Scientists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Conservation Ecology Center (CEC) develop new and advanced analytical tools to study and model how ecosystems and species interact with their environment and how these systems respond to global changes. Using these new tools and models, CEC scientists create conservation scenarios so that practitioners and decision makers can identify the best possible strategies for preserving ecosystem health and biodiversity.
At the species level, CEC scientists integrate intensive field surveys with animal tracking and satellite mapping to better understand the processes that control species movement and habitat declines. To achieve this, CEC researchers create new solutions for surveying, monitoring, and modeling species conservation, including innovative approaches such as eMammal, a camera trapping network; and Partners in the Sky, a private-public partnership to advance animal tracking and movement ecology.
On a global scale, CEC partners with large research networks to address challenges such as ecosystem function and climate change. These networks include Virginia Working Landscapes, ForestGEO and NEON. As monitoring expands, CEC’s quantitative ecologists are developing new analytical and statistical frameworks for data analysis to answer critical conservation questions.
Some of CEC’s most visible signature programs and initiatives include:
- Smithsonian Myanmar Biodiversity Initiative—a cross-unit and multi-disciplinary science initiative to expand research and build in-country capacity to study and sustain natural diversity in Myanmar, a global hotspot for biodiversity.
- EMammal—a new approach to monitoring wild mammals leveraging the power of widely available camera traps and data collected by both citizen scientists and researchers. Data are easily combined from multiple projects and publicly available, informing the conservation of mammal communities around the globe.
- Movement of Life Initiative—a program utilizing state-of-the-art animal tracking technology, such as GPS-satellite transmitters, to discover where, why, when and how animals migrate and move through the environment and to determine how migratory species such as Asian elephants, wild horses, cranes and wildebeest can best be saved.
- Forest Ecosystems and Climate Lab—a research program for discovering how forests function and interact with Earth’s changing climate.
- Scimitar-horned Oryx Reintroduction—a program to restore the scimitar-horned oryx to its native habitats in Northern Africa.
- Przewalski’s Horse Reintroduction—a long-term effort to restore wild Przewalski’s horses across their native range in Mongolia and China.
- Virginia Working Landscapes (VWL)—a network of partners convened to promote the conservation of native biodiversity and encourage the sustainable use of working landscapes through research, education and outreach.
- Asian Elephant Conservation Program—focuses on studying Asian elephant behavior and ecology to reduce human-elephant conflict and to advance the conservation of Asian elephants and their habitats.
- Giant Panda Conservation Program—working with Chinese colleagues, CEC scientists are increasing capacity for wildlife conservation and habitat restoration in giant panda reserves and western provinces. CEC researchers have developed partnerships that allow them to provide critical conservation knowledge to the ongoing debate over infrastructure development and natural resource extraction in China’s rapidly developing economy.
- Quantitative Ecology—a research program that melds ecological theory with cutting-edge statistical methods to understand animal movement and space use, leverage insect citizen-science monitoring data, and predict disease dynamics in a changing climate.