Science communication

Barcelona Zoo Foundation – STUDY OF THE SPOTTED HYENA IN KENYA

    The Barcelona Zoo Foundation has as a fundamental mission to promote and to develop new projects focusing on research, conservation, education and awareness in order to preserve the biodiversity, to generate knowledge and the consciousness about the protection of ecosystems and to improve our understanding of the interrelations between different ways of life.

https://www.zoobarcelona.cat/index.php/en/foundation

Logo - Fundacio Barcelona Zoo (UNIC)
Barcelona Zoo Foundation

 

Although the Barcelona Zoo has an important contribution to different conservation projects, it did not have an specific project for the spotted hyena.

Therefore, the Barcelona Zoo Foundation & Global Change and Conservation Lab (University of Helsinki) have started a new collaboration to favor the impact of conservation and also in education and communication, given the visibility of both institution and the international relevance of the project with hyenas (Hyaena Specialist Group from the IUCN Species Survival Commission).

The Barcelona Zoo Foundation’s goal is to award microgrants to support research and/or conservation for the Global Change and Conservation Lab Research Group at the University of Helsinki.

The contribution of the Zoo is key to work towards a future coexistence, if wild species and local pastoralism communities are to live together in a time of defaunation and rapid cultural change, a better understanding of the Human-Hyena Conflict is required, with modern techniques (GPS-satellite collars) but also integrating communities as participants in the project. With the ultimate goal of finding new ways to mitigate these conflicts with combined benefits for the conservation of spotted hyenas and the means of subsistence of pastoralism.

https://www.zoobarcelona.cat/en/study-of-the-spotted-hyena-in-kenya

 


Becoming a National Geographic Explorer

   Since the first award in 1890, the National Geographic Society has been pushing the boundaries to explore and document our world.

National Geographic Explorers funds and supports innovative scientists, conservationists, educators, and storytellers. Every one of them is extremely curious about our planet, devoted to improving understanding it, and passionate about helping make it better.

My project, ‘Hyenas, local communities and livestock: Conflict or Co-existence?’, has been recently awarded this distinction.

I could not think of a better institution for this interdisciplinary social-ecological study than the National Geographic Explorers, where scientist, historians and people from different study areas work together to resolve conservation questions, offering the project an ideal multidisciplinary base. Moreover, with the project happening partly as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997 (Sibiloi National Park, known as the ‘Cradle of Humankind”) and in Laikipia county, which is recently facing an increase of pastoralism in an already fragile environment, I believe the project contributes to advance strategic research lines of National Geographic work in science and world culture.  Moreover, this project is community driven towards a healthier and more sustainable future.

Discover more about my project and other amazing Explorers!

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/find-explorers/miquel-torrents-tico

National Geographic Society has been making discoveries and making an impact for 130 years. Now, my project, together with many others, is a small part of a continuous immense process in every part of the globe to help protect species-at-risk, better understand human history and culture, and conserve some of our planet’s last wild places.

Navigate Across the Globe!

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/funding-opportunities/grants/where-we-work/map/

Finally, having my project as part of it is a huge honour. In addition, I believe that science matters when is communicated. Therefore, I hope been a National Geographic Explorer will bring the project to another dimension and will help the project to receive international coverage.


New Field course: EEB-306 Human-Wildlife Conflicts in East Africa

     Advanced field course (Master and PhD level) endorsed by Bio+ and University of Helsinki – certificate provided –.

Human-Wildlife Conflicts have been documented all over the world, but in East Africa they are particularly prevalent, being the most important reason for the decline of wildlife populations.

This course offers a remarkable hands-on experience to understand the challenges in Human-Wildlife Conflict management, while witnessing and discussing alternatives in different contexts. Over two weeks, students will learn through a series of field work, guest lectures, workshops and site visits in two emblematic Kenyan regions with the most abundant wildlife yet different approaches to address coexistence and solve conflicts: the renown Maasai Mara and the Laikipia region with its prestigious Mpala Research Centre.

