Integrating technologies for scalable ecology and conservation

See our new open-access paper on technology, ecology, and conservation led by David Marvin


Integration of multiple technologies greatly increases the spatial and temporal scales over which ecological patterns and processes can be studied, and threats to protected ecosystems can be identified and mitigated. A range of technology options relevant to ecologists and conservation practitioners are described, including ways they can be linked to increase the dimensionality of data collection efforts. Remote sensing, ground-based, and data fusion technologies are broadly discussed in the context of ecological research and conservation efforts. Examples of technology integration across all of these domains are provided for large-scale protected area management and investigation of ecological dynamics. Most technologies are low-cost or open-source, and when deployed can reach economies of scale that reduce per-area costs dramatically. The large-scale, long-term data collection efforts presented here can generate new spatio-temporal understanding of threats faced by natural ecosystems and endangered species, leading to more effective conservation strategies.

New exciting paper on orangutan call flexibility and the implications for the evolution of language

Take a look at a new paper in Scientific Reports led by Adriano Lameira about the amazing flexibility in orangutan vocal control.


Vocal fold control was critical to the evolution of spoken language, much as it today allows us to learn vowel systems. It has, however, never been demonstrated directly in a non-human primate, leading to the suggestion that it evolved in the human lineage after divergence from great apes. Here, we provide the first evidence for real-time, dynamic and interactive vocal fold control in a great ape during an imitation “do-as-I-do” game with a human demonstrator. Notably, the orang-utan subject skilfully produced “wookies” – an idiosyncratic vocalization exhibiting a unique spectral profile among the orang-utan vocal repertoire. The subject instantaneously matched human-produced wookies as they were randomly modulated in pitch, adjusting his voice frequency up or down when the human demonstrator did so, readily generating distinct low vs. high frequency sub-variants. These sub-variants were significantly different from spontaneous ones (not produced in matching trials). Results indicate a latent capacity for vocal fold exercise in a great ape (i) in real-time, (ii) up and down the frequency spectrum, (iii) across a register range beyond the species-repertoire and, (iv) in a co-operative turn-taking social setup. Such ancestral capacity likely provided the neuro-behavioural basis of the more fine-tuned vocal fold control that is a human hallmark.

Also see the youtube link


Chimpanzee survey photospheres

During the past weeks I have been in Tanzania to use drones to examine which factors determine the edge of the chimpanzee distribution. This work is funded by National Geographic and was conducted by a team from Liverpool John Moores University, ConservationDrones, and the Ugalla Primate Project. Here some links to photospheres of the trip:

A good way to view these as well is to download the Street View app on your smartphone and then search for Ugalla, Tanzania in the app. You will see the red dots on the map then for each of the photospheres and you can then view them in the app and also use Google Cardboard to view them for a different view.