research

I am interested in interactions between large herbivores and vegetation, and related management issues including hunting, wolves and other carnivores, agriculture, habitat conservation, and human-wildlife interactions.

I am passionate about involving youth and stakeholder in my science research and land use planning.

Current research:

Are Washington’s recolonizing wolves causing indirect changes to plant communities through their impacts on deer?

For my PhD, I am studying the impacts of recolonizing grey wolves on deer-plant interactions in north central Washington. I am part of a research team at the University of Washington Predator Ecology lab interested in learning how this coursing predator may be impacting deer foraging behavior, diet composition, and plant browse.

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 outfitted deer with collars containing go-pro style video cameras to watch their behavior and environment. Ongoing assistance is needed during various dates/times to analyze the videos from these collars.

These results will give insight into fear and 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.

Past research:

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.

 

 


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