SER2017 World Conference on Ecological Restoration


The Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) will host its seventh biennial World Conference in Foz do Iguassu, Paraná, Brazil from 27 August to 1 September 2017 in partnership with the Brazilian Society for Ecological Restoration (SOBRE) and the Ibero-American & Caribbean Society for Ecological Restoration (SIACRE). The conference is expected to draw more than 1,500 delegates from the around the world embodying the great professional and cultural diversity of the three hosting organizations and representing all stakeholders in the restoration enterprise—from researchers, practitioners and policymakers to artists, educators, students and community leaders. Delegates will come from all sectors—government agencies, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, and the private sector—with a wide range of professional expertise in the natural and social sciences, landscape architecture, environmental engineering, urban and regional planning, and public policy, among others.

The overarching theme of SER2017 is Linking Science and Practice for a Better World. Bridging the gap between these two modes of engagement in the restoration process—that is, between the ecologist’s perspective and the field manager’s experience—is the perennial challenge for the work of repairing degraded ecosystems. The need to foster productive two-way communication is more important than ever as the world increasingly embraces the imperative of restoration and begins undertaking projects of ever larger scope. SER2017 seeks to provide a dynamic and engaging platform for knowledge sharing among not only scientists and practitioners, but also the many other stakeholders who enter into the equation, and to leverage the unique chemistry among the three hosting organizations to widen discussion across scales—from national to regional to international.

The SER2017 conference program will feature world-renowned keynote and plenary speakers as well as numerous symposia, training workshops, concurrent sessions, and technical field trips. Sessions at past conferences have explored such topics as:

Reinstating landscape connectivity and reducing fragmentation
Threatened and endangered species, populations and habitats
Invasive species management
Restoration in parks and protected areas
Restoration in an urban context
Monitoring and adaptive management
Natural capital and ecosystem services
Agro-ecological and silvicultural systems
The role of restoration in mitigating and adapting to climate change
Environmental policy at the local, regional and national level
Traditional and local ecological knowledge and community engagement in restoration
Along with the formal program of oral sessions, SER2017 will include poster sessions and other networking events, as well as a robust program of social activities—in a country and among a people known to have a penchant for socializing!

European Conference of Tropical Ecology (GTOE) – Call for oral and poster presentations

European Conference of Tropical Ecology (GTOE)
“(re)connecting tropical biodiversity in space and time”


We are pleased to announce that the “European Conference of Tropical
Ecology” – the annual scientific meeting of the Society for Tropical
Ecology (GTOE) – will be organized in 2017 for the first time in
Brussels, Belgium. The overarching topic will be “(re)connecting
tropical biodiversity in space and time”. It highlights both the
importance of integrating fundamental sciences inferring past processes
(e.g. paleoecology, evolution, social history…) to understand current
patterns of biodiversity, and the urgent need to reconnect patches of
fragmented landscapes if we wish to conserve tropical biodiversity and
ecological services of tropical ecosystems for future generations.

When: 6-10 February 2017
Where: Brussels, Belgium

Deadline for abstracts and early registration: Please submit your
proposal, until the 31 of October 2016, on the conference webpage:

This conference aims to connect researchers at all levels of their
career and from all disciplines relevant to tropical ecology, and to
promote scientific exchanges and cooperation in a friendly atmosphere.
Students and young scientists are very welcome and to encourage them, we
make our best to maintain costs accessible to all, including nice social
events. Thirty sessions are open, and it is time to register to
participate to this stimulating conference!

For more information, please see the official website:


ATBC members receive awards from OTS Emerging Challenges in Tropical Science Program

Congratulations Drs Kuprewicz, Grossmann, and García-Robledo for receiving this important award!

The three recipients of the new OTS research fellowships awards in Emerging Challenges in Tropical Sciencee are:

Carlos García-Robledo, PhD, University of Connecticut, “Demographic Networks – a novel theoretical framework to estimate insect herbivore coextinctions under projected global warming.”

Erin K. Kuprewicz, PhD, University of Connecticut, “Plant-animal interactions in the Anthropocene: Using the Barva elevational gradient to understand and predict barriers to plant migrations under global warming.”

