Endangered species research - science to underpin conservation

Ateles fuscicecps


In one of the world's biodiversity hotspots we are developing innovative methods to survey and monitor endangered species. The major focus is on the critically endangered brown-headed spider monkey, Ateles fusciceps (funded by the Darwin Initiative). Having identified priority areas for conservation of the species and clear conservation actions underpinned by science we have established a group called the 'Washu project' - dedicated to conserving the species and habitat. We have now launched a campaign to bring this species back from the brink of extinction. See how you can help us by keeping an eye on the updates on the blog.  

Current work includes;

  • Developing an agent-based model to identify risks to primates from hunting
  • Using 'soundscape' to determine the health of forest systems in Ecuador and Papuan New Guinea
  • Investigating the role of birds as bioindicators of habitat quality and environmental change
  • Participatory processes and parabiologists in defining a new conservation priority area for the critically endangered brown-headed spider monkey (Ateles fusciceps) 



 None of the work could take place without engaging with our network of 'parabiologists' (members of forest communities trained in scientific collection techniques). Community members were trained throughout the forests of NW Ecuador during the Darwin Initiative PRIMENET Project. Our students engage with communtiy level biologists, taking advantage of their depth of forest knowledge and create a bridge between local and scientific knowledge.  One cohort of parabiologists trained through the PRIMENET project is shown to the left.


Sustainable livelihoods - a new model for science as business in Papua New Guinea (Darwin Initiative)

Wanang Conservation AreaBuilding on over 10 years of work with Professor Vojtech Novotny and the Binatang Research Center in Papua New Guinea we are now working on how best to develop sustainable livelihoods for remote rainforest communities that are faced with a choice between forest conservation and logging concessions by building capacity (infrastructure, management expertise and para-ecologist teams) for internationally-networked biodiversity research. Our work in Papua New Guinea has been generously funded by the UK Darwin Initiative

Tropical forest dynamics - understanding global change

Helicopter IIThe number of species of trees that make up tropical forests is staggering - with up to 300 species per hectare recorded for Ecuadorian forests. Our work aims to understand the mechanisms that generate and maintain this species diversity. We also investigate both natural and human impacts to forest using tools that range from satellite remote sensing to field survey work. Recent work at the landscape scale includes;

  • Investigating the potential of high resolution aerial imagery to identify tropical tree species
  • Determining the role of natural disturbance in explaining the increase in tree species at mid altitudes in the Andes


Protected areas and participation

Imbabura deforestationOur work extends to supporting the work of international organisations such as the IUCN and TRAFFIC in establishing protected areas and addressing hunting and animal trade. We are currently working with the IUCN to develop participatory mapping tools needed to engage forest communities in establishing protected areas that provide for sustainable livelihoods and conservation goals.