Research

Education
Originally from Kansas City, Kansas, I obtained a BSc (Honors) in Biology from the University of Kansas in 1995. I then obtained a MSc in Wildlife Biology from Kansas State University in 1998, and a PhD in Wildlife Science from Texas Tech University in 2002. After my PhD, I obtained a Fulbright Fellowship to conduct postdoctoral research at the Polish Academy of Sciences, Mammal Research Institute in Bialowieza, Poland. Afterwards, I obtained a Marie Curie Fellowship (European Commission) to conduct postdoctoral research in South Africa through the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford.
 
Research Summaries
Cambodia
From January 2013 to present, I've been conducting a project on the ecology of dholes (Cuon alpinus), and endangered large carnivore, in Mondulkiri Protection Forest (MPF) in eastern Cambodia. The primary goal of the project is to determine the minimum land and prey requirements needed to conserve a viable dhole population. The specific objectives include determining the home ranges, density, diet, and prey selection of dholes. The research involves capturing and placing GPS collars on several dhole packs, and collecting scats to determine diets and number of ungulates consumed by dholes. We're also studying the home ranges and diets of golden jackals (Canis aureus) to determine the level of competition between these two canid species. Our results will determine the appropriate reserve size and prey density needed to conserve dhole populations in the region. Because little is known about dhole ecology in Southeast Asia, results will have global importance for dhole conservation efforts, as well as having practical recommendations for management of dholes within MPF. Overall, this project will include training programs to help build local capacity, while also assisting long-term conservation efforts for dholes. This project is in collaboration with the WWF Cambodia program and Forestry Administration of Cambodia, and is being funded by the Kolmarden Fundraising Foundation (Sweden), Taronga Foundation (Australia), Iris Darnton Foundation (UK), Peoples Trust for Endangered Species (UK), and the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (UAE).

 

Laos
From 2010 to 2012, I conducted research on the ecology of dholes in the Nam Et-Phou Louey (NEPL) National Protected Area in northern Laos. The primary goal of this project was to determine the seasonal diet, prey selection, and activity of dholes. We used only non-invasive techniques (e.g., DNA analysis of feces, camera-trap data) to collect basic ecological data on dholes and their prey. Our results showed that dholes focused predation on relatively few prey species (i.e., muntjac and sambar) during diurnal hours, thus the management of these prey species may be important for conserving dhole populations in the region. We concluded that the pressures of hypercarnivory and rather narrow niche breadth may be limiting factors for dhole populations in the tropical forests of northern Laos. Major achievements included the training of Laotian students and park staff for identification of dhole and prey signs, and the initiation of long-term surveys for dholes. This research was in collaboration with the WCS Lao PDR Program, and was funded by the Kolmarden Fundraising Foundation, Sweden, and the Rufford Small Grants for Nature Conservation, U.K.
 
Bhutan
During 2009, I condcuted research on the distribution and diets of dholes in Bhutan. A primary goal was to compare predation by dholes on both wild pigs (Sus scrofa) and livestock. Wild pigs cause considerable damage in Bhutan by destroying crops of subsistence farmers, and consequently are classified as a national pest. The main results showed that dholes preyed upon more wild pigs than livestock, and that livestock were only preyed upon during certain seasons. We concluded that dholes can greatly benefit farmers because of their predation on wild pigs, and livestock losses could be redued if farmers provided better protection for cattle, especially during the rainy season. I helped train biologists and park staff in field research methods, and worked with local people to reduce human-wildlife conflicts. I worked in collaboration with Bhutan's Nature Conservation Division, and managers of several national parks. The project was funded by the Iris Darnton Foundation, U.K., and the Institute for Conservation Research, Zoological Society of San Diego.
 
South Africa
From 2005 to 2008, my post-doctoral research focused on the ecology and interactions of cape foxes (Vulpes chama), bat-eared foxes (Otocyon megalotis), and black-backed jackals (Canis mesomelas) on two study sites in South Africa. Important data was collected on the social organization, home ranges, habitat use, activity, and diets of all three species. The main results showed that the presence of jackals had a strong effect on the behavior and ecology of both fox species. In particular, jackals had a strong negative impact on cape fox numbers, primarily through predation, and caused major changes in cape fox behaviors. Although bat-eared fox numbers were not affected, jackals did affect the group sizes and movements of bat-eared foxes. Thus, larger carnivores can affect not only numbers, but also behaviors, of smaller carnivores.
 
Poland
During 2002-2004, my post-doctoral research involved an ecological study of red deer (Cervus elaphus) in the old growth forests of Bialowieza, which contain the most natural and diverse large predator-prey ecosystem in Europe. Although red deer had been studied extensively in Europe, none had occurred in historic natural habitats with large carnivores present. Our main results showed that under these relatively natural conditions, red deer exhibit unique activity and movement patterns, probably due to the presence of large carnivores, primarily wolves (Canis lupus).
 
Texas (PhD)
From 1998 to 2002, my PhD research concerned the ecology and behavior of swift foxes (Vulpes velox), a vulnerable species, and their interactions with coyotes (Canis latrans) in the shortgrass prairie of the Texas Panhandle. Important information was collected on the use of fragmented and continuous habitats by swift foxes. The main results showed that coyotes had a strong negative impact on swift fox populations, primarily through direct predation and spatial displacement. Consequently, lower coyote numbers due to human hunting caused swift fox populations to significantly increase. The imbalance of high coyote numbers and low swift fox numbers is probably due to the extirpation of wolves, which historically may have kept coyote numbers at moderate densities.
 
Kansas (MSc)
From 1995 to 1998, my Master's research focused on the ecology and interactions of coyotes, bobcats (Lynx rufus), raccoons (Procyon lotor), and opossums (Didelphis virginiana) in a tallgrass prairie ecosystem in northeastern Kansas. Detailed data was collected on the home ranges and habitat use of all four species. The main results showed that coyotes can attain relatively high densities in protected areas, probably due to the absence of large predators (e.g., wolves) and lack of human hunting. Consequently, the largest cause of mortality for raccoons and opossums was predation from coyotes, and coyotes even killed one of the collared bobcats. Thus, the benefits of protected areas for smaller species might be offset by the higher mortalities due to coyote predation, at least in areas where wolves are absent.
 
Kansas (BSc)
From 1993 to 1995, I conducted undergraduate research on the morphology and habitat use of two similar Peromyscus species (deer mice and white-footed mice) on research plots near Lawrence, Kansas. The main results showed that the mice species had different morphologies in habitats where they occurred together, compared to habitats where they occurred separately. In fact, morphologies became more similar in habitats where they occurred together, making it harder to differentiate between the species. This phenomenon was opposite of that predicted by the ecological theory of character displacement.