Katja S. Grossmann, PhD, University of California Los Angeles, “Ground-based remote sensing of Solar-Induced Chlorophyll Fluorescence (SIF) at La Selva Biological Station.”

The projects will be conducted at  La Selva Research Station in Costa Rica, starting on October 2016. More about this award and research projects:

From left to right: Drs Kuprewicz, Grossmann, and García-Robledo.

From left to right: Drs Kuprewicz, Grossmann, and García-Robledo.

Opportunities for doctoral study in Anderson biogeography lab

The Anderson lab at CCNY/CUNY seeks bright, skilled, motivated students for our doctoral program in biology, with emphasis in biogeography. We embrace human diversity, and the ‘home base’ for our research is one of the most diverse, tolerant, and intellectually vibrant cities in the world. We interact closely with other labs at CCNY/CUNY (especially those of Ana Carnaval and Michael Hickerson), as well as at the American Museum of Natural History and various universities in the NYC metropolitan region. Additionally, we have ongoing collaborations with many labs in the U.S., Latin America, and Europe.

Major directions for the lab’s research over the coming 3-5 years include:

1. Development of the modular, open-source “Wallace” software for modeling species niches/distributions, and ‘downstream’ analyses (including conservation biology);

2. Effects of past and future climate change on mammals in cloud forests of northern Mesoamerica (including current fieldwork in Mexico); and

3. Predicting, testing for, and integrating genetically based functional differentiation (including local adaptation) into models of species distributions and climate-change impacts on biodiversity.

Funding for doctoral studies will come from a combination of external fellowships, Graduate Research Assistantships, teaching, and other departmental support.

Please contact Rob Anderson as soon as possible if you are interested in these opportunities:

Relevant links:!prospective-students/c24fy

Conservation Geopolitics Research Fellowship


Remarkable opportunity to join Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) for 5-years on the The Kadas Family Foundation Senior Research Fellowship in the Geopolitics of Wildlife Conservation, (to be held at Worcester College Oxford). The successful applicant, who it is anticipated may have a background in environmental economics, political science, international relations, development, or indeed conservation biology, will join WildCRU’s team developing innovative inter-disciplinary research at the interface of these topics. The focus is likely to include mammals, including carnivores (recent examples are and A recent example of inter-disciplinary discussion at the cutting edge of conservation is the Cecil Summit, of which a taste can be seen at:

Salary in the range £38,896 – £46,414 per annum, commencing on 1 January 2017. The successful candidate will join the team researching the geopolitics of wildlife conservation, and should have a doctorate and at least three years’ post-doctoral experience. The deadline is imminent; enquiries to Professor David Macdonald at



ATBC Newsletter September 2016

In this iIssue:

Call for Nominations for Councilors & President-Elect 

Who would you like to see representing you on the ATBC Council, or perhaps as President of the ATBC? Now is your chance to propose nominations for election to the ATBC Council and the President-Elect position. We welcome nominations from any ATBC member. Please submit nominations for councilors to the Past President, Jaboury Ghazoul, head of the nomination committee, by 14 October 2016. Current and former officers of ATBC are indicated here.
What does the Council do? The council members work together to advance the goals of the ATBC, as set out in the Strategic Plan. Discussion, debate, and decisions about ATBC activities and organization are the order of the day. Council members work with a group of like-minded people from around the world to steer the direction of the most important society in the world. All nominees must be willing to serve actively for three years if elected, by attending the council meetings and being involved in committees and task forces. It is a lot of fun (mostly), and the cookies and company are excellent.
Who can stand for election to Council? Well, anyone who is an ATBC member, and who has the enthusiasm and motivation to actively contribute to the development of the ATBC. We are looking for a diverse pool of potential nominations, including a diversity of career stages, nationalities, and interests. Enthusiasm and motivation are key, not experience and recognition.
What is the process?The election of four new council members and President-Elect will be held in November by online ballot. We invite all ATBC members to make suggestions for potential nominees. All nominated candidates will first be asked to confirm their agreement to stand for election. Those that agree will provide a short description of themselves, and their motivation for joining council. The collected names and abstracts will be added to the ballot papers for election by ATBC members. The election will be closed in December, and the winning candidates will be announced in early January.
Not sure what is involved and want more information or keen to be nominated yourself?? No problem… get in touch with Jaboury.
Applications solicited for Navjot Sodhi Award

