About me

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I'm a field ecologist with a focus on wild mammal ecology and conservation in one of the biodiversity hotspots of China - the Tibetan Plateau.

Among all wildlife, large mammals probably present the greatest challenge to conservation. Because of their large home ranges and space needs, there is widespread debate on whether the conservation of large mammals should rely on spatially separating them from humans through protected areas, or on facilitating their long-term existence in human-dominated landscapes. Answers to this debate and an understanding of their particular contexts are urgently needed, given the projected increase in human resource needs in the coming decades and the resultant further increase in the threats facing wildlife.

My research started from the impact of human pastoral land use activities on an iconic large carnivore, the snow leopard (Panthera uncia) and its natural prey species. Currently my interest developed into several aspects:
1) Why some species survived better to dominant human land use activities while some failed? 2) The complex interactions (trophic, spatial and temporal) among wild ungulates and carnivores under the context of human land use. 3) Based on the interactions, what is the ecological function of large carnivores and herbivores? Especially for the less adaptive species, does it matter if they go extinct? 4) The impact of national laws, policies and local social-economic context on conservation issues.

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Last updated on 26 June 2022, 6:00 AM
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Foodscape mapping of wild ungulates to promote wildlife-friendly herding on the Tibetan Plateau

In the face of rapid changes in climate and social-economic conditions, neither the traditional ecological knowledge of local pastoralists on the Tibetan Plateau nor the centrally-designed national policies have been able to address the emerging threats to rangelands that both local livelihood and wildlife rely upon. Crucially, lack of understanding of the ecological needs of each wild ungulate species under the influence of existing livestock management practice hinders the adoption of wildlife-friendly rangeland management. Meanwhile, local community members were largely excluded from the grasslands policy development process, so they lack motivations to actively and creatively conserve their pasturelands. We aim to strongly collaborate with local herders in Chiat’ung meadow, Sanjiangyuan National Park to develop wild ungulate-friendly rangeland management knowledge through foodscape mapping of wild ungulate species to understand their potential conflict with livestock under the current pastoral land use. Through collaboration with local communities and governments, the results will help improve the consensus among key conservation stakeholders on the existing gaps in policy and practice of wild ungulate conservation on the Tibetan Plateau and promote sustainable pasture management.

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Photographer: Bo Lei

Tibetan wild ass. Sanjiangyuan National Park. Photographer Lei Dong..jpg

Photographer: Lei Dong

The multiple faces of China's wildlife trade

The current pandemic has elicited the ban of wildlife meat consumption in China. This ban has not affected other uses (e.g. traditional medicine), and has raised concerns among scientific and social sectors defending well-regulated wildlife utilization (e.g. farming) as a tool to prevent poaching and illegal trade. However, there is a gap in knowledge on the effectiveness of the current licensing system in preventing illegal activities and benefiting wildlife species (Xiao et. al. 2021), as well as on our understanding of the drivers of demand for wildlife products. In this research project, we aim to jointly analyze supply- and demand-sides of wildlife trade in order to design more accurately targeted policies and regulations, law enforcement, and education campaigns. Thus, this project will enable the formulation of informed political decisions aiming to protect wildlife and will also benefit NGOs interested in targeting on specific social groups, regions and species for their education campaigns.

Collaborator: Emilio Pagani Nunez, Peng Zhao

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Community dynamics of the sympatric mammalian assemblage in snow leopard habitat

The relationships among different species are largely ignored in current conservation policies of China, which are mostly based on the threatened status of a species and use a strategy emphasizing surrogate species conservation in order to achieve ecosystem recovery targets. In this project we use the snow leopards Panthera uncia and its sympatric species to evaluate the effectiveness of this single-species approach. We aim to study the community dynamics and species interactions of snow leopards and sympatric mammal species on the Tibetan Plateau, using an extensive dataset of spatial-temporal activity patterns of a diverse set of mammalian species, collected by a long-term wildlife camera trap monitoring program covering 8000 km2 of snow leopard habitat. This project will improve conservation strategies based on a better understanding of each species' spatial-temporal niche, interactions and impacts of human disturbance.

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