March 9-12, 2018 at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland
23 young researchers attended the CON@SK.PL winter school to learn about data, tools and models for analyzing ecological connectivity in human-dominated landscapes.
The loss of ecological connectivity in increasingly fragmented human-dominated landscapes threatens the long-term persistence of many species. The Northern Carpathians are a European hotspot of natural wildness harboring various umbrella species e.g. brown bear or European bison, particularly in the border area between Slovakia and Poland.
The Visegrad project CON@SK.PL involving Slovakia and Poland, intended to bring together scientists and stakeholders to work on conservation solutions to enhance ecological connectivity for large mammals in the human-dominated transboundary region.
The winter school for young scientists funded by CON@SK.PL provided baseline knowledge on how to tackle conservation challenges related to ecological connectivity. Over the course of three days at the Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland, the participants learned to use data and tools for ecological connectivity modelling. They came from very mixed academic backgrounds and stages of their careers - some have just started their doctoral research, whereas other participants are qualified university lecturers.
Despite this, all of the international participants shared a common interest: they wanted to know more on data and tools on how to model connectivity and infer to which degree connectivity is driven by landscape patterns. The winter school highlighted concepts and approaches to ecological connectivity assessments with thematic lectures and provided direct implementations of data, tools and models with hands-on computer exercises.
The first day was dedicated to remote sensing data and habitat modelling.
- Tobias Kümmerle from Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, set the stage for the winter school with a keynote lecture on new remote sensing opportunities for understanding the habitat dynamics of large mammals.
- The implementation of remote sensing data and their visualization was guided by Katarzyna Ostapovicz (Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland) and Robert Pazur (WSL, Switzerland and Slovak Academies of Sciences) with hands-on computer exercises.
- Habitat modelling was introduced by Benjamin Bleyhl from Humboldt University to assess potential drivers of species distributions.
The second day focused on assessing connectivity in a landscape context.
- Nuria Selva from the Polish Academies of Sciences set the stage with a keynote lecture on tracking wildlife and identifying barriers to connectivity.
- Janine Bolliger, Bronwyn Price (WSL, Switzerland) and Elżbieta Ziółkowska (Jagiellonian University) introduced various computer tools (least cost, cost surfaces, networks) to assess ecological connectivity, illustrated by a broad range of examples ranging from purely structural to functional ecological connectivity applications.