Welcome to the C19-Wild Research Group website. We are a group of ecologists and other scientists studying impacts of COVID-19 related travel restrictions on wildlife.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented impacts on human social behaviour. Air and ground traffic has been dramatically altered as a result of travel restrictions imposed on communities world-wide. This may have impacts on many species of wildlife, including mammals, resident and migratory birds, and many species at risk. Our research group brings together ecological scientists from across the world who are studying these impacts on wildlife.
Juan Pablo Medina
Our objectives are to:
Understand impacts of COVID-19 related travel restrictions on wildlife,
Provide a virtual venue to bring together research teams from across the world,
Share knowledge, ideas, and data sources to optimize the quality of scientific research conducted,
Maximize complementarity among different research projects,
Minimize duplication of research efforts.
Travel restrictions may have both positive and negative impacts on wildlife. Reduced anthropogenic noise and traffic may decrease traffic mortality and acoustic masking of vocal communications (songs and calls), which may benefit some species. Conversely, some species may actually respond negatively to decreased traffic, often because noise and traffic mediate complex interactions among prey, predators, and competitors of focal species. For example, decreased traffic may lead to increased abundance and activity of introduced mammals such as rats and domestic cats; as these introduced species are responsible for declines of many bird and reptile species, their increased abundance or activity may negatively impact native species. To understand the impacts of traffic and associated disturbances, such as air and noise pollution, we must monitor the wildlife that may be impacted by them. This will help us understand impacts of traffic on wildlife, while also alerting us to population responses that require management intervention.
University of Manitoba, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Carleton University, University of Alberta, Arizona State University
We are studying impacts of COVID-19-related travel restrictions on birds across the continental USA and Canada, using data collected through eBird from 2017-2020. We are particularly interested in impacts of changes in ground-level and near-ground traffic in the vicinities of airports and major roads. We will be working with collaborators to evaluate whether observed impacts on birds are due to traffic mortality, noise, pollution, exotic species (cats, rats), or other changes to urban wildlife communities. We are using eBird data and other large national and international data sets, supplemented by some local empirical field studies, to evaluate these impacts.
Technical committee: Drs. Nicola Koper, Michael Schrimpf, Lenore Fahrig, Barry Robinson, Nancy Mahoney, and Adam Smith. Mr. Paulson Des Brisay.
Scientific Journal Paper: Reduced human activity during COVID-19 alters avian land use across North America (science.org)
Media coverage of this research (selected):
Birds flocked to cities during COVID-19, rapidly adapting to lockdowns (nationalgeographic.com)
Birds took advantage of lockdowns by hanging out in the city, study finds | CBC News
Lockdowns are for the birds: New research shows the benefit of reduced human activity - The Globe and Mail
Lockdown made cities friendlier for some birds | Popular Science (popsci.com)
Study Suggests That Birds Expand Their Range When Humans Shrink Theirs | Sierra Club
Op-Ed in Globe and Mail: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-reducing-traffic-means-more-birds-and-happier-people/
TV interview: https://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=2289205
Jessica Sanchez Jasso
University of Washington
PhD student Olivia Sanderfoot has initiated a citizen-science based project in the Pacific North-West region of the USA to understand impacts of COVID-19 related environmental changes on birds. Community members will collect observations of birds in their backyards in 2020 and 2021 to compare impacted and non-impacted years. This research group will place a particular focus on impacts of air pollutants on bird communities.
For more information on this project, please see https://ebird.org/pnw/news/impact-of-social-distancing-on-bird-activity. For more information on Dr. Gardner’s research program, please see http://depts.washington.edu/sefsqel/.
Personnel: Dr. Beth Gardner and Ms. Olivia Sanderfoot oliviavs"at"uw.edu
Jessica Sanchez Jasso
Urban Wildlife Information Network
The Urban Wildlife Information Network (UWIN) is a global network collecting urban wildlife data. This team is coordinating data analyses (mostly from camera trap studies) across North American cities to understand impacts of COVID 19 travel and transportation restrictions on urban wildlife.
For more information about this network, their website is https://urbanwildlifeinfo.org/.
Contact: Network Coordinator, Cria Kay, UWIN"at"lpzoo.org.
