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Post-pandemic, fieldwork faces a remote future

When Richard Primack, a biologist at Boston University in Massachusetts, realized that many of his students would be unable to learn new fieldwork skills this year, he switched to teaching them how to analyze existing datasets more creatively.

In March, he and co-leader Amanda Bates launched the PAN-Environment working group to explore how lockdown measures are affecting the environment.

To date, 150 researchers have contributed more than 70 datasets collected in 47 countries, including turtle hatchling counts on deserted beaches in India and illegal deforestation rates in the Amazon rainforest.

Their methods point to the future for fieldwork in a more travel-wary world post-pandemic. To investigate the effects of lockdown on the environment, they have been accessing automated technologies, reusing old datasets, and gathering anecdotes from news stories and social media posts.

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