Center for Conservation Biology

Director

 

Sam Wasser in front of trees and water

 

Dr. Samuel Wasser holds the endowed chair in Conservation Biology at the University of
Washington, where he is a Professor in the Department of Biology and Director of the
Center for Conservation Biology.

He is acknowledged worldwide for developing noninvasive tools for monitoring human impacts on wildlife. Professor Wasser pioneered methods to measure the abundance, distribution and physiological condition of wildlife from their feces, relying on detection dogs to locate these samples over large wilderness areas. He uses these methods to address diverse conservation questions including impacts of poaching, oil development or overfishing on the well-being of multiple endangered wildlife populations. He also applies these tools to forensic analyses of transnational wildlife crime. He used elephant dung to assemble a DNA reference map of elephants across Africa, which is now widely used to determine the geographic origins of poached ivory. By comparing genotyped ivory to this reference map, he has been able to identify Africa’s largest elephant poaching hotspots, track the number and connectivity of major ivory traffickers operating in Africa, and uncover strategies that transnational organized crime syndicates use to acquire and move their contraband around the world. This work has led to prosecutions of major transnational ivory traffickers and nurtured key collaborations with the International Consortium on Combatting Wildlife Crime, INTERPOL, US Homeland Security Investigations, the Task Force on Combatting Wildlife Trafficking, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of State and wildlife authorities in numerous source and transit countries across Africa and Asia.