University of British Columbia: Terrestrial Mammals
Photo: wildlife camera image of mountain goat on a trail in Cathedral Provincial Park, BC.
We are getting together researchers with ongoing camera trap surveys measuring activity of wildlife (primarily medium and large-bodied terrestrial mammals) and humans before, during, and after the Covid-19 “lockdown”. We aim to assess changes in the distribution, relative abundance, and activity of a range of wildlife species as a function of changes in human activity, within and outside of parks and protected areas. We have projects from around the world that are interested in contributing data to this effort.
Team lead: Dr. Cole Burton, cole.burton “at” ubc.ca
Silent Cities is an international project designed to document the amplitude and qualities of urban noise during the unprecedented world-wide lockdowns during COVID-19 travel restrictions. Participants can contribute sound recordings by following scientific protocols established by the team. For information, see https://osf.io/h285u/ for technical information, or https://lifeology.io/silent-cities-monitoring-the-sound-of-human-quarantine-around-the-globe/ for a descriptive blog.
Contact: Dr. Nicolas Farrugia. nicolas.farrugia “at” imt-atlantique.fr.
Other PIs include Drs. Samuel Challéat, Jeremy Froidevaux, and Amandine Gasc
Trials of Traffic
Mountain goats in Yoho National Park seasonally visit a roadside mineral lick situated along the Trans-Canada Highway. Our aim is to assess if there is a change in duration and frequency of visits to mineral licks in relation to the decrease in traffic volume during the C-19 lock-down. We will use GPS collared mountain goat movements and trail camera datasets collected over the past three years to detect a change in behaviour of mountain goat utilization of mineral licks. This is a collaboration between Simon Fraser University (Ms. Laura Kroesen and Dr. David Hik) and Parks Canada (Mr. Seth Cherry).
Contact: Ms. Kroesen, lkroesen"at"sfu.ca
Assessing the response of wildlife to COVID-19 using bio-loggers
The COVID-19 Bio-Logging Initiative recently formed under the umbrella of the International Bio-Logging Society (www.bio-logging.net), in collaboration with the Movebank research platform, and the Max Planck–Yale Center for Biodiversity, Movement and Global Change. This large consortium will use data from animals fitted with tracking devices (“bio-loggers”) to assess wildlife responses to COVID-19. There are no restrictions with regards to locality, taxa studied (marine/terrestrial, birds/mammals, etc.), bio-logging approaches used (movement, activity, physiology, etc.), sample size, and likelihood of local COVID-19 effects. Amongst other things, the team will update an earlier global study using GPS tracking data for terrestrial mammals (see separate listing).
To register interest in contributing data and/or expertise, please fill in this questionnaire: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf34sRZLxfnkrwnje7tt14sXkauqb3evRF5pd5mn64NLp2qrw/viewform?usp=sf_link
For more information, please contact: covid19.biologging.initiative"at"gmail.com
Impacts of Lockdowns on Citizen Science
We are evaluating the impact of COVID-associated lockdowns and disruptions in human activities on participation in biodiversity-themed community science programs, including eBird, iNaturalist, eButterfly, and Nature's Notebook. The data contributed to these programs has the potential to offset data losses arising from disruptions in formal monitoring efforts.
For more information, please contact: theresa" at "usanpn.org
Florida Gulf Coast University
Florida Gulf Coast University (www.fgcu.edu) is a young institution in Fort Myers, Florida, founded in 1997. This campus in the southwest, subtropical part of the state is situated within a context of upland forests, cypress swamps and restored wetlands. Accordingly it is common to see wildlife on campus including alligators, wading birds, various turtles and snakes, boar, deer, black bears, and even panthers.
Immediately after covid-19 pushed classes to a remote learning mode in mid-March 2020, the FGCU “naturalist” community began to notice changes in the abundance of wildlife observations on campus. During Spring and Summer 2020, a team of FGCU ecology and biology faculty and students will assess how the cessation of in-person classes is impacting wildlife movements on our campus. Activities include:
Movement cameras and audio recorders
Surveys to measure species abundances and rates of wildlife encounters, including comparisons with prior years
“Bioblitz” surveys as part of student service learning
Indices of human activity will be derived from campus traffic camera data and rates of nearby aircraft landings
Contact: Dr. Kara Lefevre klefevre"at"fgcu.edu
Juan Pablo Medina
PAN-Environment is an international project including researchers from dozens of research institutions world-wide who have come together to understand impacts of COVID-19-related travel and transportation changes on wildlife in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. C19-Wild is proud to be a member of this international research team.
