Skip to main content

Research Potential in Conservation and Sustainable Management of Biodiversity

Final Report Summary - BIOCONSUS (Research Potential in Conservation and Sustainable Management of Biodiversity)

Executive Summary:
The BIOCONSUS project enabled the development of research potential of the Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences in Białowieża (Podlasie region), Polad. MRI cooperated with 9 high-ranked European research centers (in Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden and United Kingdom). Fifteen researchers from MRI were seconded for a total of 21 person-months to 9 partner institutions. Ten foreign researchers from 6 partners institutions were hosted at MRI for 9 person-months. The secondments of staff resulted in a significant transfer of knowledge between all centers. To reinforce the scientific potential of MRI, 14 scientists from 9 countries (UK, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Hungary, Russia, Spain, and Colombia) were employed at the Institute for a total of 96 person-months at research positions. To better disseminate scientific information and the results of research, the employed specialists gave 23 lectures and seminars concerning their studies for the MRI employees and guests. In total, 16 joint peer-reviewed scientific papers were published.
The purchased equipment (for ecological field studies, genetic laboratory), software (for GIS office) and on-line access to scientific literature and databases enabled MRI’s better position in competition with other high-level research centres same of the same or similar thematic domain.
MRI organised 2 international conferences and 2 international workshops for a total of 118 participants from 25 countries. Twenty-seven researchers from MRI participated in 18 international conferences and symposia, presenting a total of 27 oral presentations and 9 posters.
MRI established the Podlasie Regional Forum for Environmental Knowledge Transfer PREFEKT with nearly 90 partners from Podlasie region, including the most important authorities and local governments, conservation authorities, universities, research institutions, companies and NGOs. Within PREFEKT, MRI organized 16 seminars and conferences with thematic scope embracing nature and biodiversity conservation in the context of sustainable development of transport infrastructure, land use planning, hunting and game management, tourism, importance of protected areas for the communes, and the Open Days of MRI for students from secondary schools in the region. In total, about 1500 people participated in the events of PREFEKT.
MRI took advantage of the international independent expert evaluation of the research quality and capability. Four experts assessed: (1) the scientific quality of MRI compared to the international level of research institutions active in the thematic domain of environmental sciences, (2) the management, organisation, infrastructure, use of material and human resources. The Evaluation Report was presented on the meeting with members of MRI’s International Advisory Board, MRI’s Directors and project staff, national scientific authorities and regional authorities. The members of MRI’s International Advisory Board approved a substantial development and capacity increase of MRI PAS that resulted from successful performance of the project BIOCONSUS in years 2009-2014.

Project Context and Objectives:
The project aimed at developing research capacity of the major biodiversity research centre of the Podlasie Region - Mammal Research Institute Polish Academy of Sciences (MRI), EU’s Centre of Excellence (since 2002).
The main objectives of the BIOCONSUS project were to:
a) improve the research capacities and capabilities of the Mammal Research Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences (MRI) in the field of biodiversity research and conservation, by implementing the Action Plan of MRI development for 2010-2013,
b) increase MRI’s contribution to the economic and social sustainable development of the Podlasie region.
The specific objectives of the project were to:
a) develop new strategic partnerships with six high-level research centres in Europe,
b) support and mobilise human resources by two-way secondments of staff between MRI and nine prominent scientific centres in Europe,
c) reinforce MRI scientific potential by recruiting high-level experienced researchers from abroad,
d) support material resources of MRI by acquisition of research equipment, specialised software, and on-line access to scientific information;
e) disseminate the results of research and share knowledge by organising 4 international conferences/workshops and by sending staff to deliver talks at several international congresses/conferences,
f) contribute to sustainable development of the Podlasie region by organising a Regional Forum for Environmental Knowledge Transfer from RTD institutions to enterprises, stakeholders, and the public.

The work was divided into 8 work packages:
1) One work package (WP1) was focused on exchange of experience through trans-national two-way secondments of research staff between MRI and 8 (eight) partner organisations with excellent scientific record located in other EU States and one located in Norway. Partner institutions included 6 new strategic partners. Twinning agreements with new partners had to be sign, aimed at long-term bilateral collaboration in biodiversity research and conservation. A total secondment of 24 person-months for outgoing staff and 9 person-months incoming staff was expected to mobilise its human resources and to strengthen MRI’s research capacity in advanced ecological methods (applications of GIS, mathematical modelling, satellite telemetry of large mammals) and genetic molecular tools in studying mammalian diversity at a local population, landscape, and European scale.

2) One work package (WP2) was devoted to developing the scientific capabilities and human potential of MRI in the field of biodiversity research by recruiting 2 very experienced (professors, for a total of 24 person-months) and 3-4 experienced researchers (young researchers, for a total of 72 person-months). Expertise of recruited fellows had to include: conservation genetics, conservation ecology, mathematical modelling in ecology, and GIS applications in biodiversity studies.

3) One work package (WP3) was aimed at the acquisition, development and upgrading of MRI’s scientific equipment and software, in particular: genetic laboratory, GIS lab, ecological field studies, and the scientific library (on-line access to top-rank scientific journals). The rationale behind this work package had to was investment in new equipment and software that would:
a) supplement the already existing and well-working facility and equipment, used in the MRI focal research disciplines,
b) allow MRI staff to substantially increase the research quality and quantity of published scientific results, when acquired and used,
c) be useful in new, joint research initiatives with the MRI’s strategic partners from other European States.

4) Within the fourth work package (WP4) MRI had to organise 2 international conferences (“International Conference in Landscape Genetics”, “European bison management
- Lessons from the past”) and 2 international workshops (“Understanding the role of mammalian herbivores in shaping woody plant communities; what can we learn from a cross-continental comparison?”, “Invasive species - threat and management; what has ecological theory to offer when deciding how to deal with established invasive species?”). These topics were based on the disciplines of MRI’s recognised scientific excellence. This work package was planned to increase the visibility of MRI within the European Research Area, and network building with scientists and scientific institutions of similar interest.

5) One work package (WP5) was focused on exposing MRI research staff to a more international environment through facilitating their participation at international conferences and training events. The congresses and conferences included the world’s most prestigious events in mammalogy, ecology, conservation biology, and sustainable development. Training events (both abroad and organised at MRI) had to respond to the needs pointed out in the SWOT analysis: Writing and Publishing Scientific Papers in English, e-communication in science (use of on-line library sources), and GIS applications in biodiversity research.

6) In work package 6, MRI planned to disseminate project results and increase its contribution to the economic and social sustainable development at regional, national, and local levels. Responding to the urgent need (listed in Regional Innovation Strategy for Podlasie) of building platforms for knowledge transfer from RTD sector to business, enterprises, regional authorities and policy makers, MRI planned to establish the Podlasie Regional Forum for Environmental Knowledge Transfer – PREFEKT, organise up to 16 thematic training events (one-day seminar every 2-4 months) addressed to well-defined participant groups (up to 100 persons in each seminar), and organised a regional conference on "Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development" summarising the experience and achievements of PREFEKT.

7) In work package 7, MRI had to take advantage of the option provided by European Commission of an international independent expert evaluation of the research quality and capability of MRI. The results of the evaluation were to be presented to and discussed jointly with MRI's International Advisory Board, national scientific authorities and regional authorities in order to determine the most appropriate ways and methods to preserve MRI's scientific excellence and increase its contribution to the economic and social sustainable development of the region.

8) Finally, WP8 had to be devoted to management and co-ordination of all work packages, monitoring the implementation of the Action Plan, and promotion of the project BIOCONSUS in: (1) the international scientific community to increase the visibility of MRI in ERA, and (2) the regional, local and national authorities, stakeholders, and enterprises to improve MRI’s contribution to the economic and social sustainable development.

Project Results:
All designated by MRI objectives have been achieved and the Action Plan of MRI development for 2010-2013 was implemented. Accordingly, the substantial improvement of the research capacities and capabilities of the MRI PAS was made.

Results obtained within work packages:
Work package (WP1) - Two-way secondments of research staff between MRI and 9 partner institutions
This work package was focusd on exchange of experience through trans-national two-way secondments of research staff between MRI and 8 partner organisations with excellent scientific record located in other EU States and one located in Norway:
1. The Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biology, University of Oslo, Norway;
2. Ecology and Genetics Laboratory, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Aarhus, Denmark;
3. Laboratory of Alpine Ecology, Joseph Fourier University/CNRS, Grenoble, France;
4. Grimsö Wildlife Research Station, Department of Conservation Biology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences – SLU, Sweden;
5. Department of Biology, University of York, York, United Kingdom;
6. Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds, United Kingdom;
7. Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom;
8. The Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), Berlin, Germany;
9. Department of Evolutionary Ecology and Genetics (DEEG), University of Sassari, Italy.

Twinning agreements with new partners have been signed, aimed at long-term bilateral collaboration in biodiversity research and conservation.
Fifteen researchers from MRI were seconded for a total of 21 person-months to 9 partner institutions: dr. Krzysztof Niedziałkowski to University of Leeds, United Kingdom; Tomasz Podgórski to University of Sassari, Italy; dr. Karol Zub to the University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom; Sylwia Czarnomska to Joseph Fourier University, Grenoble, France and to the Aarhus University, Denmark; Leif Sönnichsen to the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), Germany; dr. Astrid Vik Stronen and Marcin Górny to the Aarhus University, Denmark; dr. Ireneusz Ruczyński to the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), Germany; dr. Paulina Szafrańska to the University of Aberdeen, UK; Emilia Hofman-Kamińska to the Laboratory of Alpine Ecology, Joseph Fourier University, France, to the Aarhus University, Denmark and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences – SLU, Sweden; Ewa Kaczyńska to the University of Edinburgh, UK in the frame of cooperation with Aarhus University, Denmark; Tomasz Kamiński to the Aarhus University, Denmark and to the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences – SLU, Sweden; dr. habil. Rafał Kowalczyk to the Aarhus University, Denmark and to the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences – SLU, Sweden; dr. Magdalena Niedziałkowska to the Aarhus University, Denmark; Joanna Stojak to the Italian National Institute for the Environmental Protection and Research in Bologna, Italy in the frame of cooperation with Aarhus University, Denmark.
Special measures were taken to support and mobilise especially MRI’s young researchers, to whom such secondments in the early stage of their scientific careers were particularly useful and enabled them to gain expertise and receive training in high-level research centres abroad. Collaboration with foreign scientific centres resulted in several papers published in peer-reviewed journals and oral presentations at the international scientific meetings.
Ten foreign researchers were hosted at MRI for a total of 9 person-months (eight of them for one person-month each and two of them for 0,5 person-month each): prof. Jeremy B. Searle (University of York, United Kingdom), dr. Matthew Oliver (University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom), dr. Massimo Scandura (University of Sassari, Italy), dr. Pierre Taberlet (Laboratory of Alpine Ecology, Joseph Fourier University/CNRS, Grenoble, France), dr. Eric Coissac (Laboratory of Alpine Ecology, Joseph Fourier University/CNRS, Grenoble, France), prof. Petter Kjellander (SLU-Grimsö Wildlife Research Station, Sweden), prof. Grzegorz Mikusiński (SLU-Grimsö Wildlife Research Station, Sweden), MSc Leif Sönnichsen (Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Germany), dr. David Lusseau (University of Aberdeen, UK), dr. Guillaume Chapron (SLU-Grimsö Wildlife Research Station, Sweden).
Foreign guests staying at Mammal Research Institute joined the on-going projects. The scientists during their visit gave 6 seminars on topics related to the scope of their research.

All designated by MRI objectives have been achieved, and two-way secondments of staff enabled MRI to build up its research potential in:
a) advanced statistical analyses of long-term ecological data in the context of climate change,
b) applications of GIS tools: the roles of ecological corridors and habitat connectivity in biodiversity conservation at the regional and trans-European scale,
c) ecological studies of ungulates and large carnivores (including rare and endangered species) with application of remote sensing and satellite telemetry,
d) interactions between society and the environment on a regional and national scale in the perspective of the EU policies and legislation concerning biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
e) new molecular techniques in genetic studies: SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism, barcoding, parallel pyrosequencing),
f) advanced statistical analysis of population genetics data,
g) use of quantitative genetics for studies of physiological and genetic mechanisms underlying cold and heat tolerance in mammals.
Two-way staff secondments had a very significant positive impact on improving communication between the research units. Two-way secondments gave the possibility to initiate new projects and introduce new ideas in the implementation stage of ongoing projects.

Work package (WP2) - Recruitment of experienced researchers to reinforce MRI scientific potential
To reinforce the scientific potential of MRI, fourteen scientists from 9 countries were hired at the Institute for a total of 96 person-months at research positions:
1) dr. Małgorzata Blicharska (Sweden, 2 person-months), specialist in the use of different ecosystem services by the local communities,
2) dr. Amy Eycott (United Kingdom, 5 person-months), specialist in animal-vegetation relationships,
3) dr. Eleanor Patricia Jones (UK, 3 person-months), specialist in genetics,
4) dr. Nikolay Korablev (Russia, 2 person-months), specialist in carnivores ecology,
5) dr. Szilvia Kusza (Hungary, 4.5 person-months), specialist in molecular biology,
6) dr. Allan McDevitt (Ireland, 4 person-months), specialist in phylogeography and landscape genetic studies,
7) dr. Begoña Martinez Cruz (Spain, 6.25 person-months), specialist in conservation genetics,
8) prof. Grzegorz Mikusiński (Sweden, 3 person-months), specialist in conservation and management of forest biodiversity,
9) dr. Jacinta Mullins (Ireland, 7.5 person-months), specialist in the application of genetics to animal conservation,
10) dr. Juanita Olano Marin (Colombia, 10.66 person-months), specialist in population genetics, molecular ecology, landscape genetics and behavioral ecology,
11) dr. Matthew Oliver (United Kingdom, 3.5 person-months), specialist in ecology and population genetics,
12) dr. Leif Sönnichsen (Germany, 11 person-moths), specialist in evolutionary ecology,
13) dr. Astrid Vik Stronen (Norway, 14 person-months), specialist in carnivore population genetics,
14) dr. Karin Camilla Wikenros (Sweden, 5 person-months), specialist in carnivores ecology.
Recruited researchers joined the on-going projects at MRI in their respective fields and widened their scopes and methods with the new knowledge and experience.
All foreign scientists employed at MRI contributed to reinforcement of MRI scientific potential in the field of conservation biology, biodiversity research and population genetics by bringing the state-of-the-art expertise in using genetic molecular tools, modelling and population ecology studies. The collaboration in on-going and one new project at the Institute has already resulted in a series of 15 joint publications under BIOCONSUS project’s affiliation. Additionally, few articles are in different stages of preparation.
To better disseminate scientific information and the results of research, the employed specialists gave 23 lectures and seminars concerning their studies for the MRI employees and guests:
Blicharska M.: Why is it difficult to enlarge a protected area? Ecosystem services perspective on the conflict around the extension of the Białowieża National Park (24.07.2012)
Eycott A.: The impact of the matrix on species movement: A systematic review and meta- analysis. (17.08.2010)
Eycott A.: The history of State Forestry of the Great Britain: The good, the bad and the ugly. (19.10.2010)
Eycott A.: A functional woodland network for Wales: from GIS model to targeted grant scheme. (23.11.2010)
Eycott A.: Dispersal of seeds by ungulates from gap to gap and beyond - summary of my work at MRI PAS. 1(4.12.2010)
Jones E.: House mouse expansion and colonisation, hybridisation and adaptation (14.08.2012)
Korablev N.: Morphological and ecological peculiarities of European beaver (Castor fiber L.) i) case study and ii) general looks on translocations (02.08.2011)
Kusza S.: Research activities in animal biotechnology at the University Debrecen, Institute of Animal Sciences. (06.07.2010)
Kusza S.: Genetic diversity in the Hungarian Puszta (Hortobágy National Park) (31.05.2011)
McDevitt A.: Phylogeography and landscape genetics of European and North American mammals (22.02.2011)
McDevitt A.: The Book of Invasions: colonization history of pygmy shrews in the British Isles (17.05.2011)
McDevitt A.: Origins and genetic structure of, and hybridization between, red deer and sika in Ireland (16.08.2011)
McDevitt A.: Factors influencing braod and fine scale genetic structure in Polish mammals (06.12.2011)
Mikusiński G.: Towards cost-effective conservation of the White-backed Woodpecker in Sweden (09.08.2011)
Mikusiński G.: Conserving biodiversity and managing ecosystem services in landscapes – the Białowieża Primeval Forest as a case study (12.09.2011)
Mullins J.: Pine marten in Ireland: an island population at the Atlantic fringe of Europe (17.07.2012)
Olano Marin J.: Exploring the causes of heterozygosity-fitness correlations in the blue tit (24.01.2012)
Oliver M.: Identifying candidate genes and inferring processes from patterns in evolutionary ecology: lessons from the MHC (12.04.2011)
Oliver M.: Balancing selection versus drift: changes in MHC and neutral genetic diversity through a bottleneck in an island population of water voles (24.05.2011)
Oliver M.: Do rabbits eat voles? Apparent competition, habitat heterogeneity and large scale coexistence under mink predation (06.07.2011)
Sönnichsen L.: Under pressure – time and space management oft he European roe deer (May, 2013),
Stronen A.V.: Landscape resistance to dispersal: consequences for a small and isolated population of wolves (Canis lupus) on the Canadian Prairies (21.02.2012)
Wikenros K.C.: The return of the wolf – effects on prey, competitors and scavengers (18.10.2012).
In summary, all objectives were achieved:
a) MRI’s scientific potential in the field of conservation biology and biodiversity research, with a special emphasis on using genetic molecular tools, GIS, and mathematical modelling in ecology, was reinforced;
b) MRI's human resources were supported to better disseminate scientific information and the results of research.

Work package (WP3) - Strengthening MRI capacities with research equipment and software
In order to reinforce its scientific potential, MRI has upgraded and purchased new equipment for ecological field studies, genetic laboratory and GIS office, which complement already existing technical base of the institute, and significantly increase the efficiency in collecting and processing data and samples of genetic material.
During the implementation of the tasks of the third Work Package, MRI purchased equipment for the genetic lab (including laminar flow class II biohazard safety cabinet and variable speed centrifuge), ecological field studies (including satellite telemetry system, GPS receivers, automatic weather station, remote video recording), software and hardware for GIS, ecological, and genetic labs (including computer hardware, multimedia projectors and software), and also upgraded the library with online access to top-rank scientific journals.
The purchased equipment has found a wide range of applications in the ongoing research projects at MRI (including studies on phylogeography on wild boar, phylogeography of common vole, ecology of ungulate, genetic structure of weasel populations), and has enabled significantly more effective development of those projects.
Satellite images are used for habitats classification of Białowieża Forest, to describe the structure of the forest environment at in several spatial scales: mapping biophysical parameters of trees, mapping of the main types of trees and larger gaps, assessment of Białowieża Primeval Forest landscape structure, including the degree of diversity landscape. Camera traps are used in studies on behavior and activity patterns of animals. Telemetry collars are used to monitor animal behaviour and ecology. GPS technology makes it possible to obtain accurate locations of animals.
Variable speed centrifuge is used in genetic lab for DNA extraction and processing (it improves DNA extraction effectiveness and decreases contamination risk during sample processing). Laminar flow class II biohazard safety cabinet is used for safe manipulation of DNA samples.
Paper subscription to scientific journals for MRI is widely utilized by all MRI staff.

Work package (WP4) - Organising Two International Conferences and Two Workshops
MRI organised 2 international conferences and 2 international workshops.
On 11-15th October 2010, MRI organized a high-profile workshop “Understanding the role of mammalian herbivores in shaping woody plant communities; what can we learn from a cross-continental comparison?” with international leading scientists in the field to synthesize current theory and results of empirical research on the functional ecology of ungulates, aiming at understanding, where and when their role might be substantial. In this workshop, researchers investigated the role of different ungulate species, possible interactions between species (community ecological approach) and the effect of temporal and spatial environmental variability. The workshop was attended by 15 scientists from five countries (United States, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia, South Africa) and employees of MRI.
The aim of the workshop was to discuss how large mammalian herbivores shape woody plant communities around the world. Discussions were focused on identifying key differences and generalities in the way herbivores interact with woody plant communities across the globe. The workshop was platform for open-minded presentations, together with discussions at a conceptual level that resulted in syntheses, knowledge dissemination and thought-provoking ideas focusing on:
- generating and exchanging ideas,
- maximising the time designed for discussion on the most important topics,
- exploring possibility for joint publications or other opportunities for cooperation.
The most important result achieved during the workshop, as well as shortly after its completion, was establishing a new cooperation with herbivore specialists from the most prominent universities around the world, increasing the visibility of MRI in the European Research Area, and facilitating communication between MRI, ERA and worldwide.

