Trieste University Leads Wildlife Monitoring Project Inspired by U.S. Innovation

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Photo credits University of Trieste
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by InTrieste

A pioneering wildlife monitoring initiative, originating from Maine, USA, has been unveiled in Italy and Europe, promising to revolutionize conservation efforts. Spearheaded by Alessio Mortelliti, an esteemed Ecology professor at the University of Trieste, the project introduces a novel concept of “umbrella species” for efficient ecosystem surveillance.

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The protocol, long-established in conservation biology, has been ingeniously repurposed for monitoring endeavors. Mortelliti, renowned for his expertise in monitoring protocols, brings two decades of experience to the table, having crafted methodologies across diverse ecosystems worldwide.

Under Mortelliti’s guidance, the University of Trieste and the Regional Natural Park of the Julian Prealps have joined forces to implement the Optimal Monitoring of Mammals project. This ambitious endeavor, funded by the National Biodiversity Future Center, is poised to become a cornerstone in contemporary conservation practices.

Set to commence in April 2024 and conclude by December 2025, the project aims to develop a comprehensive monitoring system for mammals within a 100 km² area nestled in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. This region, bordering Slovenia, boasts remarkable biodiversity and was designated a transboundary protected area by the European Federation Europarc in 2009.

Central to the project’s innovation are two key objectives: identifying cost-effective monitoring protocols tailored to dynamic budgetary constraints and pinpointing umbrella species to streamline surveillance efforts. Mortelliti elucidates, “Umbrella species serve as focal points for monitoring activities, ensuring comprehensive coverage of ecosystem dynamics. For instance, monitoring wildcats via camera traps facilitates simultaneous observation of other species like pine martens, roe deer, and foxes.”

Embracing community engagement, the project enlists citizen scientists, including local primary and secondary school students, to participate in field activities. This collaborative approach not only fosters environmental education but also cultivates a sense of stewardship among the populace.

President Annalisa Di Lenardo of the Regional Natural Park underscores the project’s significance, asserting, “This initiative exemplifies the power of collaboration between research institutions, conservation entities, and local communities. The invaluable data collected will enrich our understanding of biodiversity, furthering our commitment to its preservation.”

As Mortelliti embarks on this groundbreaking venture, he remains committed to fostering a culture of environmental awareness and responsibility. “Our partnership epitomizes knowledge exchange and capacity-building,” he affirms. “Together, we can safeguard our precious ecosystems for generations to come.”

In a rapidly changing world, initiatives like the Optimal Monitoring of Mammals project offer a beacon of hope, illustrating the transformative potential of interdisciplinary collaboration in conservation endeavors.

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