As the effects of the global pandemic are felt keenly by everyone in their own homes and communities, it may seem as though the movements, population dynamics, and pathogen loads of animals in faraway tropical forests are a trivial matter. In reality, however, it is at times like these that the importance of this type of research becomes most salient.
The Importance of Wildlife Disease Screening
For more than a decade, FPI has been monitoring the disease status (including viruses) carried by our long-term study populations. The scientific community has strong reason to believe that COVID-19 was created by the accidental transmission of a virus from a reservoir species to a novel species (humans), and this type of spillover event is only expected to increase with human pressures on wildlife. Sadly, due to the global pandemic and travel restrictions, 2020 has left a problematic gap in our biosurveillance data. While this cannot be recovered, it becomes paramount that we are prepared for a greatly expanded 2021 field season. This will entail a larger team, wider sampling among various taxa, and screening for more pathogens than ever before.
In 2020, FPI launched the In Situ Labs initiative, in conjunction with our forward-thinking partners. Our mission is to grow this initiative globally as a model focusing on wildlife health monitoring, ecotoxicology, and biodiversity censusing. In addition, this initiative will vastly increase the scale of both development and deployment for a wide variety of conservation technologies (ranging from species-specific GPS collars to remote sensing networks), which will enable this work to proceed safely and efficiently with exponentially more data collected.
FPI’s interest also lies beyond the important goal expanding research efforts. We are also boosting the size of our training programs, while taking measures to make them more accessible to all. It is only the combination and research and education that can truly make a difference to the future of conservation and local communities everywhere.
Your help –even if it is a small donation or simply sharing our posts on social media– means a lot to us, and can be instrumental in allowing this work to move forward at a critical time. We can’t do this without you.
The Field Projects International Team.