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Biases of acoustic indices measuring biodiversity in urban areas

Ecoacoustic monitoring uses the sounds emitted by wildlife as a proxy measure for biodiversity. Massive volumes of ecoacoustic data can now be generated using passive acoustic recorders, but extracting useful information about the biodiversity sounds recorded in this data is unfeasible without automated methods. Acoustic indices (AIs) are algorithms which generate community-level measures of biodiversity, such as activity, diversity and disturbance, from audio data. However, the suitability of ecoacoustics for monitoring urban biodiversity, and the performance of AIs on the noisy audio data typically generated in cities, is unknown.

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Smart detectors to monitor urban bat life

The activity of urban bats in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London is being monitored in real-time using new, automated smart detectors that have been developed and installed by UCL and Intel scientists in collaboration with Arup, the Bat Conservation Trust and the London Wildlife Trust.
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The story is also featured on BBC News website and BBC Radio.

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Linking the influence and dependence of people on biodiversity across scales

There was a special ‘Insight’ section in Nature this week (1st June 2017) with comments, reviews, letters and even an Editorial about Biodiversity. As one of the Editors (Alun Armstrong) writes in his Introduction to the special section, “Shepherding our planet's remaining biodiversity through the current era of human population growth, environmental degradation and climatic change is one of the most pressing challenges we face. A return to past ecosystem configurations is not possible. But policies can be put in place to help avert further losses and to maintain ecosystem functions. At stake is not just the viability of the ecosystems on which we depend, but also the very richness of life, in all its colour and complexity.” 

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Incorporating biotic interactions in predictions of species distributions

A new paper led by CBER scientists presents an approach to improve predictions of species distributions by incorporating the role of interactions between species. The new method shows promise for improving estimates of species ranges, which will have great practical value across a range of applications, including predicting the impacts of climate change on biodiversity, designing better conservation areas, and anticipating the spread of invasive species and zoonotic diseases.

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Lack of Staffing, Funds Prevent Marine Protected Areas from Realising Full Potential

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are an increasingly popular strategy for protecting marine biodiversity, but a new global study demonstrates that widespread lack of personnel and funds are preventing MPAs from reaching their full potential. After four years compiling and analyzing data on site management and fish populations in 589 MPAs around the world, Dr. David Gill and co-authors, including Dr Sarah Whitmee from CBER, discovered that shortfalls in staffing and funding are hindering the recovery of MPA fish populations. While fish populations grew in 71 percent of MPAs studied, the level of recovery of fish was strongly linked to the management of the sites. At MPAs with sufficient staffing, increases in fish populations were nearly three times greater than those without adequate personnel. Despite the critical role of local management capacity, however, only 35 percent of MPAs reported acceptable funding levels and only 9 percent reported adequate staff to manage the MPA.

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£5m funding to investigate sustainable and healthy food systems

CBER scientists Georgina Mace, Ben Collen, Richard Pearson and Carole Dalin have been awarded a grant by the Wellcome Trust to evaluate sustainable food systems, healthy diets and the impact of environmental and population changes on food production, as part of a major new international collaborative project led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

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Mapping movements of alien bird species

The global map of alien bird species has been produced for the first time by a UCL-led team of researchers. It shows that human activities are the main determinants of how many alien bird species live in an area but that alien species are most successful in areas already rich with native bird species.

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Gotta Conserve 'em All

CBER PhD Student Fiona Spooner discusses how the release of Pokemon Go can have an effect on conservation, and what can be learnt from the popular game.

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Research Image as Art

When taking pictures photographers try to capture the best angle, the perfect composition, and the ideal light. It is almost as if they were building the image themselves and the result, as we know, can be really impressive. On the other hand, when setting up automatic cameras to record wildlife none of the photographer’s concerns are high in my list of priorities; I’m simply aiming to obtain records of animals. These photographic records are the data I use in my research, and with them I can test hypothesis and describe patterns about the ecology of elusive species. In my PhD, for example, I’m using data from automatic cameras to investigate the effectiveness of parks and natural reserves in protecting large mammals in the Brazilian Cerrado. So, a blurred photo featuring only part of a maned wolf’s body or a distant and dull armadillo almost out of the frame is all I need to identify the species and have the much-needed data for analysis.

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Seirian Sumner joins CBER

Dr. Seirian Sumner recently joined CBER, her work seeks to explore the interface between behavioural ecology, biodiversity and conservation. She uses a combination of field ecology and genomics techniques to address questions about how and why animals live in societies.

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