From 10 to 12 October 2011, the “International Conference in Landscape Genetics” took place at MRI. MRI hosted 48 scientists from 16 countries (Belarus, Belgium, Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, United States of America, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Switzerland) and employees of MRI.
The main aim of the conference was to address conservation genetic issues in natural populations within a landscape context. The main goal was to review the results of empirical studies, current theoretical and computational tools for landscape genetics, and to develop predictive models, which incorporate both environmental and genetic data. The conference organised at MRI brought together researchers working in the fields of conservation genetics, landscape ecology, macroecology, macrophysiology, and biogeography.
The conference was also an opportunity to establish collaborations between individuals and organizations (from Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Switzerland, United Kingdom and USA) to encourage further work and advancement in the field of landscape genetics.

On 18th-21st October 2012, MRI organized an international scientific workshop “Invasive species - threat and management; what has ecological theory to offer when deciding how to deal with established invasive species?” attended by 20 scientists from 10 countries (Czech Republic, Finland, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, United Kingdom) and employees of MRI.
The aim of this workshop was to exchange knowledge on past and present distribution of invasive alien species of carnivores in Europe (American mink, raccoon dog, raccoon), their devastating impacts on native fauna, and to discuss the possible ways of monitoring and controlling their populations.
The most important result achieved during the workshop was the establishment of a new cooperation with scientists from the most prominent universities around the world (from Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Spain, United States). The highly significant result of this new collaboration will be preparation of two joint publications.

On 10th-12th October 2012, MRI organized an international conference on the ecology, genetics and historical role of European Bison: “European bison management - Lessons from the past”. In total, 35 scientists from 8 countries (Belarus, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine) and employees of MRI participated in this event.
The main goal of the conference was to bring together established researchers working in the fields of ecology, paleobiology, genetics and conservation management and managers and policy makers to explore recent scientific discoveries and to discuss challenges for future conservation management of European bison. The conference was also the opportunity to establish collaborations and exchange experiences and knowledge.
The implementation of this work package facilitated communication between MRI and prominent European researchers, increased visibility of MRI in the European Research Area, disseminated scientific information and research results in landscape genetics, control and management of invasive species, and the effect of climate change on ungulate-forest relationship, ecology and conservation of European bison - Europe’s flagship species in biodiversity conservation.

Work package (WP5) - Facilitation of knowledge transfer through participation of MRI staff in international conferences and short training events
Twenty-seven researchers from MRI PAS participated in 18 international conferences and symposia, presenting the most recent research results of the Institute, sharing the knowledge and familiarizing themselves with a larger group of scientists from around the globe.

Employees of the Institute participated in the following conferences:
1) 8th International Symposium on Wild Boar and Other Suids, 1st-5th September 2010, York, United Kingdom;
2) 24th International Congress for Conservation Biology, 3rd-7th July 2010, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada;
3) International Society for Ecological Economics, ISEE 11th Biennal Conference, 22nd-25th August 2010, Oldenburg, Germany;
4) Society of Experimental Biology Annual Main Meeting, 30th June-3rd July 2010, Prague, Czech Republic;
5) The End of Tradition, Aspects of Commons and Cultural Severance in the Landscape, 15th-17th September 2010, Sheffield, United Kingdom;
6) 10th Roe Deer Meeting, 7th-10th June 2011, Srni, Šumava National Park, Czech Republic;
7) Encounters of Sea and Land. The 6th European Society for Environmental History Conference, 28th June – 2nd July 2011, Turku, Finland;
8) VIth European Congress of Mammalogy, 19th-23rd July 2011, Paris, France;
9) 13th Congress European Society for Evolutionary Biology, 21st-24th August 2011, Tübingen, Germany;
10) Frontiers in Historical Ecology, 29th August – 2nd September 2011, Zurich, Switzerland;
11) Deer and People: Past, Present and Future, 8th-11th September 2011, University of Lincoln, UK;
12) 8th European Vertebrate Pest Management Conference, 25th-28th September 2011, Berlin, Germany;
13) 29th European Mustelid Coloquium, 2nd-6th December 2011, Southampton, UK;
14) International Expert Workshop and Conference “Management of captive and free-ranging European bison”, 12th-14th March 2012, Bad Berleburg, Germany;
15) 2012 Annual Main Meeting of Society for Experimental Biology, 28th June-3rd July 2012, Salzburg, Austria;
16) 9th International Symposium on Wild Boar and Other Suids, 2nd-6th Sempember 2012, Hannover, Germany;
17) 86th Annual Conference of the German Society of Mammalogy, 4th-8th September 2012, Frankurt am Main, Germany;
18) Trees Beyond the Wood: An exploration of concepts of woods, 4th-8th September 2012, Sheffield, UK.

During those events researchers from MRI gave a total 27 oral presentations and presented 9 posters with results of research conducted at the Institute. Participation in international conferences allowed to establish new contacts and exchange ideas for new research projects.
Additionally, a training on “Writing scientific papers in English” for 20 employees of MRI PAS and young researchers from other institutions and universities was organised at MRI to enhance the publication capabilities of the staff. The course was led by editor in chief of Oikos - dr. Linus Svensson.
The head of MRI PAS library participated in a training visit to the library at the University of Leeds in Great Britain. Four MRI employees participated two other short training events (on “Accounting for projects funded by the European Union” and “Perfect management of secretariat”).
The implementation of this work package facilitated knowledge sharing between MRI and foreign researchers, increasing visibility of MRI in the European Research Area and exposing MRI staff to a more international environment.

