Tuesday, 17 August 2010

IUCN - Species programme: A New Job

I now have that all important paid job in GIS and conservation. The voluntary work I did in Hawaii and Sri Lanka has paid off. I cannot recommend voluntary work high enough to recent graduates. Both in terms of the incredible experience gained and getting your nose in front of the competition. It seems a lot of GIS graduates are really struggling to find work. If you can get a few months experience on your CV then doors begin to open.

My job is working for the IUCN species programme. The IUCN among other things manages The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species which is the most comprehensive and consulted resource for evaluating the status and distribution of plant and animal species. I am based in the Cambridge office and will be working for the Freshwater Biodiversity Assessment Unit and the Climate Change Unit. Freshwater species are a vital part of ecosystems as well as being a dependable source of food for human populations. The main threats to freshwater biodiversity are habitat loss, introduction of alien species, pollution and over-harvesting. Global warming has already been implicated in hundreds of cases of species decline. Approximately 30% of plant and animal species are likely to be at increasingly high risk as global mean temperatures rise by 2-3 °C above preindustrial levels. Thus far it has been hunting and habitat loss that have been the main culprits behind recent species extinction but climate change will begin to show an ever increasing role. The question is which species and which habitats will be most affected?

One of the first tasks assigned to be me is to develop some GIS tools for capturing the habitat range of freshwater species (more on this in future posts). While at the IUCN I’m hoping to work on Species Distribution Modelling which will allow us to define species ranges in a more intelligent way than simply capturing a polygon which has been drawn on a map by an expert. SDM which incorporates Habitat Suitability Modelling and Ecological Niche Modelling, involves combining a number of eco-geographical factors such as elevation, precipitation and human disturbance to calculate the probability that a species can exist at a certain location.