Thursday, September 3, 2009

Jaguar Research and Umbrella Effect

Recently jaguar researcher Dr. Marcella Kelly, a professor at Virginia Tech, gave a presentation about her research in the jungles of Belize. Dr. Kelly is part of the Eastern Cougar Foundation and is active in placing camera traps (trail cameras) in the hope to photograph a cougar in the east. She was the expert who Roddy and I interview for more information on eastern mountain lions in Virginia.

The 45 minute presentation was on the research of population dynamics of jaguars in Belize. She and a team of people place trail cameras in a grid throughout the Belize jungle, hoping to photograph jaguars. After scientifically collecting data, the photos are labeled, and animals identified. This is where I come in. Taking an independent study course with Dr. Kelly, I have a job of labeling the place, camera, date, time, and animals of each photo.
During the presentation Dr. Kelly talked about the camera traps as well as using scat sniffing dogs to track jaguars. A dog is trained to sniff out jaguar scat in the jungle so the team can collect DNA from individual jaguars.
The Umbrella Effect is very important to conservationists. As Roddy described it: "slugs are not very interesting for people to want to protect them if there is an endangered slug. Big cats on the other hand are charismatic, and people will go for a save the jaguar idea. As jaguars need large areas of land, you can preserve the slug by protecting the land the jaguar lives on also."
SO the Umbrella Effect is about protecting one particular species, and in so you can protect a great number of species which inhabit the area. This is what I hope to do in search of the Eastern Cougar. Not only do I want to protect the mountain lion, but the natural area and the rest of the endangered species in the areas as well.