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Conservation Research Institute


Project 7: (July Only) Promoting the uptake of new guidelines for the socially responsible use of conservation monitoring technology
Supervisors: Dr Chris Sandbrook, Dr Doug Clark and Steph O'Donnell 

Wildlife conservation organisations and researchers are making increasing use of newly available digital monitoring technologies. These include camera traps, drones, environmental DNA, acoustic listening posts, smartphone apps and many more. These devices enable the collection of data on wildlife presence, movement and behaviour, which can be used for basic ecological research and to better understand population trends and threats. The same devices can often be used to collect data on people who are present in wildlife habitat – either deliberately, for example, to tackle illegal hunting, or accidentally, for example when people pass in front of cameras intended to photograph wild animals.  

There is emerging evidence that conservation monitoring technology can have significant social impacts on people who are photographed or otherwise affected by these devices. People can feel that their privacy has been infringed, they can feel afraid of the devices and what they might do, and they can be exploited by those who hold their data. To address these concerns and help the conservation technology to minimise its social impacts, a group of authors from UCCRI, CCI organisations and external partners have recently published an article entitled Principles for the socially responsible use of conservation monitoring technology and data. This has been well received on social media and in discussions with some tech users. However, there has been no concerted effort to encourage uptake of the principles by the wider conservation community. 

The purpose of this UCCRI summer internship is to carry out a range of activities that will increase the impact of the published principles. In doing so, the intern will develop their ability to convert research findings into real-world impact – a crucial skill set for any conservation researcher or practitioner. The activities envisaged include: 

  • Producing a 2 page ‘glossy’ briefing document that sets out the principles in a visually appealing way that will appeal to users 
  • Producing a poster version of the principles that could be shared with the user community 
  • Identifying key outlets for sharing the principles – listservs, conferences, social media accounts, other events 
  • Helping with the design and delivery of a webinar to which key actors from the conservation tech community will be invited. This will include presentations and discussion. The intern would be given the opportunity to present as part of this event 
  • Helping with the drafting of a longer-form blog / online piece to promote the principles, such as in The Conversation 

This is an indicative list that may change depending on opportunities that emerge and the ongoing progress of the team in publicising the principles. The ideal intern will have an interest in social dimensions of conservation and will possess excellent written, verbal and visual communications skills. Knowledge of software for the preparation of visually impressive outputs would be a bonus.

The key contact person for the internship will be Dr Chris Sandbrook, from the Department of Geography, who is the co-lead author on the published paper. There will also be considerable interaction with other UCCRI/CCI people involved in the project (such as Trishant Simlai in Geography and Stephanie O’Donnell of WildLabs in FFI). There should also be the chance to discuss the project with tech users in the CCI practitioner community.