Work package (WP6) - Dissemination of project results through Podlasie Regional Forum for Environmental Knowledge Transfer
Podlasie Regional Forum for Environmental Knowledge Transfer (PREFEKT) was established with the participation of nearly 90 partners from Podlasie region, including the most important authorities and local governments, conservation authorities, universities, research institutions, companies and NGOs.
In the period October 2010 – November 2013 MRI PAS organized 16 seminars and conferences with thematic scope embracing nature and biodiversity conservation in the context of sustainable development of transport infrastructure, land use planning and public consultations, embracing nature and biodiversity conservation in the context of sustainable hunting and game management, beavers and moose management and conservation, tourism sustainable development, importance of protected areas for the communes and the Open Days of MRI PAS for students from secondary schools from the region.
Some of the seminars was organized in cooperation of local authorities and other institutions and enterprises. Co-organizers of seminars included: Faculty of Environmental Management in Hajnówka, Regional Directorate of State Forests in Białystok, Regional Chamber of City Planners in Warsaw, Regional Directorate of State Forests in Białystok, Podlasie Regional Tourist Organization in Białystok, Faculty of Management Department of Tourism and Recreation, University of Technology in Białystok, National Heritage Board of Poland in Warsaw, Institute of Spatial Management and Housing in Warsaw, Knyszyn Forest Landscape Park in Supraśl, Białowieża National Park, Biebrza National Park, Białystok University, Warsaw University of Life Sciences.
All seminars were attended by a total of about 1 500 participants (30-208 in particular events).

The titles of the seminars and workshops were:
1) “Preparing conservation plans of Natura 2000 areas and involving local communities into the nature conservation activities”, 7th October 2010, MRI, Białowieża;
2) “Sustainable development of transport infrastructure in North-East Poland”, 3rd December 2010, MRI, Białowieża;
3) “Resolving conflicts in the area of nature protection and human activities”, 14th-15th March 2011, MRI, Białowieża;
4) “Conservation of biodiversity in sustainable forestry”, 9th February 2011, Department of Environmental Management in University of Technology Bialystok, branch in Hajnówka;
5) “Land use planning and protection of ecological continuity in northeastern Poland”, 7th-8th April 2011, MRI, Białowieża;
6) “From conflict to agreement. How to plan and carry out public consultation?”, 26th-27th May 2011, MRI, Białowieża,
7) “Monitoring of game populations and sustainable hunting”, 14th June 2011, Lipowy Most, Supraśl;
8) “The potential of natural and cultural heritage of Podlasie for sustainable development of tourism”, 5th September 2011, Lipowy Most Supraśl;
9) “Conflicts between conservation of European beavers and agriculture and forestry management. How to improve prevention actions and compensation system and increase social acceptance for the species”. 20th October 2011, Malinówka;
10) “Natural history of the forests – how to identify, study and protect the historical heritage in forests?”, 29th February 2012, Białowieża;
11) “Protected areas in the communes: the obstacles to economic growth or opportunities for sustainable development”, 29th March 2012, Supraśl;
12) Open Days of MRI PAS for students of 4 secondary schools in Podlasie region – “Biodiversity research and conservation – attracting youngsters to science”, 23rd-27th April 2012, Białowieża;
13) 7th International Moose Symposium in Białowieża: PREFEKT Day - Moose management, 9th August 2012, Białowieża;
14) Training: „The tourist development of the Białowieża Forest Region through the sustainable use of tourism resources” with the cooperation of local authorities (District Office in Hajnówka), 11th-12th March 2013, Hajnówka;
15) Open Days of MRI PAS for students of 6 secondary schools in Podlasie region – „Nature has a fascinating history: interdisciplinary studies in environmental history at MRI PAS”, 20th-24th May 2013, Białowieża;
16) Workshop „Comics as a tool for environmental education of children and youth”, 25th November 2013, Białowieża;

