I am interested in interactions between large herbivores such as deer and elk with vegetation, as well as related management issues including hunting, wolves and other carnivores, agriculture, habitat conservation, and human-wildlife interactions. For my PhD, I am studying the impacts of recolonizing grey wolves on deer foraging in north central Washington. I am part of a research team at the University of Washington Predator Ecology lab studying predator-prey dynamics.
Are recolonizing wolves influencing deer behavior?
Our lab outfitted deer with collars containing go-pro style video cameras to watch their behavior and environment. These collars will allow us to investigate how recolonizing wolves may influence deer herd size, vigilance, foraging and other behaviors. Deer behavior internships are available during various dates/times to assist with analyzing the videos from these collars.
Feeding vs. Fleeing: The foraging cost of wolf predation risk for deer
In weighing foraging options, animals trade-off food and safety. In Northeast Washington, deer may be dedicating less time to foraging and more time to vigilance due to the increased risk of predation from naturally recolonization of gray wolves. To test this prediction, we are deploying giving up density (GUD) trays. These results will give insight into predation risk. Increases in predation risk may drive changes in habitat use and plant communities as a result of vegetation released from grazing pressure in high risk areas.
Testing trophic cascade theory in a complex environment
Some studies have shown that the presence of predators may cause prey species to be less sedentary. When deer or other large herbivores move around more, the herbivory is dispersed and vegetation does not get browsed heavily in one spot.
During the summer of 2015, I installed a number of exclosures in wolf-present and wolf-absent areas to see if recolonizing wolves in northeastern WA are causing a top-down trophic cascade. I am measuring canopy cover, plant heights, and species diversity to determine if wolf recolonization is impacting plant communities. Unlike studies conducted in National Parks, this research takes place in areas that also include hunting, logging, cattle grazing, and motorized outdoor recreation.
How is elk and vegetation management impacting songbird communities in Rocky Mountain National Park?
My masters research focused on trophic cascades due to over-grazing by elk (Cervus elaphus). In this project, I worked with Liba Pejchar at Colorado State University to evaluate the effects of elk management and willow restoration on bird communities in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. I used program DISTANCE and the unmarked package in R to analyze bird abundance and occupancy in willow communities of various condition.