When the Environmental Protection Agency draw up management plans and legislation concerning Danish nature, a research group at the Department of Chemistry and Bioscience at Aalborg University provide data crucial to the Ministry of Environment’s decision making.
Head of the group is Senior Researcher and biologist Sussie Pagh, who has been handling such public sector consultancy projects for several years, previously at DTU and since 2019 at AAU. “These kinds of projects are quite different from other research projects. There are stricter framework conditions, but also a straight line from research to results in society around us. We provide data and interpret the results, whereupon the Ministry make their decisions and implement their management plans and legislation on the basis of our work,” she explains.
By now, the research group at AAU has built up a solid experience in how to fulfil all the framework conditions, including the strict deadlines and detailed documentation that such projects are subject to. In addition, they have gained experience in how to give feedback and present their results to the many different stakeholders involved.
“Once a study like this is finished, the results will be submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency. During that process, we may be invited to, say, a meeting in the Ministry or the Wildlife Management Council to explain our results. We may also be interviewed by the media to explain our results in layman’s terms, so to speak, if the subject is of public interest,” Sussie Pagh says.
MAPPING THE EATING HABITS OF RACCOON DOGS
In their latest project, the researchers will be examining 500 raccoon dogs from bird protection areas to determine whether raccoon dogs are a threat to ground-nesting birds and other endangered species – a task which involves collaboration with many different groups of people.
“On the one hand is the Ministry, with whom we have regular meetings during the project, and on the other we have all the parties who contribute to the completion of the project: the hunters and Nature Agency employees who bring us the animals, the vets who perform the autopsies, and the lab staff, students and researchers, both here and at our collaboration partner, Center for Diagnostics at DTU, who coordinate, perform and document the analyses,” Sussie Pagh explains. In practice, the researchers will study the stomach contents of raccoon dogs (which contain digested items of e.g. mice, birds, eggs, amphibians and carcasses), first by rinsing and sorting all the contents and then, if need be, DNA testing smaller parts to determine whether they derive from an endangered species.
The project complements earlier studies where Sussie Pagh and her group have charted the eating habits of raccoon dogs in open country as well as their reproductive patterns. “Raccoon dogs have always been seen as an invasive species that should be eradicated. Our project will shed new light on the actual impact they have on our indigenous species and may help the Environmental Protection Agency decide how raccoon dogs should be managed in the future in Danish nature,” Sussie Pagh finishes.