COLLEGE STATION – A 2012 graduate of Ranchview High School, Lauren Naylor took part in research that scientists use to determine which animals should be added to or removed from the endangered species list.
Every four years about 10,000 environmentalists, policy makers and politicians from more than 150 countries gather for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress. This meeting is being held in Honolulu from Sept. 1-10 and it is here where information about the health of species is shared.
The IUCN is best known for its Red List of Threatened Species. Dr. Thomas Lacher, professor of wildlife and fisheries sciences said the main purpose of the list is to catalogue and highlight plants and animals facing global extinction.
“Texas A&M has several major roles within the IUCN,” Lacher said. “We are the site of the IUCN Small Mammal Specialist Group responsible for assessing the risk of extinction for half of the world’s known mammals.”
Lacher added that Texas A&M is the only U.S. university that is a partner with the IUCN and that the university is renewing a new five-year memorandum of agreement with the organization.
Naylor graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in wildlife and fisheries sciences last May and was hand-selected by Lacher in the fall of 2015 to participate in the research. Because the work has such an immediate impact, Lacher has more applicants than positions. Naylor assisted with assessing the animal species, organizing and directing the volunteers who updated and revised several hundred maps that scientists use to track wildlife.
“Getting the chance to work on a project of such scale has helped to give me insight into the importance of collaboration and effective communication,” Naylor said. “I am really excited about the possible implications of our work, knowing that someone might be able to take the information that I helped gather and use it to create a more effective conservation plan, to me that is really rewarding! It's a neat feeling to know that you helped make a difference, even if it's a small one.
“Student participation is integral to the success of the IUCN Red List process as they are who will eventually carry the efforts forward,” said Lacher. “All of our students involved with the Red List must pass a rigorous training course, and several have had the opportunity to travel with graduate students doing Red List-related research to Costa Rica, Mexico and the UK.”
Naylor continued her volunteer work with conservation group this summer and is now begun a graduate program in conservation biology at Columbia University in New York City.
"Conservation is just as much about people as animals, and it takes several groups - researchers, students, the general public - working together to really make a difference,” Naylor said. “The IUCN has really proved to be welcoming to young researchers. As an organization, they truly seem invested in helping mentor the next generation of conservationists, and provide both opportunities and resources to help us thrive. I have gained an immense amount of experience and knowledge from working on this project, and that has proved exceedingly helpful in furthering both my interest in this field and my career opportunities.”