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Zoo conservation scientist awarded Wilburforce Fellowship

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications

Dr. Robert Long sets up a non-invasive hair snare to snag wolverine hair that can be used for DNA analysis. Photo by Steven Gnam.

Dr. Robert Long, Woodland Park Zoo’s first senior conservation fellow, has been recognized among the first group of 20 scientists awarded  the newly established Wilburforce Fellowship in Conservation Science, announced recently by the Wilburforce Foundation and COMPASS.

The overarching goal of the Wilburforce Fellowship program is to build a community of conservation science leaders who excel in using science to help achieve durable conservation solutions in western North America.

The Wilburforce Fellowship program provides skills development and sustained mentorship to help spark transformative, lasting change in how scientists approach their work. By bringing together scientists from across a broad spectrum of career stages, disciplines, geographies, and affiliations, the Wilburforce Fellowship will break down the silos that are often barriers to collaboration and collective action.

Long and his 19 counterparts were selected from a competitive field of applicants from the U.S. and Canada. All of the fellows have impressive credentials as conservation scientists, as well as leadership qualities and personal commitment to pursue research relevant to conserving the natural world. Their work spans topics from landscape scale conservation in the face of climate change, to solutions for at-risk species like wolverines, grizzlies, California condors, caribou and jaguars.

A remote monitoring camera captures the moment a wolverine approaches Dr. Long's noninvasive hair snare. Photo by Woodland Park Zoo.

As a carnivore research ecologist in the northeastern and northwestern U.S., Long is highly respected for spearheading innovations in non-invasive wildlife research methods, an approach he has honed for the last 13 years. Long’s research is currently focused on wolverine conservation in Washington state, developing a Northwest camera trap network and helping to expand the zoo's Living Northwest conservation program.

“I feel really fortunate to be a part of this first cohort of fellows,” says Long. “Wilburforce and COMPASS have always strongly supported the integration of science and conservation, and this is just another example of their long-term commitment to these fields.”

“The work of Wilburforce Foundation is science-driven,” says Amanda Stanley, Wilburforce Conservation Science Program Officer and Fellowship co-leader. “We have a strong commitment to making the idea of ‘decisions informed by the best available science’ more than just a catchphrase. This Fellowship will empower scientists with the skills they need to connect with decision makers and engage in ways that shape the policy debate.”

Remote monitoring cameras capture signs of wildlife conservationists can use to study population, range and behavior. Dr. Long is developing a network among conservationists to share and learn from each other's camera findings. Photo by Woodland Park Zoo.

Each fellow will set a goal for individual or collective engagement on a specific conservation issue, and a team of trainers and mentors will help them use their new skills to work toward their goal over the year.

Fellows will be guided by a team of trainers from COMPASS and the England-based Barefoot-Thinking Company, who specialize in strategic action planning and leadership training. They also will engage with science and environmental journalists, including David Malakoff, Deputy News Editor, Science; science journalist and National Geographic contributor Michelle Nijhuis; and Jeff Burnside, investigative reporter for the ABC-affiliate KOMO 4 News in Seattle and President of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

Fellows will begin their initial training April 19-24, 2015 at Wilburforce’s Greenfire Campus in Seattle.