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Spring 2022 Semester-Long Research Projects

Apply for a Semester-Long Conservation Research Project in Spring 2022

The Institute for Integrative Conservation is seeking students to take the lead on applied research projects designed to advance integrative conservation solutions in the Spring of 2022. The students will work alongside a faculty mentor to complete a research project proposed by an external conservation partner that is designed to advance real-world conservation outcomes. Throughout the semester, the student will join an inclusive cohort of students to conduct applied research and to communicate findings to conservation stakeholders throughout the spring semester.  Interested students should review the project descriptions and should send a cover letter stating their interests and relevant experience to the faculty mentor below by December 1st.

Coastal Resource Management and Indigenous Peoples

Dr. Fernando Galeana Rodriguez is looking to hire a research assistant to work on a research project focused on community-based coastal resource governance in Honduras. The Moskitia is an Indigenous region in eastern Honduras with rich coastal biodiversity. Marshes, lagoons, and estuaries dot the coastline. Lagoons have extensive mangrove forests on their shores, and in other areas, the vegetation is composed of palm, reeds, sedges, ferns, and gallery forests. The Caratasca Lagoon, the largest in the country, is the primary source of livelihood for the Indigenous communities living around the lagoon. These communities have property titles over the land surface, but the water bodies are considered public areas. The governance of fisheries on the lagoon and coastal areas is vital for conserving the natural resources and maintaining livelihoods.

This research project focuses on assessing and supporting governance arrangements in the Caratasca Lagoon. The first stage of the research will involve evaluating the consultation of a community protocol for managing small-scale fisheries. The research assistant will support the preparation of a literature review to compare the case in Honduras with similar experiences worldwide. This initial review will contribute to a second stage that will involve designing a new research intervention to support the communities in implementing the protocol. Potential areas of intervention include the design of instruments for environmental monitoring, the analysis of biocommerce initiatives in the fish and seafood industry, and the assessment of capabilities for climate change resilience.

Qualifications: Spanish language skills for reading documents are required; the candidate needs to be self-motivated and interested in environmental justice, integrative conservation, or community-based natural resource management. Previous research experience or knowledge of coastal resource management is preferred. 

Details: This is a paid research assistantship averaging 4 hours a week during the 2022 Spring Semester.

How to Apply: Candidates should send a cover letter stating their interests and relevant experience and a copy of their transcript to Professor Fernando Galeana Rodriguez (fgaleanarodrig@wm.edu) by December 1, 2021.

Spring 2022 Conservation GIS Projects

Students will work as part of a Conservation GIS lab in the spring semester to complete these projects. Professor Robert Rose will serve as the faculty mentor for the students working on these applied conservation GIS projects in the spring 2022 semester. These are unpaid positions, but students will apply for independent research credit to complete these projects over the semester. 

City of Richmond 10-Minute Walk

Partner: City of Richmond Department of Parks and Recreation

In 2019 Mayor Stoney signed the Trust For Public Land’s 10-minute walk pledge – to work toward making parks and green spaces accessible to all Richmond residents within a 10-minute walk from where they live.  In order to achieve this goal, land has to be identified and acquired to increase the number of green spaces in the City of Richmond.  In 2020 a group known as the Mayor’s Green Team convened and divided into two working groups to meet this goal – the land identification working group and the policy working group.  The land Identification team established criteria for property selection including the use of the Office of Sustainability’s Climate Equity Index, Heat Island Data from the Science Museum of Virginia, and geographic data relative to spatial distribution and size of parcels.  As a result, five city-owned parcels were transferred to the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Community Facilities.  While a great achievement, these new parks do not yet get us to our goal, and the data used to determine 10-minute walkability is iffy at best – based on .5 mile buffers around green spaces that do not take into account accessibility to these sites for pedestrians.

The project: Develop a methodology and network analysis for the City of Richmond Department of Parks, Recreation, and Community Facilities that helps us prioritize parcels for potential acquisition or easement to meet the goal of all Richmonders having access to a park or green space within a 10-minute walk from their home.

Prereq: Intro to GIS course

How to apply:  Candidates should send a cover letter stating their interests and relevant experience to Professor Robert Rose (rarose01@wm.edu) by December 1, 2021.

