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Professor Benoît Goossens

Professor Benoît Goossens

Director, Danau Girang Field Centre, Professor

School of Biosciences

Email
goossensbr@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+60 (0)12 8364 005
Campuses
Lot 6, Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sabah, Malaysia
Users
Available for postgraduate supervision

Overview

My research interests are in conservation biology and the related fields of molecular ecology, behavioural ecology, landscape ecology and restoration ecology. I have set up a research and training centre in the tropical forest of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. At Danau Girang Field Centre, I'm running long-term programs on an array of tropical forest species such as Bornean elephant, proboscis monkey, clouded leopard, sun bear, crocodile, pangolin, etc to provide insights into their ecology, density, behaviour and genetics in order to develop species distribution and habitat suitability models and understand biological responses to rainforest fragmentation and oil palm monoculture. For this, I use an integrative approach of satellite telemetry and imagery, camera trapping, conservation drone, behavioural observations and landscape genetics.

Biography

I am the Director of the Danau Girang Field Centre in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, a research and training facility co-managed by Sabah Wildlife Department and Cardiff University.

I am also a Professor at Cardiff University and I have more than 20 years of experience in the field of conservation genetics, having carried out projects on the population genetics of Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, and Bornean elephant in South-East Asia, giant and red pandas in China, chimpanzees and forest elephant in central Africa, black rhinoceros in Zimbabwe and Kenya. I have published more than 120 scientific papers in the field of conservation genetics and conservation biology.

I hold a PhD in biology from University of Grenoble, France. I have spent more than 20 years in the UK, at the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London and at Cardiff University.

I started working in Sabah back in 1999, where I led two Darwin Initiative projects, one on the Bornean orang-utan and one on the Bornean elephant, in collaboration with the NGO HUTAN, the Sabah Wildlife Department and Universiti Malaysia Sabah. In 2007, I set up the Danau Girang Field Centre in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, with Sabah Wildlife Department and Cardiff University. I am holding a work permit with the Sabah State Government and I am acting as an advisor for the Sabah Wildlife Department. I have been permanently based in Sabah since 2006.

I am a member of the IUCN SSC Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group, IUCN SSC Crocodile Specialist Group, IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group and IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group, Great Ape Section. I am also the Editor in Chief for Conservation Genetics Resources and an Associate Editor for BMC Genetics and BMC Zoology.

Publications

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Teaching

I carry out a range of teaching in years 2 (including running the tropical biodiversity assessment field course in Sabah, Borneo) and 3. I am responsible for one module for the new MSc in Ecology and Conservation based at the School of Biosciences. I supervise and welcome Professional Training Year students at Danau Girang Field Centre since 2008. I also supervise postgraduate master and PhD students. Current teaching includes contributions to:

  • BI2134 Ecology & Conservation - Part B (Methods in tropical forest ecology - Borneo field course |  Danau Girang Field Centre)
  • BI3154 Biodiversity & Conservation Biology
  • BIT052 Principles & Practice of Conservation Biology
  • BIT055 Field Research & Placement
  • BI9999 Professional Training Year

At the Danau Girang Field Centre, I lead a thriving and productive research group, focused primarily on determining the landscape-level requirements critical for the viable persistence of tropical species in highly fragmented landscapes. Here are some of the advances my research group made in the field of landscape ecology and conservation biology

The underpinning research that I recently led on the Bornean elephant using satellite collaring and 3D-LiDAR ecosystem mapping has shown the importance of degraded landscapes for the species (Evans et al. 2018; Evans et al. 2020) and has stressed out the need for the preservation of such habitats (Elephant Action Plan 2019-2028).

Our models based on long-term Bornean banteng surveys using camera traps provided information about key habitat and movement resistance for bantengs through the landscape (Gardner et al. 2018; Lim et al. 2019), which was crucial to design constructive conservation strategies and land-use planning (Bornean Banteng Action Plan 2019-2028).

Satellite collaring of proboscis monkeys and the use of LiDAR technology showed that proboscis monkeys have relatively general habitat preferences based on canopy structure but showed a clear response to landscape-scale features (Stark 2018). As a result, the amount of forest based on proximity to different forest and non-forest edge types was included as a priority in the Proboscis Monkey Action Plan 2019-2028, such as through reclaiming and protecting forests unsuitable for oil palm and enhancing the riparian zone.

Our research on Sunda clouded leopard in the Kinabatangan showed that their movements are facilitated by forest canopy cover and resisted by non-forest vegetation, particularly recently cleared/planted and underproductive (flooded) plantation areas with low canopy closure (Hearn et al. 2018, Hearn et al. 2019). We therefore predicted that Sunda clouded leopard connectivity in Sabah could be greatly enhanced through the protection of privately-owned forest patches and the reforestation of underproductive oil palm plantation areas and creation of forested buffer zones along the river (Kaszta et al. 2019; Sunda Clouded Leopard Action Plan 2019-2028).

In September 2018, Danau Girang Field Centre celebrated 10 years of achievements. We produced a 10th Anniversary Report that highlighted the achievements of the field centre since its inception in 2008, including the publication of more than 100 scientific papers in 10 years. The report is accessible on DGFC's web site: www.dgfc.life

In the coming years, it is our intention to work more actively on restoration ecology and to execute an innovative and complex multi-species approach to design a productive protection plan for the whole of the Kinabatangan lowlands in Sabah. By combining the spatial ecology with the LiDAR mapping data shared by collaborators, forest management strategies and forest corridor options will be tested using landscape mosaic models to determine the effectiveness of conservation strategies on the sustainability of focal species.

