News and views on wildlife corridors, linkages, and connectivity
on Oct 27 2010
Paul Beier has a post-doc opportunity to research how well corridors really work for conservation. Here is a description:
Most corridor research to date has occurred on small (< 100m long) corridors that are not embedded in human-dominated matrix. But a study of squirrel movement along a wooded fencerow through a pasture (or movement of salamanders in small artificial arenas, or movement of multiple species through 100-m long clearcut corridors between 1-ha clearcut patches in a forest matrix) will not help a conservation biologist trying to promote movement of these species through 5 km of urban or agricultural land. To determine the utility of wildlife corridors as a conservation intervention, we need to study corridors of appropriate scale embedded in human-dominated landscapes.
This 2-year study will identify at least 50 landscapes, each of which contains a wildlife corridor and at least one type of control site (i.e., either patches lacking corridors, or a large intact area), and will develop a proposal to use those landscapes to rigorously test the effectiveness of wildlife corridors. Despite many useful studies of corridors over the last 30 years, only 2 studies have (a) evaluated corridors that, like wildlife corridors, are over 1 km long and embedded in urban or agricultural areas, (b) used patterns of genetic relatedness to infer whether animals regularly used the corridor to successfully breed in recipient populations, and (c) compared levels of gene flow via the corridor to levels of gene flow between isolated patches or across a large intact area of similar extent. The corridors in these 2 studies did not maintain levels of gene flow observed in the nearby intact landscape; this is a discouraging finding for conservation planners. Doubtless some wildlife corridors are effective, but only a study of many replicate landscapes will identify what factors are associated with successful and unsuccessful corridors. This grant would fund the crucial first step to conduct a rigorous, replicated study – namely to identify appropriate landscapes that have been stable long enough for genetic patterns to reflect the degree of successful movement. Once a large sample of appropriate landscapes has been identified, we will develop a proposal using these landscapes to answer the question "Do conservation corridors work?"
If the larger proposal is successful, another 3-5 years of exciting research would follow, including the opportunity for the selected candidate to supervise graduate student projects.
This job is for 2 years, with potential for extension, at $45,000/year plus benefits. After the first year or work in Flagstaff, Arizona, USA, the scientist could move close to a major airport to facilitate travel to candidate landscapes around the world.
Applicant should have: