Success stories and emerging themes in conservation physiology

18 March 2016 - By: Christine Madliger

Success stories and emerging themes in conservation physiology


Sea Lamprey. Photo: T. Lawrence


By Christine Madliger

Madliger CL, Cooke SJ, Crespi EJ, Funk JL, Hultine KR, Hunt KE, Rohr JR, Sinclair BJ, Suski CD, Willis CKR, and Love OP (2016) Conservation Physiology 4, doi: 10.1093/conphys/cov57

This year, the field of conservation physiology is celebrating its tenth anniversary since being formally named in 2006. This milestone provides an excellent opportunity to assess whether the discipline has been accomplishing its arguably most difficult goal: solving conservation problems. Through a review of the literature, Christine Madliger (a graduate student at the University of Windsor, Canada) and ten colleagues identified eight areas where conservation physiology has made the biggest strides for conservation. The results included topics such as invasive species prevention and management, improving ecotourism, ameliorating chemical contamination, and disease control.

While the field has a relatively modern moniker, successes have been occurring for decades. Importantly, the scan of the literature also revealed a number of themes that are characterizing conservation physiology. For example, while previous assessments have identified that much of the conservation physiology research has involved stress hormones (glucocorticoids), the identified successes are comparatively much more diverse. In addition, the assessment revealed that physiological approaches can help solve human-wildlife conflicts, allowing for simultaneous human use and benefits to wildlife. As a potential barrier to overcome, many of the successes were not well-documented in the primary literature, illustrating the importance of employing diverse venues for information transfer and taking a collaborative approach in the discipline. Overall, the review identified that conservation physiology has begun to build a foundation of success stories covering diverse topics, taxa, physiological traits, habitat types, and spatial scales.

 

Category: Animal Biology
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Christine Madliger

Christine Madliger just completed her PhD at the University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada where her research focused on the application of stress hormones to conservation, using tree swallows as a model system. She continues to be interested in the refinement of physiological tools for conservation, understanding declines in aerial insectivorous birds, and how to foster the engagement of scientists and the public in conservation.