Monitoring mammal communities and land-cover change impacts using remote technologies

Monitoring mammal communities and land-cover change impacts using remote technologies

Monitoring mammal communities and land-cover change impacts using remote technologies

Lead supervisors: Dr Matthew Struebig

Location: Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), University of Kent

Duration: 8 weeks

Suitable undergraduate degrees: Biology, Zoology, Ecology, Environmental Science, Conservation, [Physical] Geography.

Project background

Rationale: A substantial challenge in conservation assessments in tropical countries is the immense effort required to quantify and monitor biodiversity responses to land-cover change and or management. Many species of high conservation importance tend to be rare and difficult to observe in the wild. Technology-based monitoring systems offer a potential way to help ameliorate this problem. One such technology is camera trapping which is particularly effective for tropical mammals.

This project will help process data from ongoing camera trapping campaigns in Indonesia, and link these data to information from satellite imagery. The work is being undertaken in forested landscapes by researchers at Kent and Universitas Indonesia within the Tropical Defaunation Hub. We are collating mammal inventory data from the forested islands of Indonesia to identify the key drivers of biodiversity change, and predict how this could change in the future.

Researchers are generating large volumes of camera trap imagery from Kalimantan and Sumatra and require assistance processing the files into a useable format for statistical analyses. This requires identifying wildlife in the photographs, and organising databases so that every presence and absence in each camera station is documented. The team also need help generating spatial information for Sumatra and Kalimantan: namely the distribution of roads and mines which can be digitised from satellite imagery into a geographic information system (GIS).

Duties of student: The student will first be trained by PhD researchers to identify the target mammals in camera trap photos. Together they will develop a system to catalogue the camera trap information into an easy-to-use database using specialist software and R packages. The student will need to develop ways to cope with large volumes of data, and check for errors introduced into the system. They will also spend time digitising roads and settlements from land-cover maps and satellite imagery, receiving training in specialist GIS techniques by a postdoc researcher if necessary.

The databases and maps will be used in statistical analyses by the research team, and a capacity building workshop to be held in Indonesian in September 2022. The student will have an opportunity to organise and join the workshop as a way to extend their skills beyond desk-based research to networking and training.

Duration & location of internship: Up to 8 weeks; most time spent at UoK Canterbury campus. Assuming travel remains possible we will offer a short visit to Indonesia to which the placement funds would contribute.

Ideal student: The preferred candidate will be an enthusiastic ecologist or conservation in the making. They will have ideally received some training in ecology and geographic information systems, but this can be provided if necessary. We are particularly keen to support Indonesian students studying in the UK, or other under-represented groups (e.g. students from other Southeast Asian or tropical nations, women etc.), but will consider applications from all backgrounds

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