Identifying persistent conservation outcomes from ‘the Anthropause’
Global lockdown measures to control the spread of COVID-19 have changed patterns of human behavior on an unprecedented scale, dramatically reducing mobility and economic activity. Some researchers have termed this sudden and drastic but temporary shift in the way humans interact with the environment “the Anthropause.” Although some impacts, such as improved air and water quality, have probably benefited biodiversity, others, including decreased conservation enforcement and ecotourism, may have compromised the effectiveness of ocean protection measures. Environmental data from this period offers a unique opportunity to understand the positive and negative effects of human activities on marine ecosystems on a global scale.
Bates will examine the long-term impacts of the pandemic lockdown on marine biodiversity to advance scientific understanding of how humans affect natural systems. Working with existing research networks, she will assemble and analyze global environmental data to investigate the responses of species and ecosystems to various human-driven effects. Based on those analyses, she will generate policy-relevant case studies linking changes in human activity to persistent outcomes for biodiversity and will make the findings publicly available through a web-based platform designed to help decision-makers understand key ecological responses to lockdown conditions. She will also use a combination of innovative science communication techniques, including a portable museum exhibition, to make her findings accessible and engaging to the public.