Streamlining and Updating Data Collection, Management, and Utilization across Conservation Organization Teams: A Case Study on Coffee Farms 

Partner: Conservation International

This project will look to address three inter-connected hurdles we face as we look to leverage conservation technology to push forward applied conservation science. How can we optimize field surveys to work well with spatial analysis? How can we store data collected in the field and shared by partners, while respecting usage restrictions and Personally-Identifying Information (PII)? How can we communicate what data we have across teams and projects to increase utilization? To answer these questions, the student will collaborate with field teams and organization scientists. They will review current practices, formulate creative ideas informed by literature, and help shape the conversation on what actions we need to be taking to reach our goals. While learnings will be applicable to a broad array of conservation projects at CI, the student will specifically focus on coffee farm surveys that inform coffee-related spatial analysis such as deforestation and restoration.  

Prereq: Intro to GIS course

How to apply:  Candidates should send a cover letter stating their interests and relevant experience to Professor Robert Rose (rarose01@wm.edu) by December 1, 2021.

Evaluating and prioritizing protected area creation using the Species Threat Abatement and Recovery (STAR) metric

Partner: Rainforest Trust

The recently developed Species Threat Abatement and Recovery (STAR) metric quantifies the contributions that abating threats in specific places make towards reducing extinction risk for threatened species. STAR offers a new way to assess the conservation value of current and proposed protected areas supported by Rainforest Trust. In this project, the intern will analyze STAR data for a sample of Rainforest Trust projects - representing different regions, ecosystems, and protection types - to understand how our protected areas contribute to achieving global biodiversity conservation targets. This analysis will help us better understand and communicate our global conservation impact. During the summer of 2022, the intern will also analyze STAR values for the projects that will be presented to our board for approval in September of 2022. The goal will be to quantify their global conservation contributions and to compare them to our existing portfolio to determine, for example, if our projects are increasing in conservation value through time. Finally, if there is time and interest, the intern may also use STAR as a forward-looking prioritization tool to complement our existing priority setting maps, to identify areas where creating protected areas would make a particularly significant contribution to reducing extinction risk for threatened species.

Prereq: Intro to GIS course

How to apply:  Candidates should send a cover letter stating their interests and relevant experience to Professor Robert Rose (rarose01@wm.edu) by December 1, 2021.

Sea Turtle Conservation - Streamlining global data submission, management, and visualization for Oceanic Society’s State of the World’s Sea Turtles (SWOT) program and the UCN-SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG)

Partner: Oceanic Society and IUCN- SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group

Marine turtles provide habitat for a diversity of species through the maintenance of seagrass beds and coral reefs, play an important role in aquatic food webs, and have important socioeconomic and cultural value to Indigenous peoples and local communities, but the persistence of marine turtle populations is threatened worldwide by fisheries impacts, climate change, overexploitation, and more.  The Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG) is a science-based network of over 300 members from across 10 global geographic regions who are responsible for providing information on the seven species of marine turtles needed to ensure their conservation. The MTSG is one of the specialist groups that make up the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), whose members collaborate to provide scientific advice to conservation organizations, governments, and IUCN members needed to support multilateral environmental agreements needed to conserve marine turtle species and their important social and ecological value across the globe. In collaboration with the Oceanic Society (OS), a non-governmental organization that administers the MTSG and another global volunteer network called SWOT, a W&M student will assist with improvements that will streamline volunteer data submission, management, and visualization. After exploring the data priorities of SWOT and MTSG in the spring, the student will use GIS to create maps of turtle species distributions, will assist with streamlining the members’ database, and will explore the potential of using an app. By streamlining data management and visualization, this student-led project will improve the efficiency, utility, and effectiveness of the conservation of the world’s marine turtle species.

Prereq: Intro to GIS course

How to apply:  Candidates should send a cover letter stating their interests and relevant experience to Professor Robert Rose (rarose01@wm.edu) by December 1, 2021.

Land Change Assessment in the Nomrog Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia

Partner: Wildlife Conservation Society, Mongolia

The Greater Khingan Mountains is a long North-South chain of relatively low altitude mountains that stretch from the edge of the Amur River southwards to the edge of the Mongolian Plateau.  The Western flank is the edge of the largest remaining temperate grassland on the planet while the forested hills were once range to Siberian Tiger and still harbor populations of brown bear, lynx, and wolves.  The small portion of the mountains that runs through Mongolia is fully protected by the 'Nomrog Strictly Protected Area'.   The region is rich in biodiversity as both temperate grassland and forest species co-exist. The Nomrog PA has brown bear, lynx, wolf, Eurasian otter, Ussurian moose, red deer, roe deer, Mongolian gazelles, and wild boar.  Along the entire range, it is the only large and legitimately protected area.  Areas of the ecosystem in adjacent China have been rapidly converted to agriculture.  Mongolia's economic trajectory has put the region under threat as development pressures threaten to add roads and railways across the Northern boundary of the park to accommodate mineral exploitation while farmers are encroaching into the buffer regions to explore wheat farming potential.    