We will solicit applications for Navjot Sodhi Award in remembrance of late Dr. Navjot Sodhi who inspired many students and colleagues to work for conservation of tropical biodiversity. Please submit applications from 15 November to 15 December 2016 to Kaoru Kitajima, ATBC President. A cash award of 500 USD will be given to a student in support of expenses related to conservation-oriented research activities. Please visit the ATBC web page for further information about the eligibility and application materials. The selection committee will be chaired by the current ATBC President, Kaoru Kitajima.

Announcing the 54th Annual Meeting of ATBC in Mérida, Yucatán , México

Submissions are now OPEN for symposia for the 2017 Annual Meeting on 9-14 July! The meeting brochure is available for download here. Symposium submissions will be open until November 30th, 2016. We encourage proposals for interdisciplinary symposia that address the meeting theme of “Ecological and social dimensions of tropical biodiversity conservation.” Subjects of broad interest to tropical biology and conservation will also be considered for symposia. Please review the symposia guidelines before submission.

The call for submission of oral, poster and video contributions will be open from 1 September 2016until 28 February 2017. Please, review the abstract guidelines before your submission.

Proposals of oral presentations, posters and videos are encouraged to address the meeting theme. Subjects of broad interest to tropical biology and conservation will also be considered for sessions.

Workshops and other activities: We invite proposals for workshops, networking and working group sessions, book presentations and other special sessions, for the 54th annual meeting of the ATBC. These sessions are not appropriate for the presentation of formal research talks and do not include presentation abstracts.

Please click here for further information regarding workshops and other activities.

ATBC’s new logo

Our new logo made its premier at the 53rd Annual Meeting in Montpellier. The new image of ATBC is colorful and dynamic, composed of a bird’s eye view of the growing leaflets of Albizia saman, the iconic tree that has been the symbol of ATBC since 1968. This tree is known across the tropical world, although the species originated in the Neotropics. It is known as the “rain tree” in India. The leaves represent the energetic and ever-growing qualities of ATBC, as we adapt to new challenges in tropical biology and conservation. The color palette reflects variations in temperature, light, and humidity across tropics and the rainbow colors reflect global human diversity. The logo was designed by Gaby Hernandez and her students at the Graphic Design Research Initiative of the University of Houston, with active consultation with the ATBC Executive Team. Gaby also designed the logo for ATBC’s 2013 Annual Meeting in San José, Costa Rica.

We hope you like it!

Welcome, ATBC Africa Chapter!
The ATBC Africa Chapter was approved by the council and launched during the annual meeting in Montpellier. Almost 60 people met multiple times to discuss the key missions and priorities for this new chapter. A major challenge for this chapter is that Africa covers a big region containing high biological and cultural diversity. In many countries, academic communication is conducted in French, rather than in English. Hence, as the first step, the group identified four regions: East Africa and Madagascar, Central Africa, West Africa, and South Africa, and selected a regional coordinator to foster the communication for each region. A new Africa Chapter page is being added to the official ATBC web page, where you can find the notes from discussion, link to the sign-up form to be affiliated with the chapter, and further updates. In addition to these official communications, there is also a Facebook group ATBC Africa Chapter.

Biotropica Editor’s blog
Please keep up to the date with the latest exciting papers published in Biotropica and news about the journal, data-archiving, the Biotropica app, and photos on the Editor’s Blog, hosted by Emilio Bruna.

53rd Annual Meeting in Montpellier

The 53rd Annual Meeting was held in Montpellier, France from 19-23 June, 2016, focusing on “Tropical ecology and society: Reconciling conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.” For four days Le Corum was abuzz with presentations, posters, and side discussions.

The meeting hosted 780 participants from 54 countries. A total of 72 symposia, 585 talks, 9 keynote talks, and 140 posters were presented. We are proud to say that we achieved full gender parity among delegates! Over 12,000 € was allocated to travel grants. The Conservation Committee worked nonstop to finalize the Montpellier Declaration,  “Europe’s central role in advancing sustainable palm oil.”

