With Kirsten M Silvius, independent researcher; Jane Read, Syracuse University; James Gibbs, State University of New York-ESF; Associates: Flamarion de Oliviera, National Museum of Brazil, Brazil. US National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
Project Fauna is a ongoing, collaborative effort by university researchers and the indigenous peoples of the Rupununi region of Guyana and the Raposa/Serra do Sol region of Roraima, Brazil to describe wildlife diversity and abundance and interactions between these elements and indigenous culture. In Guyana we recorded information for about 300 vertebrate species, with about 48,099 wildlife sightings along 21,729 km of transect walked and 84,028 records of animal sign along 21,393 km walked. Our 335 indigenous technicians walked a total of 43,122 km on transects, a distance greater than walking once around the world (40,070 km). In total we recorded 33,446 different fruit patches on transects over 3 years, and noted the identity and density of trees on about 100 transects. Soils and vegetation biomass were also assed along a subset of transects. We also completed collection of socio-economic and wildlife hunting data from at least 9523 people from 24 villages in Guyana and obtained socio-economic data for about 114 villages in Brazil.
While the primary goal of the work in this project field has been to generate a body of high quality data capable of making a meaningful contribution to the understanding of the relationships among indigenous culture, hunting behavior and wildlife dynamics in the neotropics, the project has also had a significant impact of scientific capacity building in the villages in which we have worked. Very importantly, 335 indigenous assistants were trained in the use of GPS, compass, transect setting, and wildlife monitoring. Another 9 have been trained in the application of socio- economic surveying techniques, 5 in managing scientific data sets and research projects and four in maintaining project communications. Thus, through the course of the project, we have trained 354 mostly indigenous people in scientific biological and anthropological data collection. Scientific skills gained include, but are not limited to, navigation with GPS and compass, animal and fruit identification, scientific measurement and recording of field information and conducting interviews (surveys). Assistants have also developed leadership skills in their villages through periodic updates, which they give to their village councils and the heightened understanding they have obtained of their villages wildlife resources and of the livelihood systems in their villages, especially in relation to wildlife. We believe that, through working with the research project, village technicians have developed an ability to create bridges between the local and scientific perspectives of wildlife management in their communities.