Jaguars robust to climate extremes but lack of food threatens species

jaguar
Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

A new QUT-led study has found wild jaguars in the Amazon can cope with climate extremes in the short-term, but numbers will rapidly decline if weather events increase in frequency, diminishing sources of food.


Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen and Professor Kevin Burrage led a team of researchers in a world-first investigation of the big cat’s chances of survival.

The new research results have been published in Ecology and Evolution.

The jaguar (Panthera onca) is the dominant predator in Central and South America and is considered a near-threatened species by the International Union Conservation Nature.

Research main points:

  • Results are concerning for future viability of jaguar populations in Peruvian Amazon.
  • Stochastic statistical temporal model of jaguar abundance considers six population scenarios and estimates of prey species.
  • Jaguar diet includes white lipped peccary, collared peccary, red brochet deer, white tailed deer, agouti, paca and armadillo.
  • Species exhibit some robustness to extreme drought and flood, but repeated exposure can result in rapid decline.
  • Predictions show species can recover- at lower numbers—if there are periods of benign climate patterns.
  • Modelling provides framework to evaluate complex ecological problems using sparse information sources.

Professor Mengersen said the Pacaya Semiria Reserve covers 20,800 km2 in the Loreto region of the Peruvian Amazon, comprised of mostly primary forest.

“Estimates of jaguar numbers are difficult to achieve because the big cats are cryptic by nature, are not always uniquely identifiable, and their habitat can be hostile to humans,” Professor Mengersen said.

Credit: Queensland University of Technology

The project drew on information gathered during a 2016 trip to the remote reserve, as well as a census study based on camera traps and scat analysis, jaguar ecology, and an elicitation study of Indigenous rangers in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.

Six jaguar population scenarios were analysed mapping the jungle creature’s solitary behaviour, mating, births of cubs at certain times of the year, competition, illegal hunting, death from starvation and availability of key prey.

Professor Kevin Burrage cautioned the predicted results for the jaguars in the long-term were concerning.

“Our results imply that jaguars can cope with extreme drought and flood, but there is a very high probability that the population will crash if the conditions are repeated over short time periods. These scenarios are becoming more likely due to climate change,” he said.

“The declines may be further exacerbated by hunting of both jaguars and their prey, as well as loss of habitat through deforestation.”

Professor Burrage said scenario 1 estimated the jaguar population at 600-700 assuming stable prey availability while scenario 6 was an extreme case with drought and flood occurring every other year.

“In this worst-case scenario, prey levels could not recover, and jaguar populations was predicted to drop to single figures in 30 years’ time,” Professor Burrage said.

In addition to Professors Mengersen and Burrage, researchers involved in the study included Professor Erin Peterson, Professor Tomasz Bednarz, Dr. Pamela Burrage, Dr. Julie Vercelloni and June Kim based at the ARC Centre of

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A student donated $36,000 to say sorry for her lack of dedication to university council role



a large stone building: University of Sydney Campus and Quadrangle in Sydney. Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images


© Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
University of Sydney Campus and Quadrangle in Sydney. Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

  • A student at the University of Sydney pledged to make a personal donation of around $36,000 to the student council after being criticized for slacking in her elected job.
  • Abbey Shi, an art and law student, had not performed her duties as co-general secretary in the last three months and had been ordered to pay back $2,000 of her annual $8,700 pay, which is student-funded.
  • The council meeting descended into “chaos” after Shi announced that she would pay the money with an additional $34,000 as a charitable donation. 
  • The student later claimed she had made money from “the stock surge” in the last year.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A student at the University of Sydney made a personal donated $36,000 (AUS $50,000) to the student council after she faced criticism for slacking in her elected job as General Secretary.

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Abbey Shi, one of the council’s two elected general secretaries, was condemned for not doing any work in her student-funded position for three months. She was ordered to pay back $2,000 of her annual $8,700 pay.

But Shi left her colleagues speechless after joining a zoom call last-minute to pledge that she was paying the money back with an additional $34,000 as a charitable donation.

The surprise announcement caused the online meeting to descend into “chaos,” according to the student newspaper, Honi Soit. See a live commentary of the November 9 meeting here.

Shi later told Honi Soit that she had made the money from “the stock surge and CFD trades in times of the rebound of the Nasdaq, ASX, and other Asian stock markets” in the last year.

“People vaguely heard, but they weren’t sure if it was 15,000 or 50,000,” the current Students’ Representative Council president, Liam Donohoe, told the Guardian when discussing the aftermath of the announcement.

“Honestly, yes I am shocked, and the more I think about it the more shocked I am,” he added.

