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“Now, you put camera traps out in remote places and that’s how you see all this imagery of snow leopards and tigers and all sorts of wonderful animals that you would never see any other way,” says Pimm.
Indeed, when the researchers published their findings from Somaliland this March, they decided not to report details about the distributions of most of the species they studied.
“As researchers that are on the ground, it really puts us in a very tough situation,” he says.
But even when researchers manage to collect data on their species of interest, challenges remain.
The next immediate hurdle involves how to communicate research on endangered species to the larger scientific community—or whether to communicate it at all.
New technology is playing an increasing role, too, says Duke University conservation ecologist Stuart Pimm.
Endangered Species Research Paper
Camera traps, for example, are progressing by leaps and bounds as digital cameras replace film ones.Bennett, instead, is working to develop a far less invasive solution: dogs trained to track down the tiger quolls’ scat, which can be analyzed to determine sex, diet, and information about the quolls’ distribution. Bennett’s strategy is just one example of how researchers studying endangered species are coming up with unorthodox solutions to the logistical challenges of tracking or observing organisms that are few and far between.She recently partnered with a search-and-rescue dog trainer to teach volunteer conservation dogs how to locate quoll scat in Great Otway National Park in Victoria. Paul Evangelista, a research ecologist at Colorado State University, came up with his own approach while working in Somaliland, a small breakaway region of Somalia and self-declared state in the Horn of Africa.One option to facilitate the search is to use traps.But traps may injure or at the very least stress the animals—an outcome that researchers are obviously keen to avoid. are just passionate people who are interested in helping the environment,” she says.“We’re not just doing this to publish papers—we’re out here trying to save species, and we just have to be very conscious of who sees that data and who has access to it.”Lindenmayer and Scheele addressed the issue head-on in a paper published last year entitled, simply, “Do Not Publish” (, 30–801).In the paper, the researchers laid out the case for protecting data on critically endangered species, and they proposed an assessment that scientists could use to decide whether they should publish their information in the literature.“It’s quite a specific microhabitat that some of these animals rely on,” says Scheele, “and even just searching for animals can be really damaging.” The resulting quandary of whether or not to publish data on endangered species’ locations pits science’s fundamental need for transparency against the risk of sensitive information falling into the wrong hands.Evangelista says he and his colleagues have sometimes kept sightings of rare organisms “under wraps” because of their concerns about blowing a species’ cover.Somaliland has remote, hazardous regions where directly observing animal populations is very difficult. “I hold a lot of value towards indigenous knowledge, and I was trying to figure out how I could use some of that information to integrate into some of these more computer-based geospatial models,” he says.Evangelista’s team surveyed citizens of Somaliland in 20, asking them whether any of 25 species occurred in their local areas.