Contact: Dr. Amanda Bates at Memorial University, Newfoundland. Abates"at"mun.ca.
Universities of British Columbia & Montana
Dr. Clayton Lamb is interested in seeking collaborators to work with a large telemetry dataset for grizzly bear (56 animals, 40K relocations) and elk (78 animals, 80K relocations), in Canada’s Rocky Mountains, collected before (2015-2019) and during COVID-19 travel restrictions (April 2020 onwards). The area may show very interesting changes following implementation of travel restrictions, as it features a major highway, 4 small cities, resource development, and wilderness.
The grizzly data are available on Movebank (https://www.movebank.org/cms/webapp?gwt_fragment=page=studies,path=study1044288582).
Contact: Postdoctoral Researcher | Liber Ero Fellow Universities of British Columbia & Montana
Residing in Fernie, BC | Ktunaxa Nation Territory, ctlamb"at"ualberta.ca
Wren K. Bell
The effect of Covid-19 lockdown travel restrictions on avian species in the UK
Birds in the UK use a variety of habitats, some of which may be impacted by the change in human activity associated with the Covid19 lockdown. The UK has been under particularly strong lockdown since March 23rd, limiting travel to essential shopping and work. This suggests that vehicular traffic has decreased significantly, while backyards and a small number of green spaces have experienced increased human activity, perhaps altering avian use of these spaces. Examining the abundance of birds from citizen science databases such as eBird in relation to human activity and movement data will shed light on how the Covid19 travel restrictions in the UK have affected the avian community.
PI: Dr. Miya Warrington, Behavioural Ecologist, Oxfordshire, UK. miya"at"animal-acoustics.com; collaborator: Michelle Taylor, michelletaylor90 "at"gmail.com
Global study examining the response of terrestrial mammals to COVID-19 lockdown
Under the umbrella of the International Bio-Logging Society, Thomas Mueller and Marlee Tucker are leading a collaborative research project examining how the COVID-19 lockdowns may have impacted terrestrial mammals. We are working with movement ecologists across the globe to compile GPS tracking data. The overarching goal is to identify how much of the human footprint is due to human mobility (e.g., is it just infrastructure that causes animals to alter their movement or avoid habitats, or actual human activity?).
For more information, please contact: Dr. Marlee Tucker, Radboud University. tucker.marlee"at"gmail.com
The Big Night: Maine Amphibian Migration Monitoring
This is a citizen science project for the state of Maine that focuses on identifying significant and vulnerable amphibian migration routes. Volunteers collect data on frogs and salamanders during the rainy spring evenings while assisting them across roads to directly relieve populations of road mortality pressure. This team is comparing road mortality of amphibians during COVID-19 travel restrictions with previous years of the survey.
Scientific Journal Paper:
Contact: Mr. Gregory LeClair, University of Maine. gregory.leclair “at” maine.edu
We address the effects of noise pollution on bird song. Our long term work on soundscapes and bird song across the San Francisco Bay Area provides a strong predictive framework to assess the effects of COVID-19 shutdowns on noise pollution levels and bird songs. Most recently, we documented how a songbird responsively exploited newly emptied acoustic space during a statewide California shutdown in April and May 2020 (Derryberry et al 2020 Science). Our findings illustrate that rapid recovery is possible despite long-standing legacies of chronic exposure to noise. We continue to document the pace and tempo of responses to the resurgence of noise pollution as human activity resumes to shed further light on behavioral resilience. We are open to collaborations with those conducting similarly-minded assessments in order to develop a more integrated understanding of how animals respond to reduced human activity.