The PREFEKT platform gathered wide range of institutions playing important role in the region in the sustainable development. The PREFEKT seminars delivered knowledge to participants, presenting both theoretical and practical sides of particular PREFEKT topics, for instance, securing the ecological connectivity in development of transportation infrastructure or preparation of NATURA 2000 sites protection plans, specialists on game management or tourist services providers. Lectures and workshops were conducted by leading experts and practitioners from Poland and other countries. Two workshops were organized to train forest service specialists how to run public consultations and resolve conflicts due to relevant in this region conflict around conservation of Białowieża Primeval Forest. The meetings resulted in cooperation of researchers from different regional and central institutes (Białystok University, Technology University of Białystok, Warmińsko-Mazurskie University, Warsaw University, etc.).
All subjects of planned and organized seminars attracted great interest among the public and private organizations in the Podlasie Region, as well as from other parts of Poland. After each meeting, participants had access to seminar materials released on PREFEKT website and to a Forum, where they had opportunity to express their opinions on organization of the seminars and exchange their views in a broader discussion. The feedback from participants regarding seminars was received in questionnaires. There were ca. 427 questionnaires collected (30% of total number of participants). The main results are as follows: 90% of respondents confirmed that the seminars met their expectations regarding the provided scope of knowledge from particular areas, 91% would like to continue such seminars in future and 89% were fully satisfied with the quality of organized seminars.
In order to summarize the experience and achievements of all the events organized in the frame of the PREFECT, the Institute organized a conference titled: “The future of Białowieża Forest in the aspect of biodiversity of tree regeneration” (27th May 2014, Białowieża). The conference also launched a new series of meetings, which will be held every 2-3 months in Białowieża and will enable the exchange of knowledge and presentation of the results of the latest research in the broadly defined ecology, societal matters, regional development, etc.
The target audience of the conference included academic institutions conducting research in the area of the Forest, the representatives of forest districts, representatives of Podlasie national and landscape parks (Białowieża National Park, Biebrza National Park, Knyszyn Forest Landscape Park) and representatives of the Regional Directorate of State Forests in Białystok. Each lecture sparked a series of questions and answers and provided an opportunity to exchange views among participants.
In 2010, the PREFEKT website www.forumpodlaskie.pl was launched with information on PREFEKT goals, Podlasie Region features, platform participants, reports on organized seminars, materials prepared for seminars, and additional sources. The important part of the website was a forum where registered members could discuss and share their ideas on PREFEKT topics. The website was regularly updated.

Work package (WP7) - External expert Evaluation of MRI research quality and capability
MRI took advantage of the option provided by European Commission of an international independent expert evaluation of the research quality and capability. MRI invited 4 experts (prof. Baruch Raz, prof. Iakovos Gkanoulis, dr. Peter Droogers, dr. Orfeu Flores), who worked together and assessed: (1) the scientific quality of MRI compared to the international level of research institutions active in the thematic domain of environmental sciences, (2) the management, organisation, infrastructure, use of material and human resources.
The experts visited MRI tree times (22nd-26th October 2012, 8th-11th October 2013, 19th-20th May 2014). During the visits experts got acquainted with the staff of MRI, its organizational units, scope of activities and implementation of research projects and met with representatives of Scientific Council of the MRI in Białowieża.
Experts’ work resulted in a written Evaluation Report on MRI’s overall research capacity and capability. The overall evaluation result of MRI was highly positive. During the last visit, experts had a round-table meeting with MRI’s Directors and project staff (dr. habil. Rafał Kowalczyk, dr. habil. Krzysztof Schmidt, prof. dr. habil. Bogumiła Jędrzejewska, prof. dr. habil. Jan Marek Wójcik), representatives of MRI’s International Advisory Board (prof. dr. Marco Appolonio, dr. Joris Cromsigt, prof. dr. habil. Jacek Radwan, prof. dr. Pierre Taberlet – video connections), national scientific authorities and regional authorities (prof. dr. habil. Jerzy Duszyński and prof. dr. habil. Andrzej Jarzmanowski – Polish Academy of Sciences, prof. dr. habil. January Weiner – MRI’s Scientific Council, Anna Dziubczyńska-Pytko – National Contact Point for EU Research Programmmes, Edyta Dąbrowska, Katarzyna Poleszuk-Woźniewska – Podlaskie Voivoship Marshal’s Office). Participants of the meeting expressed their opinion on the report's findings and together made reflections on the possibilities of further development of MRI.
Taking into account the Evaluation Report of MRI PAS by the 4 independent experts, and the discussion during meeting in Warsaw on May 20th, 2014, the members of MRI’s International Advisory Board approved a substantial development and capacity increase of MRI PAS that resulted from successful performance of the project BIOCONSUS - Research Potential in Conservation and Sustainable Management of Biodiversity in years 2009-2014.

Members of IAB also gave the following recommendations for future development of the Institute:
1) to increase the publication output from the present average of 1.1 to 3-4 papers per capita per year;
2) to increase the promotional efforts and visibility of MRI PAS on the national and international scale, especially via internet/web site activity;
3) to aim at attracting more PhD students;
4) to make every effort towards employing a bio-statistician or a specialist in bioinformatics;
5) to consider the need and opportunities of translating the research results into innovation in a wide sense.
The members of IAB recommended also, that MRI PAS should continue their high activity in applying for national and European grants in order to be able to reach these goals.

Work package (WP8) - Management and promotion
In order to start the project MRI hired administrative coordinator responsible for coordinating day-to-day execution of the planned work, facilitate communication, and synchronize activities between work packages.
Special promotion measures were applied to increase the visibility of MRI and the BIOCONSUS project in the European Research Area and internationally. A project website was opened, containing: general information, sections devoted to all events (conferences, workshops), information on international conferences attended by MRI PAS staff in the frames of the project, description of the development of MRI PAS research capacities as an “invitation to cooperation”. In addition, a set of (English-language) promotional materials on MRI and the project was prepared and distributed.

Potential Impact:
Implementation of BIOCONSUS project had a profound impact on MRI's research capacity in:
(1) human potential,
(2) scientific equipment,
(3) quality of research carried out by MRI.