Many thanks to the organizing committee Plinio Sist, Pierre-Michel Forget, Stéphanie Carrière, and Pia Parolin, the Scientific Committee, and many sponsors for pulling off such a successful and exciting meeting in a wonderful place with world-class wine. Congratulations to Gentry Award winners Mar Cartro-SabateAdriane Esquivel Muelbert and William Farfan-Rios and and Bacardi Award winner Oliver Weam.
The ATBC Council at the end of our June 19 meeting in Le Corum.
Conservation Asia 2016 in Singapore
Just a few days after Montpellier, came Singapore, where a joint meeting on “Sustainable landscapes for people, business, and biodiversity” was held with the ATBC Asia-Pacific Chapter and the Society for Conservation Biology Asia Section at the National University of Singapore from 29 June-2 July.

Edward Webb was the Organizing Chair of the meeting, and David Bickford was the Chair of the Scientific Program Committee. The meeting was a huge success with 600 participants from 40 countries and more than 100 travel scholarships awarded to students and early career scientists and conservationists. The Singapore Declaration, “Responsible Business in Asia” was released at the end of the meeting.


Closing ceremony of the Conservation Asia 2016 meeting.
Photo credit: NUS

Send your news!
Send your news and we will post it on our regularly updated website, Tropical Biology and Conservation Forum Facebook page, and ATBC Twitter Feed! Let us know if you got a paper published, a grant, an award, or if you are teaching a new course in Tropical Ecology and Conservation field.
Join the ATBC family!
We are a global organization devoted to the scientific understanding and conservation of tropical ecosystems. We welcome you! Click here for membership information.
!! New ATBC rates will be announced on October 1, 2016 !!

ATBC2016 Bacardi & Gentry Award Winners

by Emilio Bruna

The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) recognizes the exceptional research of our students and early career scientists with awards for outstanding presentations at the ATBC’s annual meeting. The Luis F. Bacardi Award for Advances in Tropical Conservation is awarded to the individual receiving their Ph.D. no more than 5 years before the meeting date who gives the best oral presentation. This award was established in 2005 with an endowment from the Lubee Bat Conservancy, an international non-profit organization based in Gainesville, Florida, that was founded in 1989 by the late Luis F. Bacardi and is dedicated to protecting biological diversity through the conservation of fruit- and nectar-feeding bats.  The Alwyn Gentry Presentation Awards are in recognition of the outstanding oral and poster presentations by students at the ATBC’s annual meeting. Alwyn H. Gentry’s legacy to tropical biology was not limited to the study of the diversity and conservation of tropical plants—he was a caring and supportive mentor to students from all over the Americas.  These awards are therefore in remembrance and recognition of the contributions of this singular scientist, colleague, mentor, and friend.

On behalf of the ATBC we would like to thank the early-career scientists that presented their work at the 2016 ATBC Meeting in Montpellier, extend our gratitude to the many meeting delegates who served as judges, and congratulate the following recipients for their outstanding presentations.

Kyle Harms and Julieta Benítez-Malvido

Gentry and Bacardi Award Co-Chairs


Emilio M. Bruna

Editor-in-Chief, Biotropica

The 2016 Luis F. Bacardi Award for Advances in Tropical Conservation



Multi-species modelling using camera traps: challenges and opportunities


1Zoological Society of London, Institute of Zoology, NW1 4RY, London, UK
2Zoological Society of London, Institute of Zoology, NW1 4RY, London, UK
3Zoological Society of London, Institute of Zoology, NW1
4RY, London, UK 4 Imperial College London, Department of Life Science, SL5 7PY, Ascot, UK
5Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation, 88400, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
6Imperial College London, Department of Life Science, SL5 7PY, Ascot, UK

