Office of Research

Center for Conservation Biology


The goals and mission of the Center for Conservation Biology include:

Research and development, including careful validation experiments, are essential to our mission of providing the conservation community with cost and time-effective monitoring tools.

Our combined field and laboratory techniques enable us to non-invasively acquire essential biological information from numerous individuals over large geographic areas. We continually expand our measures to acquire the most comprehensive estimates of wildlife population health.

Most of our studies rely on animal feces (scat) because of its high accessibility in the wilderness and the enormous amount of information contained in these samples. However, sample degradation in a variable environment necessitates meticulous validation of these measures.

Validation confirms the biological significance of the products being measured in scat, how these products change with time on the ground, and how these processes vary across species and environmental conditions. Validation also indicates how best to preserve samples in the field for subsequent analyses as well as how to optimize extractions of the necessary products from the sample. All of these experiments are necessary to assure that results can withstand the many scientific and legal challenges that stem from the political and economic implications of conservation work.

Validation studies are time and cost intensive due to the need for numerous controls, multiple groups, and large sample sizes. Our Center has devoted considerable resources to such studies. We intend to continue these development and validation efforts, as we strive to expand and improve upon available monitoring tools.

Human population growth and consumption are placing ever-increasing demands on the environment. Yet, there is a serious lack of quantitative techniques to monitor these impacts over large landscapes.

The Center's mission is to develop and apply noninvasive field, lab and analytical methods to address pressing conservation problems worldwide.

We develop and apply comprehensive tools to cost-effectively gather vast amounts of genetic, physiologic and ecological data over very large landscapes, along with creative ways of integrating and analyzing this information. These monitoring programs focus on a wide variety of species and frequently take advantage of our detection dog program. Dogs locate scat of multiple target species, from considerable distances, over large remote areas. We extract a variety of DNA and hormone measures from these samples and use this information to quantify changes in the health, abundance and distribution of endangered species due to human disturbances over large geographic scales. Such data indicate the causes of decline, the magnitude of the problem, and the efficacy of mitigation.

We collaborate with colleagues inside and outside the UW.
Collaborators include USFWS, USFS, USGS, NOAA, INTERPOL, LATF, Bruce Weir and Cathie Laurie at UW Biostatistics.

Core Services Offered

We provide core facilities to analyze a variety of hormones, DNA, immune markers and toxins from wildlife scat. We deploy scat detection dogs from our Conservation Canine facility to locate scat. Our kennels can hold up to 30 dogs and is based at the UW Center for Sustainable Forestry in Eatonville, WA to address conservation problems around the world.

We conduct ivory forensics analyses to determine the origin of much elephant ivory seizures around the world for wildlife and law enforcement authorities at INTERPOL, USFWS, and many African and Asian countries.

Funding Information:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
U.S. Forest Service (USFS).
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA (WA Sea Grant).

Reporting Structure:

Ray Huey, Chair, Department of Biology

Related UW Entities:

College of the Environment

Center Details

Center for Conservation Biology.jpg
Director: Wasser, Samuel K.
Location: Johnson Hall
Year Started: 2001
Administering College/School: College of Arts & Sciences 
P.I. Home Department: Department of Biology 
Faculty Involvement: 1