Aside from Nomrog, which is mostly known internally; the entire ecosystem is almost unknown into conservation interests.  This project would seek to document land-use change and rates along a targeted portion of the Khingan mountains and focus on the Nomrog SPA area specifically as a means to highlight what might be lost and what still has an opportunity for preservation.  This would help to raise awareness around increasing protected areas for the ecosystem, strengthening the effectiveness of Nomrog SPA, and finally to bring to attention the issues that developing countries face in trying to achieve economic improvement while needing to protect their wild heritage in doing so.

Prereq: Remote Sensing and Intro to GIS course

How to apply:  Candidates should send a cover letter stating their interests and relevant experience to Professor Robert Rose (rarose01@wm.edu) by December 1, 2021.

Quantifying Undisturbed Grasslands in the American Prairie Landscape

Partner: American Prairie Reserve

In an effort to better understand the carrying capacity of the Upper Missouri River ecoregion of central Montana, American Prairie scientists and managers would like to collaborate on a region-wide analysis to determine the location and extent of potentially undisturbed (native) land. Grasslands that have been tilled up to plant crops, even decades ago, are likely to be both less productive and less resilient than undisturbed land. While contemporary stocking rates likely take this into account (although not explicitly), knowing the extent of historic disturbance in the American Prairie region has implications for the amount of wildlife a rewilded short-grass prairie can support relative to the reference system (pre-1800). Using Bauman, et al. (2018) "Quantifying Undisturbed (Native) Lands in Northwestern South Dakota: 2013" as a guide, collaborators are requested to generate a digital map layer of potentially undisturbed land in 6 Montana counties (Blaine, Phillips, Valley, Garfield, Petroleum, Fergus).

Prereq: Intro to GIS course

How to apply:  Candidates should send a cover letter stating their interests and relevant experience to Professor Robert Rose (rarose01@wm.edu) by December 1, 2021.

An Equity Analysis for the Santa Fe Conservation Trust

Partner: Santa Fe Conservation Trust, The Lincoln Institute

In the spring of 2021, a student team, in partnership with the Santa Fe Conservation Trust (SFCT), developed a story map (https://arcg.is/zK8am) to highlight the great work of the SFCT and help them better connect to their local constituency.  As part of that project, the SFCT recognized a need to better connect to a broader range of their local community around conservation issues and identify ways of bringing more equity and justice into the national land trust process.

In this project, a student will adopt a geospatial analysis developed by researchers at Harvard Forest to look at equity and inclusion issues in the Santa Fe area.  This analysis combines census data with ecological information to inform the SFCT where they could focus efforts to build a broader constituency for their conservation efforts.  Beyond the SFCT, we hope the resulting equity model and data can be transformed into an online tool, useable by anyone in the US.   

Prereq: Intro to GIS course and Remote Sensing

How to apply:  Candidates should send a cover letter stating their interests and relevant experience to Professor Robert Rose (rarose01@wm.edu) by December 1, 2021.

Developing a Geospatial Dashboard to advance Species or Conservation Action Plans for the IUCN Species Survival Commission

Partner: IUCN Species Survival Commission and Global Center for Species Survival

The IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC) is a network of experts from across the world that provides information on biodiversity, species, ecosystem services, and the link between biodiversity and human well-being to the IUCN, which is fed into the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. SSC members develop Species or Conservation Action Plans designed to plan, implement, and evaluate strategies for conserving species and their ecosystems. To advance regional and global coordination among SSC members, there is a need to create a dashboard that enables SSC members to visualize the spatial and temporal impacts of their conservation outcomes, to explore the regional and global impact of the SSC members' efforts across a species' range and across ecosystems, and to identify opportunities for collaboration on regional and multi-species conservation plans. The IIC is partnering with the SSC to develop a geospatial dashboard that will serve as a tool for SSC members to improve species and conservation action plans and to advance coordination among members on conservation action at the regional and global scales.

Prereq: Intro to GIS course and Remote Sensing

How to apply:  Candidates should send a cover letter stating their interests and relevant experience to Professor Robert Rose (rarose01@wm.edu) by December 1, 2021.