Research Partner Organizations
The Carnivore Conservancy works closely with several academic, governmental and industry research organizations to ensure that our efforts have the greatest possible impact in the fight to prevent extinction of threatened carnivore species. Many of our partner organizations hold a seat on our research committee, which sets the direction and priorities for our overall research program.
national geographic society
The Remote Imaging department at National Geographic is responsible for developing the Crittercam™, an innovative technology that allows video cameras to be attached to wild animals in order to capture footage from the animal's-eye view. Such footage allows researchers to observe behaviors that in many cases would never be discovered otherwise.
We began discussions with the Remote Imaging team in 2014 about the feasibility of using Crittercams on devils. They were able to develop a collar-mounted apparatus tailored to the devil's anatomy, and (together with research partner Zoos Victoria) we conducted successful pilot studies with captive and then wild devils in late 2015. (Read about the pilot here, and watch a short video about it here.) We conducted further Crittercam deployments on wild devils at three of our study sites in January and February of 2017, and expect to begin deploying Crittercams on devils on a regular basis in late 2017.
national university of Singapore
The Evolutionary Biology Laboratory (EBL) at the National University of Singapore explores an extensive range of evolutionary and ecological questions in a wide range of species and systems using cutting-edge next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies complemented by traditional methods. These range from dietary analyses using metagenomics, species discovery and community diversity estimation using metabarcoding, though to indirect species detection and identification using environmental (eDNA).
We collaborate with EBL parasitologist Mackenzie Kwak on research into the ecto- and endoparasites of the Tasmanian devil.
save the Tasmanian devil program
The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (STDP) is the official governmental response to the threat to the devil's survival posed by Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD). An initiative of the Australian and Tasmanian governments, the program is tasked with the conservation of the iconic endangered species.
We coordinate our fieldwork with STDP to maximize the coverage of the overall monitoring program, share demographic data on all the animals we capture, report suspected cases of DFTD and take tumor biopsies to confirm the disease, and develop research projects that complement STDP's work. Because of the location of our study sites, we have also been able support STDP by documenting the movement of the "disease front" into far northwestern Tasmania, the last disease-free area in the state.
University of cambridge
The Transmissible Cancer Group in the Department of Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge, led by Dr. Elizabeth Murchison, conducts ground-breaking research on the evolution and genetics of directly transmissible cancers such as Devil Facial Tumor Disease. Their research, which incorporates approaches from the fields of genetics, genomics and molecular biology, continues to expand our understanding of how DFTD arose and how it is evolving over time — crucial information for researchers working on DFTD treatment and vaccine option, as well as for cancer researchers more generally.
We support Dr. Murchison's work by collecting tumor biopsies from DFTD-infected animals at our study sites, which allows her team to determine whether new strains of the disease are evolving in different localities.
university of new south wales
The Mammal Lab in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of New South Wales is run by Professor Tracey Rogers, a specialist in predator ecology and biology. Professor Rogers and her team have done extensive research using stable isotope analysis, a technique that compares the ratio of different isotopes of carbon and nitrogen in a sample, to assess the dietary composition of several species. With this technique, a drop of blood is sufficient to identify the makeup of an animal's diet for the preceding two to four weeks; a single whisker can provide a dietary profile for up to a year prior.
TCC postgraduate researcher Anna Lewis is doing her Ph.D. research at the Mammal Lab, focusing on various aspects of the diet of Tasmanian devils and spotted-tailed quolls; her research will draw on an extensive sample bank we began collecting in 2014. We have also supported the Mammal Lab's research on devil behavior by deploying acoustic loggers at our study sites to record wild Tasmanian devil vocalizations.
university of sydney
The Carnivore Conservancy has its roots at the University of Sydney. TCC founder and executive director Channing Hughes began his Tasmanian devil and quoll field research as a Ph.D. student there in 2012 and expects to complete his doctorate in 2019. His primary academic supervisor is Chris Dickman, Professor in Terrestrial Ecology in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, who also serves as TCC's Director of Scientific Research.
We also collaborate with the Australasian Wildlife Genomics Group in the Faculty of Veterinary Science, which is responsible for cutting-edge research on the genetics of the devil and of Devil Facial Tumor Disease.
zoo and aquarium association of australasia
Zoos Victoria is a zoo-based conservation organisation, supporting threatened species conservation via three zoos: Healesville Sanctuary, Melbourne Zoo and Werribee Open Range Zoo. They have a strong commitment to Victorian and regional threatened species through active breeding, reintroduction and insurance programs, research, awareness-raising and advocacy. Part of this commitment is Zoos Victoria’s involvement in Tasmanian devil research and their regional captive breeding and insurance program.
We work closely with Zoos Victoria staff in the area of behavioral ecology. Maintaining wild behaviors in captive animals can be difficult, and the more zoos know about how wild devils behave, they better they can develop husbandry practices to maintain and promote such behavior in captive animals. For that reason, Zoos Victoria was keen to join us and National Geographic to explore the possibilities of using Crittercam technology on devils. The three organizations worked closely together to conduct a pilot study with captive devils at Healesville Sanctuary, which enabled successful Crittercam deployments on wild devils starting in 2015.