 

At the start of the meeting, Liam Thomas, who shared the general secretary position with Shi in the past year, proposed a motion to publicly condemn her after she had not performed any of her required duties and ignored various emails.

 Thomas told Honi Soit“It was especially disappointing that a large period of this coincided with me spending almost a month in the hospital, during this time I asked her to take over Gen Sec duties and received no responses from her.”

But after Shi appeared in the Zoom call, she moved a new motion and pledged her charitable donation. The council accepted it by 16 votes to two.

Thomas added that he felt the donation was genuine and “not a political stunt”, telling the Guardian: “To be honest that money can go a long way, as we are run on a shoestring budget.”

But Donohoe said Shi’s donation posed legal

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Scientific Journals Commit to Diversity, but Lack the Data

Publishing papers in top-tier journals is crucial scholastic currency. But the process is deeply insular, often hinging on personal connections between journal editors and the researchers from whom they solicit and receive manuscripts.

“Science is publicized as a meritocracy: a larger, data-driven enterprise in which the best work and the best people float to the top,” Dr. Extavour said. In truth, she added, universal, objective standards are lacking, and “the access that authors have to editors is variable.”

To democratize this process, editors and reviewers need to level the playing field, in part by reflecting the diversity that journals claim they seek, Dr. Kamath said. “People think this is a cosmetic or surface issue,” she said. “But in reality, the very nature of your scholarship would change if you took diversity, equity and inclusion seriously.”

In responses to The Times, several organizations, including A.A.A.S., Cell Press, the Lancet and PLoS, pointed to ongoing efforts to track and boost equitable gender representation in science. Of the journals who kept tabs on these trends, many had hired women into leadership and editor positions. But where reported, authors and reviewers who identified as male still outnumbered their female colleagues — and not all organizations offered a nonbinary option. (Publishing rates among women have also fallen since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.)

Other journals largely skirted questions.

Jim Michalski, a senior public information officer at JAMA, did not provide data on the company’s employees, instead inviting The Times in an email “to visit our websites and assess the diversity of all aspects of the leadership of each JAMA Network journal, including Editors in Chief, Deputy Editors, Editorial Boards, etc.”

After evaluating some of the publishers’ written responses to The Times, Dr. Crystal Wiley Cené, a physician and health equity researcher at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, said, “I really questioned whether I would submit my work there again.”

The barriers raised to people of color in academia — often referred to as an ivory tower — arise early and often. “There is this false narrative that to achieve diversity, we have to compromise on excellence,” Dr. Muñoz said.

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Bristol students to withhold rent over university’s ‘lack of support’

Hundreds of mainly first-year students in Bristol are poised to stage a rent strike in protest at the university’s treatment of people forced to self-isolate in halls and degree courses taught almost entirely online.



a group of people walking down a street next to tall buildings: Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

According to organisers, more than 800 students have so far signed a pledge to withhold their rent to the university when it is due on Friday. They are calling for Bristol to release students who want to go home from their rental contracts, refund 100% of deposits, and offer a 30% reduction in rent for the rest of the year for those who choose to stay.

They are the latest group to threaten to withhold payment for accommodation, after students studying at universities including Glasgow and Cambridge did the same.

More than 900 students and staff at Bristol have so far tested positive for coronavirus, with many more forced to self-isolate as a result of being in contact with confirmed cases. Students who spoke to the Guardian said the university had failed to support students who were stuck in their flats for weeks on end.

They say food parcels have been insufficient and welfare checks sporadic or nonexistent, while young students have been confined to their flats for 24 hours a day, with no opportunity to exercise or, in some cases, even see natural light.

“People are not getting enough food,” said Saranya Thambirajah, a 19-year-old politics and sociology student from London. “There’s countless stories of people receiving one or two boxes [of food] for an eight-person flat for a whole two weeks; people not receiving vegetarian food if they’re vegetarian, or gluten-free and other dietary requirements like that; people receiving boxes with peanuts in them if they are allergic.”

Oliver Bulbrook, 18, also from London, who is studying English, said he and his five flatmates had been forced to self-isolate after one had come into contact with someone who tested positive.

“Despite registering as self-isolating on the first day it took just over a week for the food parcel from the university to arrive, and then, when it did, it was only suitable for two people and we were a flat of six,” he said.

Not only were the food packages insufficient, students said, but in many cases they did not contain essential items like cleaning products, tampons and sanitary towels.

Students said that security staff had been posted in halls to enforce Covid regulations, but with no clear communication from the university about what their powers were. In some cases security had threatened to fine students for having more than six people in their kitchens, despite those students living in flats of eight or 14 residents.

The university said that security staff were needed to ensure that students were

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