The camera trap is now a familiar tool for wildlife biologists across the globe, operating in all terrestrial environments and catching a wide variety of warm-blooded species. Until recently, though, most camera surveys have routinely discarded wildlife. “By-catch” species, typically those that do not have stripes or spots, may be “thrown back” either at the image cataloguing or analysis stage. New statistical tools, however, increasingly allow for robust inferences to be made about such species. In this talk, I consider a ban on discards. I will discuss the opportunities, and challenges, of hierarchical multi-species modelling of whole communities, with reference to a large dataset collected on the island of Borneo. We deployed cameras and live traps over the course of 3 years in a clustered design, to assess mammalian community structure across a gradient of land-use intensity (primary forest, logged forest and oil palm plantations). This allowed us to simultaneously monitor ~60 species of large and small mammal across the gradient, and begin to explore how the coarse- and fine-scale structure of terrestrial mammal communities is altered by changes in land-use. At the coarse community scale, we found a remarkable overall resilience to selective logging, but fine-scale dissection of the community highlighted particular groups (e.g. frugivores) and particular species (e.g. the banded civet, Hemigalus derbyanus) which do not respond favourably. Oil palm, on the other hand, exhibited a severely depauperate mammal community, with only a handful of species (some carnivores, and invasives) prospering. Hierarchical multi-species modelling was analytically and computationallyintensive, but ultimately allowed for a more comprehensive understanding of community responses

2016 Alwyn Gentry Award for Best Poster Presentation

adriane esquivel muelbert


Large-scale Neotropical genera distributions predict drought-induced mortality of trees


1 University of Leeds, School of Geography, LS2 9JT, Leeds, United Kingdom
2 The University of Edinburgh, School of Geosciences, EH9 3FE, Edinburgh, United Kindom
3 Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Biodiversity Dynamics from species to systems, 2333, Leiden, The Netherlands
4 Australian National University, School of Biology, ACT 2601, Acton, Australia

Background: Droughts are an increasing threat for tropical rain forests, with impacts to forest biodiversity and ecosystem services, including carbon storage. Within the tropics tree species richness is positively associated with precipitation, which is likely to be a consequence of water-stress constraining important physiological processes of most taxa. If so, macroecological distributions of tropical taxa would provide valuable insights about the potential impacts of droughts on Neotropical diversity. Methods: We combine data from 531 inventory plots of closed canopy forest across the Western Neotropics to investigate how water-deficit influences the distribution of tropical tree genera. For that, we firstly calculated genera ‘water deficit affiliation’ (WDA), which represents the mean of taxa distributions along the water-deficit gradient weighted by their abundance. Secondly, we tested the ability of WDA to predict drought-induced mortality at one natural and four experimental droughts across the Neotropics. Results: Drought tolerant genera tend to be disproportionally widespread across the precipitation gradient, reaching even the wettest climates sampled. However, most genera are restricted to wet areas. Macroecological distributions did predict drought resistance, with wet-affiliated genera tending to show higher drought-induced mortality regardless of their life history stage and after accounting for the influence of phylogeny. Discussion: The large-scale distributional patterns of genera with respect to climate have predictive value for their vulnerability to water-stress. It is the first time this question has been assessed at a macroecological scale for the tropics. Our results suggests that the anticipated increase in extreme dry events for this region may threaten biodiversity, given that the majority of Neotropical taxa are wet-affiliated and that most of these have relatively small ranges. Overall, this study establishes a baseline for exploring how floristic composition of tropical forests may shift in response to current and future environmental changes in this region.

This project is part of the T-FORCES Project and uses RAINFOR data available hereMore information about Adriane’s project can be found here; publications are available here. You can also follow Adriane on twitter,

2016 Alwyn Gentry Award for Best Poster Presentation



Community patterns of wood density along an Andes-to-Amazon gradient


1 Wake Forest University, Biology, 27106, NC, USA
2 Wake Forest University, Biology – Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability, 27106, NC, USA
3 Oxford University, Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the Environment, OX1, Oxford, UK
4 Oxford University, Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the Environment, OX1, Oxford, UK
5 Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco, Biology, CUZ, Cusco, Peru

