Sandhill Rustic moth.

University scientists develop new tools for conservation and wildlife management

A University of Exeter team has developed new software tools for helping prioritise efforts in species conservation. As well as determining which species need our help, it will also be useful in pest control and sustainable harvesting.

The researchers from the University’s Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) and Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the Cornwall Campus have launched their new software, called ‘popdemo’ with the publication of two articles in the British Ecological Society journal Methods in Ecology & Evolution. The software is free to anyone and, although it is based on complex mathematical models, it is easy to use.

Popdemo adds to the established ‘R’ project, which provides free and powerful software, for statistics and modelling, to scientists and environmental groups worldwide.

Main researcher University of Exeter PhD student Iain Stott says: “Open source software is the future for scientific methods and tools: it allows anyone to engage with scientific research for free. I am proud to be able to contribute to this global software philosophy.”

Stuart Townley, Professor of Applied Mathematics in the ESI, says: “This is the culmination of eight years interdisciplinary research involving biologists and mathematicians. Popdemo makes sophisticated mathematical tools accessible to applied ecologists”.

Dave Hodgson, Senior Lecturer in Ecology at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation, says: “There is a pressing need for the sustainable use of biological resources. Our package allows ecologists to make the right decisions when conserving or managing wildlife populations”.

Iain Stott’s PhD studentship is supported by the European Social Fund. Popdemo is available online and is free to use.

Date: 8 June 2012

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