Meet the Women in Science behind the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance
This weekend, the United Nations led the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a global observance day celebrating women in science and raising awareness of the significant gender gap that persists today in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
To celebrate, we are highlighting the women in the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance team, the work they do, and what inspired them to pursue careers in science.
This predominantly female team, based at the University of Southern Denmark, is responsible for translating data in the Species360 Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS) and other global resources into research and insights to inform animal care and conservation efforts.
Prof. Dalia Conde, Director of Science
Professor Dalia Conde launched the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance and leads, as she says, “the most amazing team of women.” As the Director of Science at Species360, she is responsible for uncovering the conservation and animal care potential of the data in ZIMS, and translating that data into insights that can serve the Species360 community and inform conservation and animal care.
Dalia studied Biology at the University of Mexico and obtained her Ph.D. at the Nicholas school of the environment from Duke University. Her scientific background includes researching jaguars, pronghorn and bighorn sheep, and working with migratory ducks. She has been passionate about biology and conservation her whole life, “My passion has always been the environment. Growing up we spent a lot of time in nature and went hiking, but what really sparked my passion was when I did a field expedition as a student to examine seed dispersal by bats in the Lacandona rainforest, and I saw first-hand the shocking rate at which the forest was disappearing due to deforestation.”
Since then, Dalia has been working to make an impact on species through conservation and science. She realized the importance of providing evidence and having a scientific base. She soon also saw the conservation and scientific value of zoos and aquariums and the data they curate after attending her first World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) and Conservation Planning Specialist Group (CPSG) conferences. This, in turn, inspired her to launch the Conservation Science Alliance. Her work has been published in renowned scientific journals such as Science, PNS and Nature.
“I feel incredibly grateful and privileged to have a career that I am passionate about. Every day I get to do something I love.”Prof. Dalia Conde
Dr. Johanna Stärk, Postdoctoral research scientist
Dr. Johanna Stärk has a Master’s degree in Behavior & Neurobiology and received her Ph.D. in Conservation Biology and Population Biology from the Max Planck Center on the Biodemography of Ageing at the University of Southern Denmark.
As a postdoctoral researcher at the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance, she focuses on gaining insights from biodiversity data to support zoos and aquariums to make better conservation decisions and improve the lives of animals under human care rooted in scientific evidence. Her specialty is turning data into impactful data visualizations, “there isn’t much that excites me more than a well-designed figure,” says Johanna.
Johanna always knew that she wanted to become a biologist from an early age, although back then, her idea of a biologist was someone who collects insects in jars in the rainforest.
“My interest in nature was passed on by my parents, who were both biologists and greatly cared about nature conservation. They always taught me to look at the natural world with curiosity and turn over every stone to see what’s underneath it.”Dr. Johanna Stärk
Dr. Morgane Tidière, Postdoctoral research scientist
Dr. Morgane Tidière obtained her PhD in Evolutionary BioDemography, after a Master’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in France and a Masters in Environmental Biology in Italy. She focused on identifying the evolutionary causes of observed differences in demographic parameters (i.e., survival and reproduction) between individuals, populations, and species across the tree of life.
Within the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance, her role is to apply her evolutionary biology and demography knowledge to animal welfare science. Using metrics developed within the team, she works to highlight the improvement in welfare for animals living in zoos and aquariums over time, and practices that resulted in these improvements.
Morgane was inspired to pursue a career in science due to the never-ending possibilities of learning new things. She says, “Each knowledge door opened, reveals hundreds of new knowledge doors to open. There are always new things to learn, new passionate people to meet, and new stories to hear. All that makes me feel like I know nothing, and I want to learn more and continue to be amazed by the world.” She is delighted that her research has concrete applications in supporting zoos and aquariums in improving their husbandry practices and the welfare of their animals.
“As a researcher within the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance, I enjoy being a bridge between the research world and the zoo and aquarium community. Amazingly, our work has influenced the modification of governmental laws in two countries, and we are currently working with a third one. It gives me the feeling that what I am doing is meaningful.”Dr. Morgane Tidière
Rikke Øgelund Nielsen, Research Assistant
Rikke Øgelund Nielsen has a Master’s degree in Biology from the University of Southern Denmark and has also studied data science. She completed her Masters through the Conservation Science Alliance under the title: ‘Zoos-aquariums through the lens of CITES: Opportunities for zoos and aquariums to support Elasmobranchs species threatened by international trade.’
As a research assistant in the Conservation Science Alliance, Rikke works in the interface between biology and data science, examining how data from the world’s zoos and aquariums can support the decision-making process for ex situ species management, as well as for global conventions and treaties such as the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). She is passionate about using data to preserve biodiversity and safeguard endangered species. In addition to her role with the CSA, she works as a zoological registrar at a zoo. She says, “this experience allows me to seek to bridge the gap between our members (ZIMS registrars) and the analytics that the CSA can provide to our members.” On what inspired her to pursue a career in science and conservation biology, Rikke says:
“I have always known that I needed to pursue a career related to animals – simply because that’s what I care about the most.”Rikke Øgelund
Jacqueline Jürgens, Research Assistant
Jacqueline has a master’s degree in biology with a specialization in ‘Biodiversity, Ecology, and Evolution’ from the University of Hamburg, Germany. As part of her Master’s research, she supported the work on the Songbird Species Knowledge Initiative during two Erasmus+ internships at the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance. She also completed her Master’s thesis with Prof. Dalia Conde on the EU trade ban on wild birds in collaboration with the University of Southern Denmark.
Jacqueline is currently coordinating the work on the Conservation Science Alliance’s Ornamental Fish Species Knowledge Initiative. Additionally, she supports Dr. Staerk and Dr. Tidière in their work on sex differences in aging under the supervision of Prof. Fernando Colchero. She is interested in the international wildlife trade and its implications, the potential of policy and legislation to improve biodiversity conservation, and the capacity of zoos and aquaria to support conservation and fill gaps in species knowledge.
We thank all of our Conservation Science Alliance researchers, partners and sponsors for helping to break new ground in the use of data to better understand, and protect, wildlife. For more information on the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance, please visit: https://conservation.species360.org/
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Not only are these women tops in their scientific endeavors but also show how women can improve our scientific knowledge. The world is fortunate to have these pretty women progressing in our knowledge of nature. Keep up the good work girls!