Awarded Integral Environmental Big Data Research Fund

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I am honored to have been awarded a grant from the 2019 Integral Environmental Big Data Research Fund. The grant will allow me access to cloud computing and other resources to combine the accelerometer and video camera collar data to better understand deer behavioral responses to recolonizing wolves. I will be using supervised machine learning (random forest) to predict deer behavior from acceleration features.

Thank you to the donors, Integral Consulting, to my advisor, Aaron Wirsing, and to all those involved with application review, department support, and other aspects of the award.


Deer Behavior Interns, Autumn 2017

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The Predator Ecology Lab is currently seeking Deer Behavior Interns! 

Project background. In northeast Washington, mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) may be trading off food and safety due to increased risk of predation from naturally recolonizing gray wolves (Canis lupus). The Predator Ecology Lab is testing this hypothesis using giving up densities, vegetation exclosures, and animal-borne video collars. An example of a video clip is below.

deer with collar
Interns will help analyze footage from the Go-Pro style video collars deployed on deer during the winters of 2013-2015.

Job duties. Volunteers will watch video clips from the deer collars to record vigilance, foraging, group size, habitat variables, and other key characteristics in an Excel spreadsheet. Interns may have the opportunity to assist with other related projects in the lab as time permits.

You will be contributing to a working research lab so we request that cell phones remain in your bags under most circumstances. We sometimes break from our video review to discuss science, careers, grad school, squid fishing, conservation policy, and other topics.

Job benefits.

  1. Hands-on learning about trophic cascade theory and predator-prey dynamics.
  2. Work space in a working research lab, working side-by-side with university researchers.
  3. Learning about sources of error and uncertainty, how to minimize them, and how to communicate them.
  4. Working independently and as a team to complete tasks, solve problems, and meet deadlines.
  5. Access to resume and interview assistance, career mentoring, and other resources as requested.
  6. Communicating their experience through a blog post.

Time commitment. Position is based in Seattle, WA and requires twice weekly meetings at the University of Washington. Volunteers will work 4-8 hours per week, split into 2 on-site days at our lab in Winkenwerder Hall. Remote work may be possible if you have your own laptop and good work ethic. Exact start and end date is flexible and weekly schedule is flexible. While this opportunity is ideal for UW students, all are welcome to apply. The number of volunteers who will be selected will be based on availability and interest.

To apply, please email me with the following to apryle [ at ] uw dot edu

  • Resume
  • Your preferred start/end dates
  • Your preferred weekly schedule (minimum of two 2-hour time blocks each week)
  • No need to attach a separate additional cover letter, feel free to introduce yourself in the email and let me know why you want to review deer videos.

Thank you for your interest!

GPS & Trail Camera Workshop

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This evening, Lauren Satterfield and I hosted a free workshop to School of Environmental and Forest Sciences undergraduates titled, “Foundations of GPS and Camera Use.” Participants got the chance to use GPS units to navigate the UW campus, and to deploy and check motion-activated trail cameras. Hopefully everyone learned a lot and is ready to take on these two field-work essentials in their first technician jobs!

Nik and I are hanging and aiming a motion-triggered trail camera.


Lauren Satterfield teaches students how to mark a point using a GPS.
Lauren Satterfield teaches students how to mark a point using a GPS.


REU student wanted: Deer, Wolves, & Fire

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The Predator Ecology Lab at the University of Washington is offering an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program “Deer, Wolves, & Fire” during the 17/18 school year (Fall 2017 through Spring 2018). This position is a paid, undergraduate research opportunity spanning multiple quarters. The student will conduct an independent research project to increase our understanding of deer herbivory in the face of fire and wolf recolonization. The selected REU student will collect data as part of our field crew for 2.5 weeks in September and 2.5 weeks in late April in north central Washington, specific dates to be determined. 

northstar fire

Job Description
The student will utilize existing deer exclosures as part of a research study investigating the impacts of recolonizing wolves on deer herbivory in a fire-impacted landscape. We will be identifying plants and surveying plants inside and outside of deer fences. Technician may also have the opportunity to install trail cameras, review camera footage, and more. Please note: this is not a position that will be hands-on with wolves or deer. The goal is to measure the indirect effects of wolves on plants recovering from fire.

This work involves a lot of kneeling, bending, and crouching. Surveys require a high attention to detail during repetitive tasks. Technician should be comfortable working long days, hiking cross-country across uneven terrain for about 0.25 mile at any given time, and carrying large, awkward fencing supplies. We will be moving rolls of fencing and cutting wire. Plant identification is useful, but not required. Safety is a priority – your safety in the field is the number 1 priority.IMG_9705

Technician must provide their own transportation to the site near Republic, Washington. At that point, a shared vehicle will be used to access the survey sites. Technician is responsible for their own food. As mentioned, a field stipend is available.

Applicants must be available for both the fall and spring time period: 2.5 weeks in September and 2.5 weeks in late April in north central Washington, specific dates to be determined. 

How to Apply
Email me with your resume, 2 references, and your availability from Sept 1st – Oct 10th, 2017 and general plans/availability for April-May 2018. Please describe your experience with identifying plants. Please indicate if you have CPR and/or First Aid training.

Applications due June 21, 2017. Decision made by June 28.


How to use trail cameras for wildlife research

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David Trail camJust contributed to a post on our lab’s blog with tips for collecting, organizing, and analyzing trail camera photos. Check it out and email me or leave a comment with your own

Why don’t deer eat all the plants?

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How is it that deer and other herbivores like insects and rabbits don’t eat allllll of the plants on earth? As they eat plants, individuals become more fit to reproduce, allowinrabbitg their populations to grow. Bigger deer populations could eat even more plants!

Hairston, Smith, and Slobodkin proposed that predators keep herbivore populations in
check. This is a top-down control. Predators can alter prey populations by impacting the prey population size and behavior. Prey such as deer or rabbits may shift habitat to escape from the risk of wolves.


However, plants themselves limit consumption by herbivores. Armed with physical structures like thorns and chemicals like tannins, plants defend against herbivore attack. These defenses suggest that bottom-up mechanisms limit the ability for herbivores to eat all of the plants.

So which is it? Why is the world green? In most ecosystems, both top-down and bottom-up forces combine to keep plants around for the long-haul.

Washington Chapter of The Wildlife Society meeting in Yakima

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This week, I am presenting a poster describing my research proposal at the joint meeting of the Washington chapter The Wildlife Society (TWS) and Society of American Foresters (SAF) in Yakima, WA. While living in Tonasket and surveying plants, I have spoken with many hunters who are concerned about decreases in hunter harvest as a result of wolf recolonization. Their concerns are real. Walking down main street in Republic or Tonasket in December hotels, you can hardly pass a shop, hotel, gas station, or restaurant that does not have a sign reading “Welcome Hunters!” Hunting is a huge part of Washington’s economy, generating more than $300 million annually and employing more than 5,500 people*. Decreases in hunting success may impact the small businesses that depend on this important revenue stream. The economic value of hunting is easy to calculate, but the cultural value of hunting can transcend any monetary number. You can’t put a price tag on the family tradition of spending time in the woods, generations of learning to read the animals, and the satisfaction of providing organic, free-range meat to sustain your family. I wanted to know – Are wolves impacting hunter success?

My long-term goal is to look at harvest statistics in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming but I wanted a proof-of-concept to get feedback from wildlife biologists at the meeting. So for my poster, I used a few game management units (GMUs) in Washington with wolves (red) and nearby GMUs without wolves (green) to start tackling this question. Stay tuned for my results!

Washington control and impact sites poster

*US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation