Meeting Minutes (2/24/16)

This meeting was quite intriguing due to Lisanne Petracca's fascinating presentation but before I get to that. The following announcements were made at the beginning of the meeting:
  • Duck Trapping has been canceled for the rest of the week. Traps are typically set up on the shores of Cayuga Lake during the winter because it's the only source of moving water available to the local waterfowl but since the weather has been a little warmer than usual, the marshes have thawed out and are now being used by the waterfowl.
  • We'll be joining Raptor Surveys at Montezuma next Wednesday (3/2) and leaving campus at 3:35. If you'd like to sign up, do so here.
  • Winter Carnival is this Friday from 12-3 in Gateway. Come on by and check out our table!
  • We still need people for the Quiz Bowl team! You know you want to join so please contact Alli already at
  • Volunteers needed to help out at the annual Women in Nature event. If you're interested, please sign up here, and we'll get you in contact with the right people.
  • Only a few spots left for the Northeast Student Conclave so sign up here if you want to be included.
  • Want to be involved with the pheasant program, e-mail Leah at
  •  We will be holding Beast Feast on April 22nd. Let us know if you're interested in cooking a game dish!
After the announcements, we had a presentation from Lisanne Petracca, a Ph.D. student at ESF and geospatial analyst for Panthera:
Lisanne started out as an undergraduate at Tufts University studying environmental science, biomedical engineering and psychology. Then went to Duke University to get a Masters in GIS. After graduating, she worked full time for Panthera, an organization focused on the conservation of wild felids. Now she is in her 2nd year of a Ph.D. program in ecology while also working part-time with Panthera.

Her work has involved analyzing data from Panthera's jaguar, tiger, lion and snow leopard project sites. The data is either telemetry, camera trap, transect, or interviews. Lisanne has managed all data related to the Jaguar Corridor Initiative. She has used land cover classification with the use of remote sensing (downloading satellite images from USGS and using the signatures from those images to determine land cover). She also used remote sensing to create a change detection map (use of satellite images of one area at two different times). Lisanne has worked with leading scientists to digitize ranges for endangered species such as the lion, jaguar, and sand cat. She warns that there are political games when working with groups on endangered species. 

For the Jaguar Corridor Initiative, a least-cost analysis was done from Mexico to Argentina based on several factors such as elevation, roads, human population density, land cover, etc. They found that the area with very little cost to the jaguars was mainly in the Amazon River Basin. Based on the results, they mapped out lowest cost conservation units connected by lowest cost routes thereby increasing connectivity. Although these areas were assumed to be well-inhabited, it needed to be confirmed so low cost conservation units were split into sampling units and interviews were conducted to test for occupancy. For the interviews, researches asked about jaguar presence in the last year, the year before that or any previous time before.Locals were also asked about development projects, their attitude towards jaguars and their occupation. Lisanne did summer field work with Panthera in 2009 and 2010 at the southern Belize corridor. Although she learned some Spanish, she had to use translators on occasion because there were many native dialects. 

Lisanne was very involved with the study of jaguars in Nicaragua, specifically the Wawashang Natural Reserve. The study demonstrated that the presence of agriculture meant a decreased likelihood of jaguars. Interviews conveyed that over half of the locals wanted to either kill, harm or get rid of the jaguars. Some said thy felt nothing but that seemed like an effect of being interviewed on the subject. Researchers on this project believe that only one guard on patrol for the entire reserve is probably not enough. 

The research was then expanded to all of Central America and considered regions outside of protected areas. Six countries were studied for this project which meant a lot of data. Lisanne expressed the importance of correctly entering data on large projects like this. In this study, variables included productivity indices, prey, disturbance, land cover, topography, and land protection. Results from this study showed the jaguars preferred areas with no agriculture, more percent cover, a greater distance from people, low elevation and a short distance from protected areas. Based on these results, Honduras was a large concern in terms of jaguar persistence.

 The most recent study Lisanne has worked on involves the WAP complex in Western Africa. This is where the last West African lions can be found in large numbers. The study involved vehicle-based transects of 500 m. in 225 km2 grid sampling units. From the data Liasanne was able to create a map of the complex showing how precipitation increases from the northeast to the southwest and the project budget decreased from northeast to the southwest. Based on this data, the northeast would be a poor habitat for lions. The good news is that the presence of lions persist in this region. 

Based on her experience, Lisanne recommends attaining as many skills in your undergraduate years, get involved in research now, don't be intimidated by professors, and go after what you want. If interested in GIS jobs, check out Society for Conservation GIS, Society for Conservation Biology and Texas A & M.

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