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. Fondly named the “Guru of Dudu”, 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.