Monitoring mammals in rewilding and restoration interventions via camera traps
Lead Supervisor: Dr Matthew Struebig
Location: University of Kent, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE)
Duration: 8 weeks
Suitable undergraduate degrees: Biology, Zoology, Ecology, Environmental Science, Conservation, [Physical] Geography.
Many conservation assessments face a common challenge of quantifying and monitoring biodiversity responses to land management. Technology-based monitoring systems offer a potential solution for observing rare and elusive species in the wild. This placement project involves processing data from camera trapping campaigns nested in conservation projects in Indonesia and the UK, and linking them to information from satellite imagery.
In Indonesia, surveys are being conducted in forest restoration sites in Sumatra, and camera traps are being used to establish how mammal communities are responding to restoration activities. The UK campaign involves helping Kent Wildlife Trust establish baseline biodiversity data to evaluate the impact of rewilding efforts in The Blean outside Canterbury, one of the UK’s largest tracts of ancient woodland. European bison, iron-age pigs and other species were reintroduced into the woodland as part of the Wilder Blean Initiative to bring back extensive grazing management that can help restore ecosystem functions.
Both campaigns are generating large volumes of camera trap imagery that require processing into a usable format for statistical analyses. This requires identifying wildlife in the photographs and organizing databases to document every presence and absence in each camera station. The team also needs help generating spatial information for the sites, namely the distribution of roads and access points into the forest, which can be digitized from satellite imagery into a geographic information system (GIS).
DUTIES OF THE STUDENT
The placement student will be trained by PhD researchers to identify target mammals in camera trap photos and develop a system to catalogue camera trap information into an easy-to-use database using specialist software and R packages. They will also need to develop ways to cope with large volumes of data and check for errors introduced into the system. The student will spend time digitizing landscape features from satellite imagery and receiving training in specialist GIS techniques by a postdoc researcher if necessary.
The student will have opportunity to participate in the UK-based survey, gaining skills in camera trap methods while collecting the data to be processed and analysed. The internship will last up to eight weeks and will be held at the University of Kent Canterbury campus.
THE IDEAL CANDIDATE
The preferred candidate will be an enthusiastic ecologist or conservationist, ideally with some training in ecology and geographic information systems, although this can be provided if necessary. The project particularly encourages Indonesian students studying in the UK or other underrepresented groups, such as students from other Southeast Asian or tropical nations, women, etc. However, applications from all backgrounds are welcome.