Photo: white-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) male singing in San Francisco Bay Area (photo by JN Phillips)
Contact: Dr. Elizabeth P Derryberry, University of Tennessee. liz “at” utk.edu
Other PIs on the project include Drs. David Luther (dluther “at” gmu.edu), Jennifer Phillips (jnphilli26" at "gmail.com) and Michael Blum (mblum “at” utk.edu)
Bird Count India
Lockdown Birding Challenge
Bird Count India: https://birdcount.in/ challenged participants in India to record birds seen from their home, 2-4 times per day, from the beginning of lockdown to the end of May. Over 2500 birdwatchers completed at least part of this challenge. Researchers used this opportunity to encourage more people to bird, and will use the data to better understand impacts of the lockdown on India’s bird community.
Image indicates the locations of checklists during the challenge, with darker circles indicating locations with more checklists.
For more information, contact Bird Count India at skimmer"at"birdcount.in. Contact: Dr. Ashwin Viswanathan.
University of Manitoba: Dr. Nicola Koper (Director, C19-Wild). https://koperlab.wixsite.com/koperlab. Nicola.koper"at"umanitoba.ca
Dr. Michael Schrimpf. https://michaelschrimpf.weebly.com/. michael.schrimpf"at"gmail.com
Environment and Climate Change Canada: Drs. Barry Robinson, barry.robinson"at"Canada.ca; Nancy Mahony, nancy.mahony"at" canada.ca; and Adam Smith. Mr. Paulson Des Brisay, Paulson.DesBrisay"at"canada.ca
Carleton University: Dr. Lenore Fahrig. https://carleton.ca/fahriglab/. LenoreFahrig"at"Cunet.Carleton.Ca
University of Washington: Dr. Beth Gardner bg43"at"uw.edu and Ms. Olivia Sanderfoot oliviavs"at"uw.edu
Florida Gulf Coast University: Dr. Kara Lefevre. https://lefevrek.weebly.com/. https://www.fgcu.edu/cas/departments/ees/. klefevre"at"fgcu.edu
Ms. Emily Williams, Avian Biologist, Alaska. ffyngau "at" gmail.com
Dr. Dan Bert, Landscape Ecologist, Ottawa, ON
Dalhousie University, Dr. Andy Horn, Behavioural Ecologist
Dalhousie University, Dr. David Barclay, oceanographer: dbarclay"at"dal.ca
Research areas: underwater noise, sound propagation, and acoustical oceanography. www.noise.phys.ocean.dal.ca
PAN-Environment; a world-wide project to understand impacts of COVID-19 related travel and transportation changes on wildlife. For more information, contact Dr. Amanda Bates at Memorial University, Newfoundland. Abates"at"mun.ca
Dr. Miya Warrington (UK Lead), Behavioural Ecologist, Oxfordshire, UK. miya"at"animal-acoustics.com
Urban Wildlife Information Network (UWIN) (Contact – Cria Kay): UWIN"at"lpzoo.org
Dr. Jesse Lewis. Mammalogy, conservation biology, urban ecology. Arizona State University. jslewi10“at”asu.edu
Dr. Colleen Cassady St. Clair. Urban ecology, conservation biology. cstclair "at" ualberta.ca.
Mr. Gregory LeClair, University of Maine. Herpetologist, citizen science. gregory.leclair “at” maine.edu
Dr. Clayton Lamb, mammalogist. Universities of British Columbia and Montana, ctlamb"at"ualberta.ca
Ms. Amélie Roberto-Charron, ornithologist arobertocharron"at"gmail.com
Dr. Cole Burton, mammalogist. cole.burton"at"ubc.ca
Ms. Michelle Taylor, conservation biologist. michelletaylor90 "at" gmail.com
Dr. Nicolas Farrugia, Associate Professor at IMT Atlantique (France). Artificial intelligence and cognitive neuroscience. nicolas.farrugia “at” imt-atlantique.fr
Ms. Laura Kroesen, ecologist. lkroesen"at"sfu.ca
Dr. Marlee Tucker, Radboud University. tucker.marlee"at"gmail.com
Dr. Ashwin Viswanathan, skimmer"at"birdcount.in
Dr. Elizabeth P Derryberry, University of Tennessee. liz “at” utk.edu
Dr. Theresa M. Crimmins, University of Arizona. theresa" at "usanpn.org
Lots of people are interested in how COVID-19 has influenced the natural world around us. Here are a few examples of news articles that have featured our research efforts so far:
CBC LISTEN, May 2021. U of Manitoba leads global effort to study effect of decreased human activity on wildlife
Science, August 2020. The pandemic stilled human activity. What did this 'anthropause' mean for wildlife?
