Those wishing to learn more about an emerging type of conservation science that uses physiological tools to solve conservation challenges have a new book to explore.
Christine Madliger, postdoctoral fellow with Carleton University and the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER), and Department of Integrative Biology professor Oliver Love served as two of the editors on the first text on the topic of conservation physiology.
The book, titled Conservation Physiology: applications for wildlife conservation and management, was published by Oxford University Press in January.
Dr. Madliger says in terms of having a formal definition and goals, the field of conservation physiology is only about 15 years old.
“That’s part of what made this project so exciting to me,” she says. “I knew it would be an opportunity to bring a lot of ground-breaking research together and showcase the growing number of success stories.”
Madliger earned her PhD in biology with Dr. Love at the University of Windsor in 2016, with her research focusing on the use of stress hormones as monitoring tools to address the conservation of birds, and now works with Steven Cooke at Carleton University on the effects of light pollution on fish physiology.
“I’ve always found the discipline of conservation physiology to hold a lot of promise for solving conservation problems for both plants and animals and in many different ecosystems. I am glad there is now a text that could encourage undergraduate and graduate students to enter this field too,” says Madliger.
The book is laid out as a series of case studies exploring how different types of physiology can help monitor, manage, and restore wildlife species ranging from honeybees to koalas to sharks. It includes contributors from across the globe who work in such diverse ecosystems as the Canadian Arctic, African savannah, Great Barrier Reef, and islands off New Zealand.
Love, whose lab studies how birds and fish use physiology to respond to environmental change, credits Madliger for focusing his attention on the field of conservation physiology and for helping his lab find better ways to apply their physiological mechanisms to conservation issues.
“Although the field began in the mid 2000s, Christine has worked hard to ensure a diversity of disciplines have the tools and frameworks they need to solve complex conservation issues,” he says.
Christina Semeniuk and Nigel Hussey, both professors of integrative biology, contributed chapters highlighting the strength of the department’s conservation physiology research.
Dr. Semeniuk penned a chapter on her work on the socio-ecological traps caused by marine-provisioning tourism of stingrays.
"It was an incredible opportunity for me to showcase how physiological indicators can transcend disciplines when used strategically in conservation management,” she says.
Dr. Hussey co-authored a chapter on the use of isotopes for understanding migration and critical habitats of large, at-risk marine predators such as Pacific bluefin tuna.
“Advancing techniques to understand the movement dynamics of threatened species is absolutely key given the current stressors on our global aquatic ecosystems. I think this new book provides an important contribution for the field of conservation physiology,” he says.
Madliger says the timing of the book and the research is crucial because the planet is facing a major biodiversity crisis, demanding as many helpful tools and strategies as possible.
“Conservation physiology is joining other more established science-based techniques like genetics and animal behaviour to help safeguard biodiversity for future generations, and I’m lucky to have been a part of such a collaborative endeavour that encourages the growth of this field,” says Madliger.