See general information of the course in WebOodi: http://bit.ly/EEB306

For more information: https://en.bio-mas.org/humanwildlifeconflicts.html

For pre-registration, fill in the e-form: https://elomake.helsinki.fi/lomakkeet/95420/lomake.html before April 10th

 

 

 

 


Conservation guidance – Under The Spotlight: Interview  Miquel Torrents-Ticó

   Conservation guidance is a marketplace for quality conservation experiences. This institution lists quality opportunities around the world that provide you with knowledge, skills and experience in conservation.

In this interview, I talk about the importance of local communities, education and my encounters with Spotted hyenas.

What inspired you to get involved in conservation and the environment?

If you could change one thing to make a huge impact on the planet, what would it be?

How would you convince the Donald Trumps of this world that biodiversity is important?

What is your most memorable encounter with an animal or nature?

Who is your conservation role model?

The future of Sibiloi lies in the hands of local Daasanach children.
The future of Sibiloi lies in the hands of local Daasanach children.

Spotted Hyenas Circling in the Night

    Explore is a multimedia organization that features a wide range of topics—from animal rights, health and human services, and poverty to the environment, education, and spirituality.

Its last blog is about my PhD project in Human-Wildlife Conflict and Coexistence from the Global Change and Conservation group, University of Helsinki. The blog describes briefly one-day in the field assessing hyena behavioural ecology and local attitudes towards hyenas in semi-arid areas in Kenya.

James Miliko and Miquel Torrents-Ticó identifying spotted hyena footprints.
James Miliko and Miquel Torrents-Ticó identifying spotted hyena footprints.

Is there any question?

   During my last fieldwork in Kenya, I had the great opportunity to teach two different courses related to my PhD study. As an early career researcher in conservation biology, I am always happy to share science and to promote research on my topic, Human-Hyena Interaction, especially with a new generation of researchers. Each and every knowledge shared is the key to succeed in the challenges society is facing.

My first course was on ‘Tracks identification’ for students of the Stony Brook University. The course was taught in the Turkana Basin Institute, Sibiloi National Park. This course had a theoretical part and a practical session. It is necessary to be aware that learning how to identify the footprints of animals takes years of practice. However, the most important is to start by understanding the power of observation to find the most suitable areas for tracks. Then, the next stage is to use a basic guide, which helps to follow several steps and narrowing down which tracks belong to which species.

The practical session consisted of walking 3 km transect to put into practice the theoretical keys, following tracks features to identify African mammals. In addition, the goal was to experience the difficulties that you could encounter when working in the field under unpredictable conditions, such as the presence of livestock activity interfering with the survey.

Is there any question?
Is there any question?

‘Calling station method’ was the second course and it was taught for students of Princeton University. This course was taught in Mpala Research Centre, Laikipia. Again the course was split in one hour talk and a practice session. During the theoretical part, we looked at different ways this method can be implemented, which calls can be used, which the best places to carry out the calls are.

The most interesting part for the students was the practical session, where they participated in a real calling station. It was carried out at night and students were able to see the process explained in class. Deciding the most suitable place to carry out the study, setting up the equipment and observing how spotted hyenas and lions approached our location, it was simply a pleasure and a great experience for all.

Looks like the students are nervously waiting for something.
Looks like the students are nervously waiting for something. (Picture by Miquel Torrents-Ticó)

To conclude, courses have strong mutual benefits ―teaching and learning―, can you think of a better way for students to learn than from practicing with a passionate teacher/early career researcher? The students receive an input that goes beyond the mere knowledge, they gain the passion transmitted by the teacher/researcher and the training to face (field) problems.

On the other hand, can you think of a better way for a teacher/early career researcher to improve storytelling than being able to explain your study? The teacher, as an early career researcher, learns how to reach a broader audience and as Albert Einstein once said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.


Why be a mentor of a Discussion Group?

   Far from being optional, mentoring is the first opportunity to practise a teaching experience, which advances science by ensuring the quality and commitment of the next generation of researchers. Furthermore, mentoring is a mutual benefit as it benefits students by supporting their development in research activity, conference presentations and publications. And it rewards mentors by helping to improve their teaching skills and it is personally satisfying seeing your students’ progress.