WIRED, June 2020. The Anthropause: How the Pandemic Gives Scientists a New Way to Study Wildlife
CBC News, May 2020. U of Manitoba leads global effort to study effect of decreased human activity on wildlife
Winnipeg Free Press, May 2020. U of M biologist links global scientists tracking where the wild thinf are during the pandemic
The Washington Post, May 2020. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, people are paying more attention to tweets. And not the Twitter kind
WINK News, May 2020. FGCU faculty, students install cameras to see if an empty campus makes for more wildlife
Canadian Geographic, May 2020. Five conservation experts weight in on the future of wildlife post-COVID-19
Crosscut, May 2020. You could be the citizen scientist the world needs right now
NYT, May 2020. With the World on Pause, Salamanders Own the Road
Global News BC, May 2020. Wildlife cameras in closed B.C. parks capture animals roaming freely
Global News BC, May 2020. COVID-19 shutdown od parks throws UBC study for a loop
CTV news, May 2020. Cameras Capture wildlife activity in closed B.C. park
Vancouver is Awesome, April 2020. 24/7 cameras capture animal activity after B.C. parks close to people (VIDEO)
The Portland Monthly, April 2020. A New Study Aims to Learn the Impacts of Social Distancing on Birds in the Pacific Northwest
UW College of the Environment, April 9, 2020. Community science project tracks changes in bird behavior during coronavirus
KUOW, April 2020. Trapped at home? You can help UW study bird responses to social distancing
Wildlife in the Pandemic; Wildlife Professional, 15(2): 18-26. March/April 2021 edition.
Sound of Silence; Audubon, Spring 2021: 14.
EMBO Reports Interview. http://embor.embopress.org/ in the Science & Society section.
Consulted on impacts of COVID-19 lockdowns on wildlife for documentary “The Year the Earth Changed”, Apple TV, narrated by Dr. David Attenborough.
Audubon Magazine, March 2021: A Year of the Pandemic: How Have Birds and Other Wildlife Responded?
Crosscut, May 2021. How birds in the Pacific Northwest have experience the pandemic
NSERC website, December 2021. UM study shows most North American birds impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns
The Wildlife Society, October 2021. COVID-19 lockdowns brought out the birds
The Globe and Mail, September 2021. Lockdowns are for the birds: New research shows the benefit of reduced human activity
National Geographic, September 2021. Many birds flocked to cities during COVID-19, rapidly adapting to lockdowns
Science, September 2021. The COVID-19 lockdown was for the birds-in a good way
The Wall Street Journal, September 2021. Birds Thrived During Covid-19 Lockdowns, New Study Shows
CBC News, September 2021. Birds took advantage of lockdowns by hanging out in the city, study finds
NPR, September 2021. Birds Thrived Where Humans Feared To Tread During The Pandemic, Scientists Say
Popular Science, September 2021. Lockdown made cities friendlier for some birds
Sierra Club, September 2021. Study Suggests That Birds Expand Their Range When Humans Shrink Theirs
KJZZ News Station, September 2021. Birds Expaned Into Gaps Left By Humans During COVID-19 Lockdown
EcoWatch, October 2021. Humanity's Silent Spring Brought More Birds to North America's Cities
The Star, November 2021. Canadian doc ‘Nature’s Big Year’ shows how wildlife has adapted during the pandemic
CTV News Interview: Bird Populations Thrive During the Pandemic
Apple Podcast - The Globe and Mail, 2021. What we learned when the world went quiet
ON Nature Magazine, Spring 2022. Lockdowns Bring More birds to Urban Areas
Jessica Sanchez Jasso
For more information on C19-Wild, you can contact us:
Nicola Koper (Director)
Natural Resources Institute
University of Manitoba
317 Sinnott Bldg.
70 Dysart Rd., Winnipeg, MB