These protected areas cannot be complete without taking into consideration the disease risks and their consequences, not only in wildlife but also in humans, livestock and other domestic animals inhabiting this landscap. The main focus of our work will be those pathogens that, although neglected, may have a strong impact on the local economy and in the dynamics of the wild populations. 

I have a track record of successfully running large grants, including:

  • - A subcontract from the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene for GBP116,000 to run the Primatology component of the MONKEYBAR Project (2012-2016). The project looked into risk factors for the transmission of Plasmodium knowlesi in the north part of Sabah. Our data contributed to mathematical models identifying the transmission risks.
  • - Three grants from the Sime Darby Foundation for a total of GBP747,000 (2011-2017) to gain insight into the conservation status of the Bornean banteng, the Sunda clouded leopard, and the proboscis monkey. The major outcome of these grants was the endorsement of three State Action Plans (one per species) by Sabah’s State Cabinet, thus securing greater protection for those endangered species.
  • - A grant from the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong for a total of GBP309,000 (2017-2021) with the objective of determining the impacts of landscape structure, habitat quality, and extensive anthropogenic habitat fragmentation on the ranging patterns of tropical wildlife, with the ultimate goal of producing an informed and effective management plan for the conservation of the Lower Kinabatangan’ s biodiversity.
  • - A GBP720,000 grant from the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs from the US State Department (2019-2021). The main objective of this grant is to combat illegal wildlife trade in Sabah through the establishment of specialised teams within the Sabah Wildlife Department and an interagency working group on wildlife crimes intelligence.
  • - A two-year grant (2019-2021) of GBP741,000 from the Sime Darby Foundation to Sabah Forestry Department and DGFC to support a special unit to combat wildlife poaching and trafficking in Sabah.

I have also run smaller grants with the purposes of ecological research of key species (i.e. Bornean elephant, Bornean banteng, Sunda pangolin, sun bear, Sunda clouded leopard, nocturnal primates, proboscis monkey). My grantors include Elephant Family, Houston Zoo, Columbus Zoo, Chester Zoo, Cleveland Zoological Society, the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, LUSH, The Waterloo Foundation, Sea World and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, MPOC, US Embassy in Malaysia, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Asian Elephant Conservation Fund among many others.

Supervision

I'm interested in supervising PhD students in the areas of:

Conservation Biology

Wildlife Management

Conservation Genetics (in co-supervision with my colleague Dr Pablo Orozco-terWengel)

Landscape Ecology

Restoration Ecology

I'm currently supervising the following PhD students at the School of Biosciences:

  • Richard Burger - Spatial, dietary and parasite ecology of pythons within fragmented landscapes in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sabah, Malaysia.
  • Elisa Panjang - Landscape ecology and behavioural responses of the Sunda panfolin (Manis javanica) to habitat fragmentation and degradation in Sabah, Malaysia.
  • Sai Kerisha Kntayya - Landscape genetics and habitat viability of the estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) in Sabah: conservation management of an apex predator.
  • Luke Davies (co-supervision with Dr Pablo Orozco-terWengel whos is the 1st supervisor) - Landscape genomics of Bornean water buffalos

Past projects

  • 1st supervisor for Dr Meaghan Evans - The price of persistence: small carnivore ecology within the anthropogenically-degraded Kinabatangan landscape (awarded 2020)
  • 1st supervisor for Dr Sergio Guerrero-Sanchez - Ecology and health of the Asian water monitor lizard (Varanus salvator) in the fragmented landscape of the Kinabatangan Floodplain, Sabah, Malaysia (awarded 2019)
  • 1st supervisor for Dr Danica Stark - Habitat use and movement of proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvatus) in a degraded and human-modified forest landscape (awarded 2018)
  • 1st supervisor for Dr Nurzhafarina Othman - Behaviour and spatial ecology of the Bornean elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis) in Lower Kinabatangan, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo (awarded 2018)
  • 1st supervisor for Dr Luke Evans - Assessing the impacts of habitat fragmentation and subsequent anthropogenic expansion on the behavioural, nesting and population ecology of the estuarine crocodile, Crocodylus porosus (awarded 2016)
  • 1st supervisor for Dr Penny Gardner - The natural history, non-invasive sampling, activity patterns and population genetic structure of the Bornean banteng Bos javanicus lowi in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo (awarded 2015)
  • 2nd supervisor for Dr Juan Manuel Aguilar Leon - Understanding anuran responses to rainforest fragmentation and oil palm agriculture in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sabah, Malaysia (awarded 2020)
  • 3rd supervisor for Dr Alexander Horton - Impacts of rapid ;and use change on the meandering dynamics of the Kinabatangan River, Borneo (awarded 2017)

Engagement

My project ‘Protecting endangered species in Sabah, Borneo through creating new government policy, State Action Plans’ with Sabah Wildlife Department was recognised by the university for its innovation and impact in June 2020. It was chosen as one of six partnerships, to be showcased as an exemplar of innovative collaboration. See Cardiff News: https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/news/view/2416963-cardiff-celebrates-power-of-partnerships