Background: Major changes in forest diversity, plant species composition and functional diversity occur along environmental gradients, and the Andes-to-Amazon gradient is Earth’s longest and highest biodiversity forest gradient. Wood density is an important functional trait related to wood properties and carbon accumulation. The few studies of this trait across altitudinal gradients have shown a decrease with increasing elevation, though this trend is still unclear in the tropics. We (1) tested the effects of elevation on interspecific variation and stand-level wood density across 3.5 km altitudinal gradient and (2) looked at the intraspecific variation across the gradient. Methods: More than 891 tree core samples were taken for 314 taxa at 59 sites across a 3.5 km altitudinal transect running from Andean tree line to Amazonian lowlands in Peru. We used data from 16 1-ha permanents plots (ABERG network) across the gradient to test the effects of elevation in wood density weighted by number of individuals (NI) and basal area (BA). Results: Results showed a positive relationship of wood density with elevation and this trend is even stronger when wood density was weighted by NI, BA. We observed an abrupt transition in wood density at ~1500 m in the cloud base zone. The intraspecific relationship between elevation and wood density differ greatly among species, with taxa showing increasing, decreasing, and no response to elevation. Discussion and/or conclusion: Turnover in species composition had a direct effect on stand-level wood density and showed a strong relationship with elevation. These results for Andean and Amazonian systems have implications in forest biomass calculations and in general understanding of ecosystem function.

Follow the links to learn more about William’s research and publications (here & here). You can visit the Silman Lab webpage.

2016 Alwyn Gentry Award for Best Oral Presentation

Mar Cartro Sabate


Identifying sources of lead in Amazonian wildlife by lead isotope analysis


1 Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193, Bellaterra, Spain
2 Dept. Sanitat i Anatomia Animals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193, Bellaterra, Spain
3 Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08010, Barcelona, Spain
4 International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus University Rotterdam, 2518 AX, The Hague, The Netherlands

The first barrels of oil extracted from the northern Peruvian Amazon were obtained in the early 1970s. Hydrocarbon concessions have been spread across the territory, and 70% of the Peruvian tropical rainforests have been leased at some point between 1970- 2009. Although there is a dearth of scientific studies, a number of governmental studies have been shown a bothering presence of heavy metals and hydrocarbons in the physical environment and human communities in the area. According to the indigenous inhabitants of the oil concession, game species frequently visit oil spills to ingest oil-polluted soil. Our hypothesis is that game species frequent these sites attracted by salts that usually accompanied oil spills. Some heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons usually found in these dumping sites are persistent and toxic and may climb through the food chain affecting the whole ecosystem and the local human populations that rely on subsistence hunting. We have already collected visual evidences of this phenomenon through a camera trap program. This paper presents our results on the assimilation and bioaccumulation of oil contaminants by game species in the study area. We have conducted heavy metals analysis of soil samples and of game animal livers collected in the study area, as well as in control areas that have never been affected by hydrocarbon activities. A lead isotopic fingerprint analysis shows that control livers samples share the same sole source of lead, that we assume to be lead naturally present in soils. Livers samples from the oil concession also have another source of lead: oil spills are a relevant contributor of lead in the livers of game species inside the oil concession. Taking into account that up to 30% of the world’s rainforests overlap with hydrocarbon reserves our results may be very relevant to evaluate the impacts of the oil industry on wildlife and public health for the whole Amazon and beyond.


Planet at a crossroads: Report from the IUCN World Congress

Tony Lynam and Alice Hughes were representing ATBC at the World Conservation Congress of the IUCN — the International Union for the Conservation of Nature — which has just concluded in Hawaii.  Through Alert, Alice Hughes gives us an overview of the event. 

Commencing on September 1, over ten thousand decision-makers from government, environmental and indigenous-peoples groups, the business sector, and academia, convened for the one of the world’s largest conservation meetings.

With representatives from 192 nations, the IUCN World Conservation Congress serves as a barometer for the state of the environment globally, an assessment of global biodiversity and the threats to it.  Its theme, reflecting the many challenging decisions we face ahead, was “Planet at a Crossroads”.


The first five days of the Congress consisted of forums on an array of conservation-related themes, and addressed the need to connect across sectors, cultures, and youth to achieve meaningful change in the world.

