Sunday, June 3, 2018

Announcing the Wildlife Grants Awarded by The Alongside Wildlife Foundation

   Hi all, in 2017 I signed up with Patreon to find more justification for all the time I was spending doing outreach and science communication and also because I lacked job security and I was testing the waters to see what paths forward I could create. Once the donations starting rolling in I created a new non-profit charitable foundation, The Alongside Wildlife Foundation, to formalize this work and so that donations would be tax-deductible. In November I gave notice and quit my job at Auburn University. My plan was to develop the foundation (and donate plasma, rent out rooms, do freelance writing, etc) as the next stage of my life. But, shortly thereafter I was offered an exciting new position at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center (I started in January).

   Importantly, because I finally have job security and life stability I was able to make some big changes with the foundation funds I originally planned to keep for my salary. Since January, all donations have been used to grow The Alongside Wildlife Foundation and help other scientists and science communicators accomplish the mission we all share: science-based solutions for living alongside wildlife.

   One of our major initiatives was a small grants program and thanks to our growing army of small donors we have already awarded about $4,000 this year to wildlife projects everywhere from Arkansas to Nigeria. I wanted to highlight the projects that have received funding so far here (and yes, perhaps entice you to become a recurring donor so we can start doing even more).


Ikponke Nkanta (Tropical Research and Conservation Centre): Primate inventory and conservation in Ikea River Basin, Southern Nigeria.
The goals of this project include ensuring 1) future survival of the threatened/important primate species occurring within Ikpa river basin in southern Nigeria through participatory habitat restoration, protection and management. 2) a reduction in forest land encroachment and over-dependence on forest resources as the major source of livelihood (by facilitating adoption of livelihoods alternatives (bee farming, snail farming, fish farming) among hunters and timber harvesters. 3) community adoption of sustainable timber harvesting and better farming practices that are habitat friendly (agro forestry, organic farming) as these do not support further forest destruction, and finally, 4) establishing buffer zones with indigenous trees around the present shrinking territories to stabilize and ‘bridge-up’ fragmented patches.

Lauren Hennelly (UC-Davis): Assessing the status and distribution of wolves in Pakistan using genetics.
The overall goal of this project is to provide important baseline information and resolve what types of wolves are found in Pakistan to inform conservation decisions with several components, including 1) conducting the first genetic survey of wolves across major regions of Pakistan, 2) providing estimates of genetic diversity and potential gene flow to adjacent wolf populations, and 3) provide a clearer picture of the distribution of the Central Indian and Himalayan wolf lineages and the extent of their range. Funds from The Alongside Wildlife Foundation are going towards the purchase of camera traps to gain more information on the local wolf populations and to document the phenotypic characteristics of the wolves to accompany the genetic data. Lastly, there are very few photographs of wild wolves from many regions of Pakistan – camera trap images can become educational resources for the local communities.

Karl and Diane Roeder (University of Oklahoma and Cameron University): The ants of Oklahoma project.
The core objective of the Ants of Oklahoma Project is to  ighlight the diversity of life that routinely goes unnoticed. To accomplish this goal, this program (1) combines historical records found in museum collections, published manuscripts, and online digital repositories with (2) a citizen science outreach component that involves collecting specimens in backyards using standardized methods. Cumulatively, this project will collate information on ant distributions across Oklahoma, create a database of these distributional records, and publish such information for all to view. Moreover, an outreach component will primarily focus on involving undergraduate students in field observations and identification of ants both throughout the year and during annual BioBlitz events. This multifaceted approach will not only increase awareness of our particular taxon of interest, ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), but will also encourage citizens and scientists alike to go outside, enjoy nature, and recognize how wonderfully diverse it truly is.



Diogo Veríssimo (University of Oxford): Lost and Found.

The storytelling project “Lost and Found” works to bring to life the inspirational stories of those species that were thought extinct for at least a human generation but where subsequently rediscovered. The goal of this project is to change the conversations around conservation, away from doom and gloom, and towards a more positive and balanced message about nature. The project will produce a total of 30 stories of serendipitous species rediscoveries across five continents and all animal and plant groups, both in narrative and comics format. This content is developed by professional science and creative writers and a comics artist and is freely available online. 




Wade Boys (University of Arkansas): Surveys, modeling, and prioritization for rare, endemic dragonflies across the Ozark-Ouachita region.

The goal of this project is to conduct rigorous field surveys for four dragonfly species of concern in the Ozark/Ouachita regions. All four of these species are rare and under-surveyed, with one of them being recently described. Their distributions are presumably limited by local habitat and climate characteristics, however, there’s been a lack of habitat-directed surveys. This study will address the sparse records of occurrence and unknown habitat requirements of these insects by combining distribution modeling with field surveys resulting in increased knowledge of their natural history.



Carla X. Neri Barrios (Soluciones Ambientales Itzeni, A.C., Mexico): A children’s book as a conservation education tool for awareness of the natural history of the lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae).
The goal of this project is to engage children of ages between 7 to 11 in the natural history of the lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae) through the production and distribution of a children's book with the aim of increasing awareness and empathy towards this and other bat species.

Zackary Graham (Arkansas State University): Field observations on the aggressive behavior of Ringed Crayfish in Colorado.

Despite the extensive research on crayfish physiology and ecology, their natural behavior is extremely understudied. It is often assumed that the behavior and aggression of all crayfish species are identical. But, it is commonly found that the species that have most successfully invaded other populations are more aggressive than less successful invaders. The goal of this project is to conduct behavioral observations of the Ringed Crayfish (Orcconectes neglectus), which is native to Colorado, Arkansas, and Missouri but has been introduced to several locations throughout North America. Currently, the aggressive nature of these crayfish is unknown, and their agonistic behavior has yet to be characterized. These observations will ultimately be used to understand how and why some crayfish are more successful invaders than others. Further understanding of crayfish natural history and specifically aggressive behavior are key to make informed conservation efforts.

Adam Mitchell (University of Delaware): Determining impacts of plant invasion on native arthropod diversity in the Mid-Atlantic.
The goal of this project is to quantify shifts in community structure for arthropods that are impacted by invasive plants in the Mid-Atlantic region. Specifically, it will 1) determine changes in the richness and abundance of arthropod functional groups (herbivores, detritivores, pollinators, and predators) following plant invasion and 2) investigate patterns of change in arthropod community structure in multiple invasive plants to identify which invasive plant (or plants) present the greatest threat to native arthropod diversity in the landscape. 

Erin Spencer (UNC-Chapel Hill): One fish, true fish: combatting seafood mislabeling in the United States.
Seafood fraud often allows less-desired or illegally-caught species to be marketed as a species popular with consumers.  Although there has been media coverage that seafood mislabeling exists, there are little to no resources to teach consumers how to avoid seafood fraud. The goal of this project is to create a website that contains information and tangible tools consumers can use to make smart, sustainable seafood choices that helps promote a culture that values accurate marketing of seafood. The website will include: 1) fact sheets derived from current mislabeling research, including which vendors types (like grocery stores, sushi restaurants, etc.) are most likely to mislabel, 2) web and PDF photo guides for how to identify common seafood replacements, and 3) blog posts and features of local fishermen and vendors trying to support honest, sustainable seafood.



Want to help us do even more to create and promote science-based solutions to living alongside wildlife in perpetuity? Please consider joining our growing network of recurring small donors here.
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