Mentors and students together at Lammi research Station (Picture by Miquel Torrents-Ticó)
Mentors and students together at Lammi Research Station. (Picture by Miquel Torrents-Ticó)

In the Population Biology in Fragmented Landscapes course from the University of Helsinki (Finland), students must apply the theory they have learned in previous lectures to real case studies in population ecology. The final output is a group presentation at a weekend seminar (Lammi Research Station, Finland).

The essential first step for mentors is showing students how to search for scientific literature, which helps them to find the essential material for their study. In addition, mentoring implies steering the discussion when needed and advising students during this process. Although students are responsible for most of the decisions, mentors need to be in control of time management and flexibility.

During the mentoring sessions, mentors encourage students to find new studies, expand their skills and discuss their ideas. It is very important to let students know that errors are productive because we learn from our failures. These practices encourage self-sufficiency.  Mentors enthusiasm and optimism are stimulating and inspiring for students, who feel more engaged and interested in the topic. Being open and approachable is particularly important when students are lost in their discussion, allowing them to ask thoughtful questions. Finally, at the Lammi Weekend Seminar, mentors evaluate students’ presentations where they can show the work done and the results of their discussions.

Mentors evaluate students_ presentations (Picture by Miquel Torrents-Ticó)
Mentors evaluate students_ presentations. (Picture by Miquel Torrents-Ticó)

To conclude, effective mentoring is valuable for mentors, exciting for students, and crucial for science. Personally, this experience provides me with the opportunity to discover a new passion, science education.


Science education – The Worm Tracking Project

   Science education has become an essential component of learning and a way to connect society and science. Scientific Knowledge can help us to understand the world we live in and to plan for a better future.

The ongoing Worm Tracking Project, at the University of Helsinki, has engaged with schools since the very beginning of the study. During the first part of the project, students from several Finnish schools helped to collect data about earthworms across Finland. This data will be used to study earthworm distributions and to research how they may be affected by future climate change.

Students of different ages went to the field and carried out three different methods to sample for earthworms: 1) midden counts, 2) hand-sorting, and 3) mustard extraction. Allowing them to interact with Nature and learn about science data collection.

Worm Tracker application (http://matoseuranta.it.helsinki.fi/)
Worm Tracker application (http://matoseuranta.it.helsinki.fi/)

At the second part of the project in which I have helped, students came to the laboratory of the University of Helsinki to carry out DNA extraction from the samples they collected in the field. Therefore, students could gain experience about the work and research done in the laboratory. In addition, they had the opportunity to ask questions directly to the researchers conducting the study. Researchers were able to help clarify the students’ doubts, while being enthused with their passion and interest.

Young students and researchers working together in the laboratory. (Picture by Miquel Torrents-Ticó)
Young students and researchers working together in the laboratory. (Picture by Miquel Torrents-Ticó)

My first experience in science education taught me a lot about the importance of breaking science boundaries and connecting with everyone, from pre-school to actively engaged citizenship. By working together, professors, students and researchers will enhance community understanding of scientific findings and the capabilities to discuss their benefits and consequences to the future.


Making Science Matter – Increasing the impact of ecological findings

 

   I was part of this course to communicate my research findings to different target audiences and the media, learnt how to engage the general public in research projects, and heard how science is taught in schools and even kindergartens. Each day of the course had a specific theme and started with keynote lectures and continued with workshops, exercises and group work.

In order to increase information transfer and dialogue between academia, decision makers, and society at large, I have emphasized the promotion of my study and my results in different social media platforms, such as Instagram, Twiter, Google +, Research gate and LinkedIn.

(https://vimeo.com/185359636 , Password: torrentstico)


Life Story, BBC

 

   I had the amazing opportunity to be a field assistant for a BBC film crew working on the Life Story program, working alongside Sir David Attenborough and Gavin Thurston. We promoted meerkat research, and I provided my knowledge on the subject by guiding the crew, predicting animal behaviour and advising on filming positions to achieve specific shot angles.

Life Story is a British natural-history television series. Six episodes reveal the challenges faced by individual animals at different stages of their lives. The series is introduced and narrated by Sir David Attenborough.