Some key commitments concerned the oceans, highlighted by the creation of the largest protected area on Earth, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.  Announced at the start of the Congress, this vast reserve spans over 1.5 million square kilometers and surrounds much of the Hawaiian Archipelago.

Another big concern was the burgeoning global trade in wildlife and wildlife products, which is now estimated to be the fourth-largest illegal trade globally, valued at $7-23 billion annually.

One key debate focused on the trade in ivory, which is a major driver of elephant declines globally.  Most nations favor a global ban on ivory sales but a handful of southern African nations have strongly opposed it.

The impacts of global change were also discussed at length, with the first confirmed loss of a species from contemporary climate change, the Bramble Cay Melomys (Melomys rubicola).  The mammal was endemic to an small Australian cay and was killed off by rising sea levels and floods.

Much discussion focused on how how to avoid further species losses through implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement.


Global biodiversity trends were also highlighted at length.  The IUCN Red List provides cutting-edge information on the distribution, status, and threats to imperiled species.

Currently, nearly 83,000 threatened species have been red-listed, although this is only a fraction of the actual number of species in trouble.

For example, IUCN data show that ten times as many mammal species are declining in numbers than are increasing or have stable populations.  Globally, only eight threatened mammal species have become more abundant, predominantly in Europe and Australia.

Among those suffering serious declines despite concerted conservation efforts are the Great Apes, of which four of six species have had their status downgraded to Critically Endangered.

A major goal announced at the Congress is to list 160,000 threatened species within another four years, protecting vital information for endangered species conservation.


Only 14.7 percent of global land occurs within protected areas.  This number is improving but still falls well below the global goal of 17 percent as outlined in the Aichi targets — which is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, to which most nations are signatories.

Unfortunately, there are still far too few protected areas in the critical global biodiversity hotspots, which support the bulk of Earth’s endangered species.  Furthermore, 80% of the 18,000 sites listed as key biodiversity areas are currently unprotected.


The IUCN Congress highlighted both good and bad news for the global environment.  Although conservation efforts can save species, the number of imperiled species and habitats is growing daily.  Many ecosystems are being eroded and stripped of their most iconic species.

It is clear that much more effort is needed to protect critical habitats and protect endangered plants and animals, if we are going to stave off one of the biggest biodiversity crises in Earth’s entire geological history.

Building conservation capacity across the global tropics

A young conservation ecologist

Tropical forests cover around 6 % of the world’s land surface, yet support 50 – 75 % of all terrestrial species. Yet in addition to hosting most global biodiversity, the global tropics have also seen the greatest loss of diversity in recent decades, and over 50 % of tropical forests have already been cleared.

To combat this loss of biodiversity traditional models have largely involved either bringing trained scientists from the West to advise on conservation approaches and priorities, or taking the brightest students from local universities to the West for training. However, both of these models have problems. In the first, scientists from the West rarely have the same nuanced understanding of the socio-cultural realities in the countries they are operating in, and thus though their research may be scientifically sound, translation into practice and policy may be impossible. In the second, many of these talented students never return to work in their home country, and though this model often has the best of motives, many of the brightest from the region leave for good. This represents an overlooked “brain-drain”, with the regions most in need of researchers losing many of their future academic resources to countries which already have a strong scientific capacity, without many of the needs of these less developed regions.

What is truly needed to build capacity in the global tropics is to provide practicable training for the region in the region. Such a programme can and should take many forms to meet the realities and needs of these regions. To date, a successful component of this has been the training of rangers and local NGOs in the very best of approaches by organizations such as the Wildlife Conservation Society and Flora and Fauna International, which has led to the better monitoring and management of a variety of ecological challenges across much of the global tropics.

However, this does not necessarily include the future conservation scientists of these regions, who may still be tempted by foreign PhDs. So what approaches best meet the needs of this growing population of energetic and enthusiastic young scientists?

