Center for Conservation Biology


Mother bear and her cub in a grassy field

© Art Wolfe© Art Wolfe

Human population growth and consumption are placing ever-increasing demands on the environment. Yet, there is a serious lack of quantitative techniques to monitor these impacts over large landscapes.

The Center’s mission is to develop and apply noninvasive field, lab and analytic methods to address pressing conservation problems worldwide.

We develop and apply comprehensive tools to cost-effectively gather vast amounts of genetic, physiologic and ecological data over very large landscapes, along with creative ways of integrating and analyzing this information. We use this approach to quantify changes in the health, abundance and distribution of endangered species due to human disturbances over large geographic scales. Such data indicate the causes of decline, the magnitude of the problem, and the efficacy of mitigation.

Dogs sniff out scat from endangered animals, trumping more technical tracking methods.

We apply this same approach to DNA-based, wildlife forensics on a continent scale. The burgeoning illegal wildlife trade is destroying biodiversity at rates that are now rivaling those of habitat loss. Our DNA-based forensics tools are helping wildlife authorities combat the burgeoning illegal elephant ivory trade across Africa. By pinpointing poaching hot spots, authorities are better able to direct law enforcement efforts; we are able to identify strategies used by organized crime syndicates driving this illegal trade; and governments are forced to take responsibility for the magnitude of these problems in their country.

Combating the illegal trade in African elephant ivory with DNA forensics.

The Center relies on the excitement of its innovative applied research to foster public awareness as well as to help build capacity in developing countries. Find out more about our latest research from our press page.