Earthwatch project Carnivores of Madagascar. His research focuses on the little-known fosa – a rare cat-like predator found only in Madagascar, where it plays a vital role in the rainforest ecosystem. Deforestation and hunting threaten the survival of the fosa, and other unique wildlife of the island. Based in the Ankarafantsika National Park, Dollar’s project recently generated excitement with the sighting of another extremely rare carnivore endemic to Madagascar, the western falanouc, spotted and captured on camera by an Earthwatch volunteer.

Dollar says: “The fact that we have recently witnessed the falanouc, as well as the recovering populations of fosa that we have observed in the past few years is testament to the success of the management and protection of the research area. Invasive domestic animals like dogs that used to compete with the fosa by preying on small animals like the falanouc and ground birds, are under better management control and are actively monitored to keep this threat in check.”

Our Speakers

Dr. John Cigliano
Associate Professor of Biology, Cedar Crest College, US

Dr. Cigliano is Director of the Biodiversity & Conservation Biology Program at Cedar Crest College. He is investigating queen conch (Strombus gigas) along the Belize Barrier Reef, the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere and designated a World Heritage Site in 1996. Preliminary data suggest that populations are well connected through dispersal of young conch, which could enable local populations to recover relatively quickly if overfishing and other human impacts are reduced by a new marine protected area.

Dr. Luke Dollar
Assistant Professor of Biology at Pfeiffer University, US

Dr. Dollar received his BS, MS, and PhD degrees from Duke University in 1995, 2005, and 2006, respectively. His research in the field of vertebrate ecology particularly focuses on carnivores in Madagascar and the USA. He is Director of a long term research project in Madagascar studying its largest endemic predator, the fosa (Cryptoprocta ferox). A National Geographic Emerging Explorer, Dr. Dollar is also involved in sustainable development and education programs throughout Madagascar. He serves on the World Conservation Union’s small carnivore specialist group and the International Primatological Society’s conservation committee.

Follow the event on Facebook:

Oceans Project Georgia are very proud to promote Earthwatch and are working hard to raise money to send our young people on expeditions with Earthwatch this coming summer, to 9 different countries.  See what Earthwatch had to say about us, in their January newsletter:

Oceans Project Georgia is based on the BBC Oceans television series which featured Expedition Leader Paul Rose, who is Oceans Ambassador for Earthwatch.  This is what Paul had to say about citizen science and Earthwatch at a previous Royal Geographical Society Event:

Find out more about Paul Rose here:  Oceans Project Georgia were very excited to meet with Paul and Earthwatch at the Royal Geographical Society in November, and here is a mugshot of our happy faces!!

In short: Attend this talk, 15th March, 6pm, RGS London.  And if you can’t be there, then you can watch online shortly after the event (we will try and post the link here as soon as we have it).


About Sarah Rows Solo

British YouTuber and Founder of Environmental and STEM education charity Oceans Project, preparing for a solo row around the coast of Great Britain.
This entry was posted in Nature and Wildlife, and Seasons, Oceans Project, Royal Geographical Society, Teaching and Geography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s