Conservation science is by no means easy. It requires not only an understanding of ecology and biology, but a multifaceted understanding of social and political dimensions, which are essential in the translation of scientific knowledge into management action. Creating opportunities within the tropics for its future conservation scientists – enabling them to continue developing their skills within the local socio-cultural context they have grown-up with – provides the best possible preparation for a successful career in conservation. These kind of opportunities give them skills that extend beyond the academic through exposure to the true mechanics of conservation, management and policy that are required to effect sustainable change, and simultaneously allow them to develop and maintain their research networks throughout their PhD studies. In terms of developing its own research base of conservation-minded researchers, or even international scientific attention, across the global tropics Southeast Asia has traditionally lagged behind Latin America (with strong traditional ties to North America) and much of Africa, with its ties to Europe. This is compounded by the lack of a shared language, which makes collaborations across the region much harder than in other parts of the global tropics. Yet recent years have seen significant changes to this within Asia, such as the development of a Master’s degree programme in biodiversity conservation at the Royal University of Phnom Pehn, and the increasing role of Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) and their new Chinese Academy of Sciences Southeast-Asian research Institute in training Masters and PhD candidates in ecology and conservation within the region.ConservationScience_AliceHughes

Another important component of capacity building is access to specialist skills and more holistic guidance, which even in the very best PhD studies may not be able to offer. These are sometimes included in field courses in summer schools, however even in tropical regions developed universities often run courses without inclusion of local students, thus leaving little, if any, long-term positive impacts in the countries they visit. Efforts are being made to offer appropriate and accessible courses in many parts of the tropics, with scholarships to try to provide access to students with potential and enthusiasm through tropical regions, such as the Tropical Biology Association in Africa, the Tropical Andes Alliance in South America and XTBG’s courses. However, these courses are always oversubscribed, with field courses like XTBG’s only able to take around 16% of total applicants annually. In addition, developed universities holding courses in tropical regions could and should make greater efforts to include more local students through stronger partnerships with local organisations.

However such courses are still only accessible to only a relatively small number of students, and for more holistic and specialist skills, further efforts are needed to better meet the needs of ecologists in the global tropics. This is why in 2014 the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation initiated its Capacity Building Committee with the aim of attempting to meet some of these shortfalls. Using its annual conference and the society’s Asia-Pacific Chapter (an active portion of the society based exclusively in the Asia-Pacific region) as a vehicle, various skills sessions are packaged around the conference, with fundraising to support students and all training and trainers’ time, which is given on an entirely voluntary basis. At present those sessions have included short skills sessions in lunch breaks and evenings, mentoring, and extended workshops. This year over 350 people were directly involved in training in the month of June alone.

These sessions aim to meet the needs of practitioners and scientists at all levels, but particularly at early-career level, with shorter sessions focusing on more holistic skills to help build their abilities as researchers, and extended workshops to build capacity around challenging or more specialist skills. Mentoring also allows participants to find a mentor who can best meet their needs, whether that be for research or career advice, or other forms of support, such as access to mentorship and advice, especially about transitioning between research and practice, which can be difficult or impossible to find. The trainings are adapted to meet researchers’ needs through post and pre-conference surveys, aiming to leave a positive legacy in the wake of any conference.

This is a time of unparalleled threat to tropical biodiversity globally, but with an increasingly tech-savvy and internationally connected new generation of researchers, one that is more likely to speak at least one “international” language, we also have an unparalleled opportunity to provide access to the skills they need to fulfill their potential. As a Western scientist working in the global tropics, I feel optimistic that this upcoming generation will do more than I, or solely Western-based scientists could ever hope to achieve in combating biodiversity loss in the global tropics, especially when given the training and support to reach their potential, without needing to traverse the globe to access those opportunities.

2016 National Scenic Trails Workshop – Trail Apprentice Scholarship

In order to encourage young adults to become more involved in the National Trails System, specifically national scenic trails, multiple agencies will fund a total of eight scholarships for young leaders to attend the 2016 National Scenic Trails Workshop. Youth participants will be an active part of the dialogue about outreach and the future of these trails. Selected participants should come ready to explore, learn, and engage!

Topics will include trail land acquisition, management, administration, development, and community outreach. View the full workshop program at

Applicants must be between the age of 18-26 with an interest in the National Trails System.
Trail apprentice scholarships include full registration, transportation, meals, and lodging.
The deadline to apply is September 23rd.

2016 National Scenic Trails Workshop – Trail Apprentice Scholarship