Welcome to Ontario Nature’s new blog series – Conservation science at your doorstep.
The word science means different things to different people. Some people picture lab coats and test tubes, while others think of telescopes or dissection kits. Science does sometimes involve these things, but science is really a set of basic principles that can be applied to any question.
For example, if we were to ask why some male hummingbirds have more vibrant colours than others, we might expect that females are picky about male colouring. If females are choosing males based on colour, we might expect males with more vibrant colours to be chosen by females more often than those with less vibrant colours. If we were to count mating successes of males with different degrees of feather vibrancy and find that indeed more vibrant males were chosen more often, then we would be inclined to think that our explanation (hypothesis) was supported.
Ruby-throated hummingbird photo by Missy Mandel.
Although no test tubes or dissection kits were used in this simple experiment, the process of developing a question and reaching a conclusion is the essence of science, and this method has become the cornerstone of scientific investigation. Here is how Dr. Malcolm M. Campbell, professor and vice-principal of research at the University of Toronto Scarborough, defines science:
Science is a lens through which we gain the greatest understanding of our universe. From subatomic particles, to the workings of entire galaxies, from the elaboration of the building blocks of life, to the functioning of ecosystems – science provides the means to explore and know everything. Science is not a belief system, but an all-encompassing, immensely powerful tool that provides us with profound insights into the past, the present and the future. Science sits at the heights of human achievement – our way of making sense of all that occurs around us.
In this new blog, we will explore how science is applied to the conservation of wild species and spaces in Ontario. We will do this for two main reasons:
1. While most Ontarians are familiar with the environmental challenges facing our province, few are aware of the incredible strides that scientists are making to inform and advance conservation.
2. By inviting scientists to share their research, we hope to broaden our readers’ vision of science and inspire them to get involved.
This new monthly blog will address many themes including climate change, invasive species, habitat loss and conservation genetics. Readers will learn…
how polar bears are dealing with increasing temperature,
how personality traits affect invasiveness in sea lamprey,
how bat populations are responding to white nose syndrome, and so much more.
Science is fascinating, relevant and essential to the well-being of our species and our planet.
Our exploration of conservation science underway in Ontario begins with a blog on turtle nesting. Topics for the next few months are listed below.
October 2015: Using conservation genetics to understand the impact of white-nose syndrome on bats
November 2015: The Jefferson salamander complex and conservation
December 2015: Loss of forest cover and implications for woodland caribou
January 2016: Chimney swift habitat loss
February 2016: Polar bears and habitat loss due to climate change
March 2016: Black bears and habitat loss
Allan Edelsparre is a PhD student at the University of Toronto – Scarborough studying the evolution and genetics of behaviour. From Denmark, Allan completed his BSc in Iceland before coming to Canada for his masters at the University of Guelph. He is an organizational champion for the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas.