These days I find myself thinking a lot about time. If you’re like me, your sense of time may have been warped after spending a few years in quarantine. It might feel harder to keep your days straight. Maybe the weeks speed by faster than a Sonoran pronghorn, but the hours can feel as slow as a Florida manatee. And honestly, where did 2022 go?
Funny enough, animals have different perceptions of time too. Preliminary results from new research reveal that those that are small, can fly or are marine predators perceive time the fastest. It makes sense that species with fast-paced lifestyles need to collect and process information—like changes in their environment—more rapidly, but the difference is astonishing! Humans are able to see changes 65 times a second, whereas species like endangered chinook salmon may perceive 95 changes a second, southwestern willow flycatchers around 150 changes a second, and crimson Hawaiian damselflies up to 300 changes a second. Think of all that data processing!
Here in the Center for Conservation Innovation (CCI) at Defenders of Wildlife, we’ve been doing our fair share of data processing this year. Here are some key lessons that data (and time!) have taught us this year:
- Make it count. CCI’s science team was very busy in 2022, using spatial data to jump start discussions related to conserving 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030 (referred to as “30x30"). This initiative from the Biden administration, and now defined in the Global Biodiversity Framework, can work to advance conservation of wildlife and their habitats. However, it needs to be about more than achieving a number—it needs to be about conserving the areas that are of greatest importance for our biodiversity now and into the future.
- Do more together. Innovative technologies can serve as a key means of strengthening conservation outcomes if developed and applied thoughtfully. Our CCI technology team has highlighted the importance of working together with potential users and key adopters of new tools, apps and other solutions to ensure that they are practical and used in advancing wildlife conservation. CCI aims to work with Defenders’ partners from federal and state agencies, Tribes and other NGOs to co-produce innovative solutions from the start. Our Collaborative Mapper tool on conservationist.io is just one example. We worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to identify an opportunity where a web-based tool could speed up the editing and adoption of new and improved imperiled species maps.
- Actions speak louder than words. The Endangered Species Act continues to be one of the world’s more powerful laws for protecting and recovering species. The latest update to an analysis from CCI’s policy team warns that it continues to be starved for resources. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service only receives about 40% of the funding needed to realize its goals. This means fewer resources for implementing recovery plans, leaving hundreds of species on the brink of extinction.
Just when I begin to question if 2022 really happened, I look back to see how much amazing work was accomplished over the course of the year. Whether or not we can keep track of it, time still has great meaning: it is precious and it is of the essence for our most imperiled wildlife. At CCI, we look forward to what 2023 will bring. Look out for more from CCI as we harness the power of data to predict future landscapes, innovate for more effective conservation planning, and advance our understanding of America’s biodiversity and its threats. Wishing you opportunity and innovation in the New Year!