Click to read: International Mammalogical Congress

International Mammalogical Congress

This July, Durrell’s Dr Ros Kennerley travelled to Australia to represent the IUCN SSC Small Mammal Specialist Group (SMSG) at the International Mammalogical Congress (IMC12). The congress takes place every four years and brings together researchers from around the world who all share an interest in mammals. Below Ros tells us all about her trip.

(Ros Kennerley and Sam Turvey representing the SMSG at the conference)

This July, Dr Sam Turvey (SMSG conservation advisor) and I coordinated the first workshop that the SMSG has hosted at a major conference, so a big step forward for us and a brilliant opportunity to spread the message about the work of the SMSG. As it was being held in Perth, Australia, we decided to make the most of this location by making conservation priorities in Australasia and insular Southeast Asia the focus of our workshop.​


Forging new relationships

We had a great group of participants with a variety of geographical and taxonomic interests in species within the regions. There were lots of lively discussions and valuable feedback about ways we can improve the group’s activities - ranging from how we overcome issues such as the complex taxonomy in some families, to streamlining the Red List process, to many ideas about how we should prioritise efforts to be most effective at conserving some of the most threatened species. As a result of the session we have forged some new relationships and several promising future collaborations.

Throughout the conference the standard of talks was very high, and it was great to see and hear many presentations about rodents.

(an example of talks about rodents)

A little disappointing was that there were only a handful of talks about Eulipotyphlan insectivores (hedgehogs, moles, shrews and solenodons), raising the question of whether this is a group of mammals being overlooked in terms of worldwide research attention?


The future of Caribbean mammals

The SMSG’s other major contribution to the conference event was to take part in the symposium entitled ‘From the Pleistocene to the Anthropocene: fossils, genes and the future of Caribbean mammals’. The Caribbean is an important area for the SMSG, because we have identified Greater Antillean moist and dry forests as one of our Key Regions. I gave a talk on the new IUCN Red List reassessments that we have undertaken, providing updates on the extinction risk of the 12 species of hutias and solenodons which are endemic to the Caribbean, research which featured in our recently published paper. We have a much clearer picture of where the conservation priorities lie in this region, so the talk also provided an opportunity to highlight these.

(Carlo Rondinini talking about global mammal Red List updates)

Global trends and reasons for optimism

A popular session at the conference was looking at global trends across all mammals, which was hosted by Dr Carlo Rondinini a research scientist within the Global Mammal Assessment team. During his talk, Carlo highlighted some good news stories to have come out of the latest mammal Red List reassessments, including one of our Australian SMSG species: the Greater Stick-nest Rat.​

The conference ended with a final plenary talk by Prof. Kris Helgen. We heard about several of the discoveries he and his colleagues have made over the years, including finding a new SMSG species, the Bosavi Woolly Rat (Mallomys sp. nov.), which was first observed in an expedition to Papua New Guinea back in 2009.

(Kris Helgen talking about Bosavi Woolly Rat - Photo credit @yamilin on Twitter)

As this was my first visit to Australia, I took some additional holiday time to see more of the west coast. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see any of our SMSG species, but the spectacular scenery and some other fantastic mammal watching made up for it!

(SMSG Programme Officer Ros Kennerley exploring some of Australia's West Coast)

We’ve just found out that the next of these congress meetings will be hosted by the American Society of Mammalogists in Anchorage Alaska in 2021. By the time this comes around we hope to be able to show off the progress that the SMSG has made to small mammal conservation!

Posted 8 August 2017

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