How does citizen science support your research?
Citizen science harnesses the information potential of routine human activity. It presents opportunities for international technique and data exchange that can be applied to conservation. Other Earthwatch projects in Trinidad have helped sustain local ecotourism and wildlife rehab centers, and promoted the use of social media for conservation purposes. These events have caused an upheaval in the way people in Trinidad and Tobago view the natural history of these islands. A lot of that change stems from efforts of citizen scientists who have helped to assign value to natural history in the eyes of the general population.
Why is this project meaningful to you?
I was raised in Trinidad and ocelots were always something of fascination for me. This whole project is part of my heritage. I want to translate science so that the little kid with a twinkle in his eye can understand it. Trinidad presents a unique context where we have the potential to help a nation embrace an eco-economy by assigning value to a species. If it’s managed well, ocelot conservation and tourism can help the people and local economy through improved land use. Although the ocelot is the flagship species of the project, the methods used will generate data that we need for many mammals in Trinidad and Tobago. These data help us simultaneously manage the ecology of many species and systems. This is critical now that we have reached the stage where human influence on wildlife is inevitable.