Because conservation problems are environmental and human-driven we must draw on a range of disciplines from the biological, sociological, economic and earth sciences to generate the knowledge needed to deliver effective solutions on the ground. Wherever possible we work in collaboration with local and international universities on research programmes that can answer many of the uncertainties that hinder the development of effective conservation strategies.
As we conserve some of the most globally threatened species in the most threatened places we often have to act rapidly ahead of full scientific assessments. But even in these crisis situations, we base our conservation decisions on the best available information – where possible following an ‘evidence-based conservation’ approach. And highly applied science can often be employed alongside actions to ensure that results are measured as rigorously as possible.
We conduct field research in order to assess the status of our conservation targets, and to make informed decisions on actions and appropriate timescales for response. For example, we conduct field surveys to estimate the distribution and numbers of endangered species populations to prioritise conservation efforts and for future monitoring. We investigate the genetics of species to prioritise populations for management, and guide conservation breeding and reintroductions. Increasingly, we use techniques developed in the earth sciences, such as remote sensing and GIS, to assess the status of conservation targets and to understand services provided by ecosystems.
Equally important is to understand the pressures on our conservation targets and the social, political and economic drivers of these pressures. It is also essential to understand the costs of potential conservation interventions for local human communities in order to design effective actions which are sustainable over the long term.
Our animal collection serves a number of purposes: some species are part of conservation breeding programmes and safety net populations whereas some are used to communicate messages about a conservation problem. Science is used alongside expert knowledge to develop optimal conservation breeding and husbandry techniques to ensure animals are kept in healthy and productive captive environments. Find out more about our animal collection »
Ultimately, we want our science to help us address the question of how effective are our conservation actions – both for the sake of the species but also so we can be satisfied we are doing a good job. This information allows us to adapt the management of our conservation efforts, and to report and communicate results to our supporters, the general public and the conservation community.
At Durrell, we place a very strong emphasis on turning science into action. The end point of conservation science isn’t a paper in a scientific journal but ensuring that the knowledge generated is actively used to guide the management of projects, and the design of policy or practice.
Many of the scientific questions we face are complex and therefore difficult to answer. We form partnerships with academic institutions and other NGOs in order to create inter-disciplinary teams that are able to deliver this research. Partnerships are crucial to the delivery of science for Durrell’s conservation programmes and animal collections.
Communicating the results from our conservation work is essential so that lessons learned can be shared and applied to other situations. Publishing work in scientific journals is vital to ensure our science is as robust as possible but we also publish in non-technical literature and work with various media outlets in order to communicate our science to the widest possible audience.
With colleagues in the Durrell Conservation Academy, we ensure that in the future effective conservation science can be fully designed and delivered by colleagues and partners in the countries home to the endangered species. Building these capabilities involves programmes of intensive training, mentoring, developing tools and working practices, and the exchange of ideas and knowledge.