Human potential
The BIOCONSUS project contributed to the improvement of human potential of MRI. Thanks to the funds of the project of MRI has invited 14 experienced foreign Researchers (for a total of 96 person-months) to participate in ongoing research projects (with ecology and genetics). Employed scientists shared their knowledge with the MRI staff. Employed scientists shared their knowledge with the MRI staff. The result of joint work team of MRI and scientists employed in the frame of the project is a large number of scientific publications. It should be emphasized that the completion of the project, did not end the cooperation. Subsequent, publications which are the result of collaborative research, will be published in the future.
In addition, the national staff of MRI was mobilized through their secondments (for a total of 21 person-months) to 6 excellent scientific centres in Europe with which bilateral collaboration agreements have been signed. In total 15 researchers (8 postdocs, 7 PhD students) have been seconded to partner institutions. Special measures were taken to support and mobilise especially MRI’s young researchers, to whom such secondments in the early stage of their scientific careers were particularly useful and enabled them to gain expertise and receive training in high-level research centres abroad.
Additionally, MRI hosted 10 incoming foreign researchers from abroad for a total of 9 person-months. Two-way secondments gave the possibility to initiate new projects and introduce new ideas in the implementation stage of ongoing projects. Two-way staff secondment had a very significant positive impact on improving communication between the research units.
Human potential of MRI was also improved by sending 27 researchers to 18 international congresses and conferences. This practice exposed the MRI staff to an international environment, improved visibility of MRI research, and motivated the national staff to become more active in the knowledge exchange. In addition, short training events markedly enhanced the professional skills of MRI researchers and other staff (library personnel training in acquisition and management of scientific information).
By the end of the project the research staff of MRI attained measurably higher scores in the periodical evaluation of individual performance in science (high number of peer-reviewed publications, citations, etc.).

Scientific equipment
Both the upgraded research equipment and the increased qualifications of the research staff lead to notably higher quality of research at MRI. The new fields of expertise mastered during this project include: novel molecular technics in genetics – barcoding, parallel pyrosequencing, high-tech field method of mammal studies – satellite telemetry, and novel interdisciplinary approach to sustainability research. MRI has become the first centre in Poland applying these new methods or approaches in scientific research.

Quality of research carried out by MRI
The group of experts assessed the quality of the papers whose main contribution comes from MRI. The quality of the publications has been recognized by independent experts as satisfactory. However, the output of MRI research in terms of number of publications per capita has the potential to increase in order to reach the mean level of Western European and North American countries. Also the quality of the partnerships was found to be highly satisfactory due to the intense program of exchanges at high scientific level.

Socio-economic and societal impact
BIOCONSUS strengthened the Institute’s position as an expert centre at a local and regional level and boosted its influence as an initiator of joint actions aimed at biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. This is crucial because of the recognized opinion that the Podlasie Region in order to preserve the unique natural heritage must be developed in a sustainable way. Through Podlasie Regional Forum for Environmental Knowledge Transfer (PREFEKT), a new forum established within BIOCONSUS project, MRI gathered and transmited the best practices concerning protected areas and their possible use for regional development. Activities such as seminars, lectures, school visits, open days, trainings, conferences etc. organized in the frame of PREFEKT provided benefits to the socio-economic needs at the regional and national levels, as the topics of the platform of environmental knowledge transfer embrace nature conservation, regional sustainable development, ecological economics, environmental legislation, spatial planning, infrastructure development, and sociological aspects of nature conservation.

Dissemination activities
Set of activities was realized to spread scientific excellence outside and beyond the MRI and its partner institutions. These actions were targeted towards national and international scientific community and included organisation of 2 international conferences and 2 workshops at MRI, sending MRI’s researchers to 18 international congresses, conferences, and symposia, scientific publications produced by MRI staff including the foreign experienced researchers recruited under this project, and the project web pages.
Also, a great deal of effort to spread excellence was devoted to build links between research and community (stakeholders, authorities, SMEs, policy makers, the public in the large). The actions in this venue included: Podlasie Regional Forum for Knowledge Transfer - PREFEKT, regional conference, and publication of scholarly materials on various aspects of biodiversity conservation and economic sustainable development.

Exploitation of project results
MRI envisage that the results of independent expert Evaluation of MRI and further discussion of the evaluation results with national and regional authorities will allow to exploit the increased potential of MRI toward wider spreading of scientific excellence and better response of MRI to socio-economic needs of the region and the country.
A notable way of exploitation of project’s results consists in new research and sustainable development initiatives. In terms of scientific excellence and advancement, research proposals of joint international projects are being prepared for submission to HORIZON 2020. With regard to sustainable regional development, on the basis of the regional recognition and established group of regional partners, MRI is able to prepare further projects building upon accumulated experience, knowledge and new cooperation possibilities.
As a continuation of PREFEKT after the completion of the project, MRI inaugurated a new series of meetings - Białowieża Scietific Seminars, which will be held every two months in Białowieża and enable the exchange of knowledge and presentation of the results of the latest research in the broadly defined ecology, societal matters, regional development, etc.

List of Websites:
Project websites addresses: www.bioconsus.pl
www.forumpodlaskie.pl

Relevant contact details:
Mammal Research Institute
Polish Academy Of Sciences
ul. Waszkiewicza 1
17-230 Białowieża
POLAND

Tel: +48 085 682 77 50
Fax: +48 085 682 77 52

e-mail: mripas@ibs.bialowieza.pl
www: www.ibs.bialowieza.pl


Name and title of the scientific representative of the project's coordinator:
Prof. dr. habil. Bogumiła Jędrzejewska
e-mail: bjedrzej@ibs.bialowieza.pl